Today we are going to talk about sustainable travel and the impact of our transport choices. Both of us are big fans of travel and the educational and cultural value that it offers, but how do we balance that with the environmental impact?
Join us for the last episode of Season 1 of Green Talking!
How to listen? Options:
- Listen to the episode here: Google, Spotify, Apple
- In the player on this page
- Search ‘Green Talking Sustainable Travel’ on any other preferred platform.
All the useful bits to help you get the most out of Green Talking available on this page:
Our World in Data – Which form of transport has the smallest carbon footprint?
Carbon footprint – how to reduce your impact when travelling
Do you have other relevant resources to share with our listeners? Tell us in the comments!
Cassie: Hi I’m Cassie
Jennifer: And I’m Jennifer
Cassie: And you are listening to Green Talking, the podcast helping you learn English for good.
Jennifer: As always, the podcast text, along with links and the key vocabulary, is available online at greentalk.fr
So today is our last episode of our first season of Green Talking! This is episode six!
Cassie: Gosh, I can’t believe the season’s already over!
Jennifer: I know! So to finish our season, today we are going to talk about sustainable travel. This session links to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. We know that one by now!
Cassie: In a world before COVID-19 travel would often be a part of our everyday lives, and in particular our winter holiday plans. Whether it be driving, taking the bus or cycling to work, or flying or taking the train to visit friends and family, travel is an essential part of how we stay connected. As great as technology is I know I definitely value the time that I have in person with people and can’t wait until we’re able to meet up more in the future.
Jenny: Yeah, especially since I live in France and I’m away from my family who are all in Scotland, I am definitely very conscious about how I travel. Every time I think about going back to Scotland, I have to ask myself: is it best to fly, to drive, to take a boat, take the train? Which option is really best for the environment and how can I make responsible choices when it comes to my travel? So today we are going to look at that in a bit more detail and explore sustainable travel and what that means. Before we get started, shall we have some stats, the last of the season?
Cassie: You know I’m always up for some fun facts!
Jennifer: It’s time for fun facts with Cassie <KLAXON>.
Cassie: Ok fact number one: Transportation accounts for 28% of global carbon emissions
Jennifer: Yeah so perhaps not too surprising that over a quarter of global carbon emissions come from the transport sector, that’s including cars, trucks, trains, ships, planes, and other vehicles.
Cassie: And when you look at air travel some of the facts are even more stark. This brings me on to fact number two: 1% of people cause half of global aviation emissions, according to a recent study.
Jennifer: This is so fascinating, just 1% of people are responsible for 50% of global aviation emissions. That raises some real questions around policy and how we manage that 1% of people, and also what will happen after Covid, and if we will just see that 1% of people just returning to their habits.
Cassie: Yeah it will be really interesting to see, especially when many of those people were travelling for work. Ok lastly, fact number three: Road vehicles, so cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes – account for nearly three quarters of the greenhouse gas emissions that come from transport.
Jennifer: Ok interesting. So the situation is that we have a small number of people having a huge impact in terms of flying, and then a huge number of people having a pretty big impact in terms of driving.
Cassie: As we’ve said before travel has become such a central part of our life but, as with anything, I think it’s important to know the difference between different types of travel options and when to use them.
Jennifer: Yeah I totally agree, and I’ve actually come up with a game to help us think about these things. Do you want to play?
Cassie: Of course you have and yes, I mean is that even a question?
Jennifer: Ok so what I’m going to do is give you the option of a few different ways of travelling and you have to guess which emits the least amount of carbon. Ok? So, Paris to London by car or by plane? Which emits the least amount of carbon?
Cassie: Hmmm I’d probably actually take the train but that’s not one of your options. So, I’m going to go plane? I mean, It’s only a quick flight.
Jennifer: So, as you might imagine, there’s a little bit more to it than a simple question – of course depends on how many people are in the car, and what type of car, the age of the car, etc etc; BUT I am actually going to give you an answer here for once – for a relatively short journey like this, it is definitely better to drive, and if you can car share then that’s even better! So in this situation the car is definitely better than the plane. Ok. So next question.
Inverness, in the north of Scotland, to Rome in Italy– same question, car or plane?
Cassie: Ok, so I feel like, knowing you, this is probably another one of your trick questions, but if I had to guess, I’m going to say car?
Jennifer: So yep, here, it is actually better to go by plane. Once we reach around 1000km, it starts to be a good idea to consider the plane, compared to a car, and by the time we are at 2000km, even the type of car etc doesn’t really make much difference, it will be better to take the plane. Unless of course your car is electric!
Ok, next up, ferry or train from Amsterdam in Holland to Stavangar in Norway? Ferry or train?
Cassie: Ferry or train… Maybe ferry?
Jennifer: So this is where it starts to get quite complicated! Some trains are worse than others for example faster trains consume up to four times as much energy. And ferries can vary a lot. Some high-speed ferries use double the fuel of conventional ships, making them several times worse in terms of carbon emissions than planes. And of course it depends how many people are travelling in the ferry or in the train. But for this type of journey, train is definitely better than plane or car, that’s for sure.
