Sustainable ways to travel: flying isn't always the worst choice

What mode of transport should you choose to minimise your carbon footprint? Is it the same if you travel alone or in a group? What about longer distances? The answer is not that simple.

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The fact that the aviation industry is bad for the environment is already well-known, but if we want to do better for our planet and reduce the carbon footprint that contributes to climate change, simply reducing our usage of air travel is not enough. The matter is more complex than that.

According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), the transport sector as a whole is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. In 2017 transport had the third largest share (23.8 %) of total greenhouse gas emissions. Compared with 1990, the share of most sources decreased, transport increased however from 14.8 % in 1990 to 23.8 % in 2017.

In the whole transport sector, road vehicles are actually the biggest polluter, accounting for 72 % of transport-related CO2 emissions.

Trains are always the best, but planes are not always the worst

Rail travel is consistently among the lowest emitters in the transport sector, so it would obviously be best to replace all air travel with much less impactful train travel.

If you choose to travel by train rather than by plane, your carbon emissions are likely to be much lower for the same journey. However this is certainly not always easy to do.

What if you choose to drive instead of fly?

Here it gets interesting. Depending on the distance and the number of passengers, driving may not result in significantly lower emissions.

In fact, according to a recent report by the EEA, the environmental costs* of only one person travelling in a car are among the highest of all travel alternatives considered. Even a two-person transportation might be worse than flying longer distances, causing more pollution.

*The report is not limited to CO2 emissions and air pollution, but also includes noise, soil and water pollution, habitat damage, visual intrusion and waste.

While car travel makes sense for families of four or more, if you are travelling alone, flying might actually produce fewer environmental costs than driving.

Moreover, if you give up flying and choose to drive instead, you will join the crowds on the road and become part of what is effectively the largest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector. So even if everyone stopped flying, we would only solve a small percent of a much bigger issue.

Ride-sharing generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions

Occupancy level is the most important factor across all the modes considered. Therefore, the more people in a road vehicle, the lower the emissions per passenger, and the lower the traffic congestion as well. So apart from trains, or walking and cycling when possible, the use of public transport and shared shuttle transports would be the best option.

The benefits of a shared shuttle like GoOpti

GoOpti’s average occupancy is six people per vehicle, so choosing a service like that would make the most sense. While four people sharing a car is a much better choice than driving by yourself, a shared shuttle is even better.

A shared shuttle on average replaces 2-3 cars, meaning that on a shared ride from Ljubljana to Milan Airport and back, you would save up to 331 kg / CO2; from Zagreb to Vienna Airport and back you would save up to 239 kg / CO2; from Trieste to Venice Airport and back you would save up to 92 kg / CO2.

Also, GoOpti 8-seater vans can be filled relatively quickly, while at the same time allowing a personalized service for all passengers in terms of door-to-door and time preference.

By booking in advance you can ensure yourself a lower price.

 

One way to be better informed about individual travel modes is to calculate and compare the carbon dioxide emissions generated by a given trip. Fortunately, a number of free online calculators are now available to help travellers do this, for example, Carbon Footprint.

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