What are the most planet-friendly ways to travel?

Our first point is obvious, but needs to be said:

TRAVEL LESS: undoubtedly the best way to reduce your carbon footprint from transport is to travel less far, less often. It’s a simple, effective and, for some of us, sad truth. You can reduce how much you travel in several ways, such as: use video calls instead of travelling for meetings; explore places nearby instead of hopping on a plane for vacation. If you live in London, for example, consider exploring the rest of the UK before travelling abroad.

MODE OF TRANSPORT: walk and cycle when you can. For longer distances, opt for public transport: the more people in a vehicle, the less energy it takes to transport each person [3]. Trams and buses are more energy efficient than trains, per kilometer [3]. Implementing good public transport services can decrease a country’s carbon footprint [1,2]. Car-sharing can also be very beneficial [9].

ELECTRIC cars have great potential, but are not always better [12]. Making an electric car takes more energy than making a conventional car, so to use less energy overall, they need to be used for a long time [12]. If an electric vehicle drives 200,000km in its life, then it causes 27-29% less greenhouse gas emissions than a petrol car, or 17-20% less than a diesel car [12]. Of course, the effectiveness also depends on how the electricity for the car is generated, with renewable energy being best [12,13].

AVOID FLYING: this is the most important point. The CO2 emissions from travelling the same distance by car or plane are quite similar [4,10]. However, airplanes cause more global warming from non-emission reasons, than through their CO2 emissions [7]. Much of the warming impact from planes is from contrails [7] – clouds left in the sky behind an airplane [5]. These don’t last nearly as long in the atmosphere as CO2, but have a very strong warming effect while they last [8]. Over the first five years after the trip, flying causes about 50x more warming than travelling the same distance by car [8]!! So, if you’re travelling a long way, take a bus or train. And remember, CO2 is not everything.

References

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