Conscious travelling

Tags: Transport

Author: Juliette Caillé

A matter of choosing transportation.

As we are explaining in this section, several low-emissions transports options exist in Tampere. However, sustainable ways of travelling are not limited to the city; this applies as well while travelling abroad. Lowering our carbon footprint while travelling is definitely possible!
Travelling is wonderful. But the way to travel can have consequences that deserve serious reflection. The most common option when we travel is to fly, mainly for a matter of time. Of course, sometimes, it is not possible to choose a different option. However, we often have the choice. Knowing what the consequences of our choices and the different possibilities are can help us make more conscious choices when planning our trips. In other words, the most important here is to stay aware of what flying involves.

Starting with the most direct effect: flying produces carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning fuel. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change. The impact of CO2 on climate change is the most common, and most direct. Considering this, domestic flights are the most polluting, right before long haul flights, since it is the takeoff that uses most fuel.

There is another effect, from high altitude. Flights pollute the atmosphere with non-CO2 emissions, such as nitrous oxide, water vapour and soot. This is having a complex impact on the climate, as those emissions are polluting the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. Don’t hesitate to have a look at the additional resources and going deeper into the question to make your own opinion.

Overall, calculating the exact CO2 emission of a flying trip is complicated, and depends on whether it includes the non-CO2 emissions or not. But one thing remains certain: most of our flying trips produce more CO2 emissions that million people in the world would produce over a year. Take this as an example: a roundtrip Helsinki-Madrid would produce around 1 t CO2, more that many people living in the African Sub-Saharan region or in South East Asia would produce in a year.
For all those reasons, flying should be avoided whenever it is possible.

(c) JUliette Caillé

One solution we would recommend falls within the “slow travel” mindset. What does it consist of?

This is about giving more time to move from a point to another, choosing other means of transports, hence often less polluting. Choosing to stay on the ground -or in the sea- as much as possible inevitably leads to less time spend in the air.

Considering Europe, which is a relatively small region, and yet culturally, naturally, and beautifully wealthy, it is possible to avoid taking flights. I’m talking from experience!

Choosing to travel without taking any flights is sustainable, bringing tons of benefits:

  • First, you allow your body and mind to digest distance by going slower. You have time to admire landscapes scrolling through the windows while sitting on the train or on the bus. The journey is really long? Optimize it by traveling at night, and sleep while traveling!
  • For some destinations, it is often quicker to travel by flights, but it involves hours of waiting. Indeed, traveling by flying in Europe is often about very short flights and lengthy wait in airports, before or after the actual flight. Instead, by going slower, you’re in constant move. The time spent waiting in airports can be used instead to stay longer in the places you are visiting. Taking a bus or a train doesn’t require very advanced check-in, for your luggage or for yourself.
  • Third, what about what is in between those two points? There is so much to discover! it is a bit sad. when the option is possible, to fly from point A to point B. Depending on the distance you are planning to do, you can have a few more expensive trips than with the flights. But in the end, you have additional experiences, discoveries, and travels. This is worth with traveling anywhere, starting from the beautiful country that Finland is.
  • Meanwhile, let’s be honest: flights, above having an important carbon footprint, are expensive (considering luggage fees, transports to reach the airport or the city, or even the real cost for the environment...) and even not always comfortable - unless you can afford to pay more. Bonus: when taking trains, buses or ferries, you won’t have to pay more whether you have a huge luggage or not. The only limit is what you can carry on your back!
  • Finally, by making the choice of slow traveling, you will support the development of night trains and other types of slow transportation, more sustainable. The more people will choose to slower their ways of traveling, the cheaper and easier it will gain, since it will impact the demand and supply.

Few key tips to help you plan your next trip

Internet, once again, can be your best friends. Rome2Rio is an amazing tool offering you all the options to travel from a point A to a point B.
Traveling from Finland often involves taking the ferry. Directferries is a nice website where you can compare which ferry is best for your destination. Traveling with some friends can allow you to book a cabin (for instance going to Stockholm) for a very cheap price.
Once on the ground, you can find several options with the useful tool Omio. This can help you find the cheapest possibilities between carpool, buses or trains. It can become very helpful when traveling to a new country.
Whenever you can, choose the most sustainable options. They will always bring benefits!

Further resources:
“10 Sustainable Travel Tips in Finland” from
"Aviation Q&A: The Impact of Flying on The Environment” by The Guardian
“Climate change: Should you fly, drive or take the train?” By BBC News
Section 7b. “Means of Mobility – technology and systems” from The Baltic University Programme
“How can we be sustainable post Covid-19?” by BBC Travel
“Where in the Wolrd do people emit the most CO2?” From OurWorldinData