in Environment, Travel, Work

Not flying short haul

TrainAs the months and years roll by I find myself questioning more and more things that I do. I’ve been asked to go to Zürich for some meetings in a couple of weeks; a little while ago I would have been looking forward to a business class flight and eating out on expenses for a few nights but now the first thing that pops into my head is how bad the trip will be for the environment. There are stories appearing every day about the Siberian permafrost melting and revealing loads of woolly mammoth tusks as it does so (if that doesn’t mean much then take a look at the definition of permafrost) and the polar ice dramatically disappearing. I don’t really want to contribute to that more than I do already.

Yes, I know that I can carbon offset my flights but what good does that really do? The Carbon Trust aren’t a charity and to quote Rob Newman I can’t see them funding a project to put Bangladesh on stilts any time soon. Who they are, where they come from, who regulates them and how they came up with their pricing scheme is a bit of a mystery.

So, I’ve taken the step of looking into how to get from London to Zürich by rail. As soon as I did so I came across a splendid website which not only explains exactly how to do it but much more besides. If you’re off to Europe and enjoy travelling or simply hate flying then I seriously suggest you check it out. There are suggested routes, tips on how to get the best fares and information and pictures on the different types of carriage you can expect to encounter. The site also makes the point that a tonne of carbon dioxide emitted from a plane does 2.7 times the damage of it being emitted at ground level.

Basically, a trip to Zürich via Paris will take the best part of a day. I figured I could probably travel on a Monday and then get a sleeper service back to Paris through Friday night/ Saturday morning. I raised the thought with a few people at work today and can report that 80% think I’m nuts to even consider it. For example, when I called the travel desk to enquire whether they handled train bookings and said that I wanted to go to Zürich I was asked “Why on earth would you want to do that?” I lamely responded “Green reasons…” and started to feel a little bit nuts myself – hopefully she didn’t think that I had an obsessive colour preference or some kind of nasal condition. My boss called me “Swampy.” More seriously, he made the point that the time wouldn’t be as productive as time spent in the office – this is true, but during the whole office/ airport/ queue for security/ departure lounge/ short haul flight with food/ passport control-taxi rigmarole there is no opportunity to get a lot done whereas on a train I could at least work offline for a few hours. I might even catch up with all the emails and documents I’ve been meaning to read and get one or two of my own written.

In terms of cost, there isn’t that much of a difference between a first-class train fare and return business class flights; the train fares just seem a bit more random depending on what website, currency and method you choose to buy them.

I must admit that I do have utopian dreams of setting an example that the whole company begins to follow but in reality I know that I’d just be doing it because I believe it’s right. Plus, it would be great to see a bit of where I’m travelling to on the way.

What do you think? Have I lost the plot or am I right to be pursuing this?

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  1. Nice one Andrew, its great to hear you’re still having a go! I’ve spent quite a bit of time in airports recently, not exactly a bundle of fun, especially with the latest security scares. Train sounds like a good option to me, worth a try anyway.

    Great news about the baby as well.

  2. When you do find your plot you should plant some trees! Would you only use train companies that used wooden sleepers instead of concrete ones? :oP