Choosing not to fly: the costs

As I write this, I’m sitting on a train heading for Berlin. There’s a beautiful sunset and I’m enjoying watching the countryside roll by as I get settled for the night. I’m mainly taking the train rather than flying because of my environmental values. I’m trying to lead a low-carbon lifestyle wherever possible. It’s also a bit of a cultural norm within the community of people I work with and “not flying” is what people expect. I’ve not made a hard rule not to fly in my life, I just save it for special circumstances and for the last few years, I have found no reason to fly. 

So this is why I am on a train today. And I’m having a delightful time, meeting people, reading books, thinking, writing, watching the sunset. And I feel good for sticking with my values. But it comes at a cost: both financially and with time. To save 740kg of carbon (CO2e) I’ve spent £75. That’s not easy on my wallet. It has also taken an additional 22 hours of travelling, compared with flying.

Using a simple transport calculator I built last year, I’ve generated some visuals to show this information. It clearly highlights the environmental conundrum we face when travelling. Taking the train is much better on carbon, but if you’re unwilling or unable to afford the extra – and you’re not willing to embrace slow travel – then it’s not such an attractive choice. 

Still, I can’t recommend it enough and for brilliant advice on how to travel around Europe by train, check out The Man in Seat Sixty-One.