Students are notorious travellers. The summer holidays witness thousands of university students making the pilgrimage abroad to gain a rare glimpse of the sun, find themselves in foreign cultures or undertake charity work to improve employability. We are travelling more than ever before, staying away for longer and spending more money: students now represent 20% of international tourism and the number is increasing faster than any other age group.
With travel becoming increasingly affordable and countless CV opportunities boasting overseas courses, our carbon footprint is rocketing skywards. Flying contributes a significant amount to this as 20,000 planes carry over 3 billion passengers every year. A round trip from New York to California alone generates the same amount of greenhouse gases as the average car produces in over 2 months. As air travel becomes ever more frequent the numbers are set to rise.
Yet when we are called to action few, if any, readily answer the growing demands of an increasingly polluted planet. Statistics detailing our carbon footprint generally elicit a short exclamation of surprise, half a minute of mildly interested discussion and are then relegated to the back of our minds as a mere fun fact rather than a plea to change. Despite the huge impacts of air travel we continue to book flights in the same carefree manner regardless of the fact that this is the surest path to destruction. It remains easy to ignore your individual impacts amidst the masses of people making the same mistakes, but this does not erase them; it simply perpetuates the same problems.
But fear not! All is not as bleak as it seems. There are a number of ways to reduce our carbon footprint whilst still travelling, having fun and gaining life-changing experiences. Although the best way to reduce your carbon footprint is not to travel at all, this remains unrealistic. Here are 5 top tips to help reduce your carbon footprint whilst still gaining the benefits of a trip away.
Travel within the UK
Looking for a fun getaway with friends? Then look no further—the answer lies closer to home than you might think! Many people discard the notion of travelling in the UK in favour of more exotic locations, but it remains a cheap, low emission and fun alternative to holidays abroad. Low cost coaches or even trains are much more eco-friendly than planes and can whisk you away to a number of exciting locations across the country.
The UK boasts some of the best tourist destinations in the world, showcasing the stunning scenery of the Lake and Peak districts, vibrant cities such as Edinburgh and Newcastle or large swathes of coast to the south. On a student budget, travel in the UK can be a cheap and easy way to spend a few days holidaying with your friends whilst enjoying the peace of mind that a low-emission trip inevitably brings.
Find alternatives to planes
If you’re set on a trip abroad then all is not yet lost. For long-haul flights planes are actually the best option. Takeoff and landing use much more energy than the flight itself. This means that longer flights have a relatively lower carbon footprint than shorter ones in relation to the number of miles travelled. However domestic flights remain highly polluting. If you were to take an average domestic flight rather than a high-speed electric train you would be personally responsible for 29 times as much carbon dioxide. Short-haul flights are equally as bad.
Useful alternatives include international coaches, services such as the Eurostar or even travelling as a foot passenger on a ferry. These are much better for the environment and can be cheaper modes of travel too.
Know your fuels
Commercial airlines have been using biofuels in some passenger flights. These can help to reduce harmful emissions and can cut them by up to 60%. United Airlines have started using biofuels in all flights out of Los Angeles and the option is being further explored for the future. Although such flights are not widespread, some airlines still remain more fuel-efficient than others. Check online to see how efficient your chosen airline is before you book a flight. If we all did this then it would make a huge difference.
Walk or cycle
A simple solution is to walk or cycle around tourist destinations once you have arrived. Every city has a number of cheap or free walking and cycling tours rather than alternatives that take place by bus. These provide a great way to exercise and see the city in a cleaner way. Walking around instead of taking public transport also lets you engage with areas in a new and exciting way rather than bypassing sights on the underground or stuck behind the wheel of a car.
Use public transport
Walking isn’t always the easiest option though. If you’re tired or the journey is too long then public transport is a great alternative. Using buses or underground routes are much better than taxis or car hire. All you need is a moment of forward planning and you’re off. If you’re travelling between locations then packing lightly is a great tip. This means that you will be able to carry your luggage on and off public transport and even better it makes the plane lighter and saves on fuel! After all, every little helps.
OCS Media and Research Team
The latest in climate science and policy from the OCS team.