Is flight shame a conversation that is happening in your workplace, or something you are experiencing but with your current holiday allowance you aren't sure how to address this without advocating "staycations" this year, which you know won't appeal to everyone? Read on for a solution that has benefits for both employee and employer and some reality checks on overland travel objections, all without the need to guilt-trip anyone.
Carbon impact of flights
Firstly lets get to grips with the carbon impacts of a flight. Carbon is of course quite an abstract concept to comprehend as it is not something you can actually see or weigh yourself. This Statista comparison chart, from 2016, gives a flavour of individual's annual footprint in different countries in tonnes.
You will find more infographics at Statista
Then for context the carbon footprint for one person for an average return flight from London to:
New York is circa 3.5 tonnes
Amsterdam is 250 kgs versus 28kgs on the train
Barcelona is 590 kgs versus 72kgs by train
Whilst an average for driving a car for a year emits 2 tonnes of carbon (Atmosfair figures)
Reducing employee air miles
Clearly, you can't suggest that people do a Greta and charter a boat to New York but as an organisation the number of short-haul flights to Europe taken by your teams could soon add up in carbon. And whilst this isn't necessarily part of your business carbon footprint, if you don't fly much as an organisation this could be much larger impact than your own business travel carbon footprint.
So what can you do about this? Clearly shaming people is not the solution and organising team holidays to Butlins, probably won't suit everyone!
Queue Climate Perks! This is a free-to-join campaign that supports employers to give their employees an extra two days paid annual leave if they choose to travel by boat or train versus plane. The benefit for employers who join include:
Answering the overland travel barriers
Often people have not even considered trains as an option or maybe they have written them off as more expensive, inconvenient or taking longer - so let's unravel some of these assumptions.
When doing cost comparisons between train and plane travel, it is important to include the cost of:
Some journeys by train to places like France or Amsterdam can be comparable to a flight once the journey to the airport, check-in time, luggage waiting time and transfer to the city are taken into consideration.
Check-in on Eurostar is around thirty minutes and you walk on to the train with all your luggage and walk off with it, what is inconvenient about this.
Trains also generally bring you to the city centre, rather than the outskirts of a city where airports are situated.
A holiday or an adventure
Of course this isn't practical if people are trying to get away for a beach package holiday, but the other thing about train or overland holidays is to reframe the idea of what a holiday or an adventure is.
This is where the phrase "it’s about the journey, not the destination" comes into play. The joys of train travel should not be underestimated, especially when travelling across Europe. Seeing the diverse landscapes of the continent is in fact part of the holiday experience. Stopping off for two hours in Paris before heading to Barcelona.
Reducing business travel
This movement for slow travel can reach far beyond our personal holidays. Workplaces can also benefit and reduce their overall carbon footprint. A good first step is to calculate your team’s current carbon footprint for business travel. Then ask yourself, how does this compare to the carbon footprint of your team taking the train instead of short-haul flights? A business trip to Amsterdam can include team working and meetings on the train.
Need some support in convincing your team?
As the climate crisis takes hold and more people feel less comfortable with flying, it’s essential for people to shift their mindsets and re-think what travel and holidays mean. By opting for modes of transportation that have a smaller carbon footprint, we can all have a more positive impact on the planet, both in our personal and professional lives.
For more green business tips and behaviour change tricks