But yeah, unfortunately it is just really, really difficult to make these calculations! But they key points are that in a rough order, it’s walking or cycling with the lowest impact, then the train, then car or plane depending on the distance and ferries actually are very varied depending again on the number of passengers, the type of ferry etc. etc. So pretty much in line with what we would expect.
But as with many things the most sustainable mode of transportation is the journey you don’t take, but where is the fun in that?
Cassie: I know, I definitely agree, where is the fun in that? I think it’s important to know the differences in types of travel but not deprive ourselves from travelling.
Jennifer: Yeah we want to encourage travelling because of all the benefits that it brings, but we need to do so in a sustainable way.
Cassie: For sure. For me, travelling has always been a way of not only seeing the world but connecting with family and friends, whether it be in sharing a holiday together or immersing ourselves in a new culture. It’s about finding a balance between seeing a new place and leaving your little corner of the world and respecting the planet and natural resources. I think there is definitely a way to achieve both.
Jennifer: I think there is a real paradox because travelling can really help us to better understand environmental and social issues, and you often hear stories of people who have had a kind of sustainability awakening while they’ve been travelling. And certain travel has been shown to be an effective way to develop sustainable and pro-environmental behaviours. So we are in this strange situation where the very thing that can help us to have a more sustainable mindset actually has a terrible impact on the planet! So how can we get that global perspective, while reducing our carbon footprint?
Cassie: Perhaps there are ways in which we can gain that perspective more locally, maybe we can try to broaden our horizons in our own country. Or of course, like we have both done – move to another country!
Jennifer: Yeah that is definitely such a great way to fully experience a different culture, to actually live somewhere rather than just taking cheap weekend trips all over the place. Living somewhere new allows you to learn about the customs, the language and also actually to learn more about yourself.
Cassie: But sometimes you just don’t have that option, do you? We can talk about a few solutions out there to help people navigate this complicated travel landscape if you’d like.
Jennifer: Yeah I think that would be helpful.
Cassie: There is a rise in companies specialising in green or ‘eco-holidays’. These are companies that are looking to help you reduce your carbon footprint when you travel, particularly if you fly by plane. One of these companies, actually called Carbon Footprint, suggests travelling light, as this reduces the weight of the plane, and thus the fuel usage and carbon emissions. They also suggest travelling non-stop where possible, to avoid multiple take offs and landings, as well as using electronic ticketing where possible.
Jennifer: Mm that’s interesting and travelling without a connection is a good one to remember.
Cassie: Mm, definitely
Jennifer: We know these are only small things but it’s important to think of these little things that we can practically do. However, I do think there is a responsibility on the travel industry and the airlines in particular to give the consumers as many options as possible.
Cassie: Definitely. And it’s encouraging to see the travel industry making those options available for travellers. For example Airbus is currently investing money in developing a zero-emission aircraft with a view to bring it into service in 2035.
Jennifer: Oh, zero emissions air travel! Could you imagine that? But 2035 is a long way away still.
Cassie: Yes it is, but it’s exciting that the industry is taking steps in the right direction.
Jennifer: Yeah, it’s a start. So let’s think back to the fact that road travel actually has the biggest impact, three quarters of the emissions from the transport sector. What can consumers do, and how can we make some small shifts that can really make a change?
Cassie: Well, the easiest and most impactful thing we can do is carsharing! It can help us to drive less, own fewer cars, save money and meet like-minded people.
Jennifer: So I am a HUGE fan of car sharing! It is a sustainability triple hit of positive economic, environmental and social impact! I’ve met some amazing people, I’ve saved money, I’ve travelled across France. I love car sharing. The great thing is that it can be really flexible, and it can work really well with other forms of sustainable transport, so it can help people get to the train, bus or metro station for example. And Rennes, where I live actually has a local climate plan objective where they are trying to encourage car sharing one day a week by 2024. I really like that as a concrete way for people to understand what they can do at their level. And of course the infrastructure has to be there to support people to make that shift, make sure that they can access the services that they need to, but I think that represents the kind of mindset we should have and what we should be aiming for as consumers. So carsharing one day a week in the next few years really.
And I think another key point is that, as with many of the subjects we have talked about throughout this season, it’s getting that balance between changing our habits and still having treats.
Cassie: What do you mean?
Jennifer: So there are small things that we can do in our everyday lives that can add up to having a big impact, without really changing the way that we live. So for example, walking to work, cycling to visit friends, car sharing regularly, eating a bit less meat, unsubscribing from emails, not buying cheap t-shirts….. all those little changes we can make that don’t really reduce our quality of life at all. And perhaps then we can allow ourselves those conscious treats when we understand their impact, but we understand their value as well – it makes them all the more special. Flying home at Christmas to visit family, visiting another part of the world, sharing a cheese fondue with close friends, Christmas dinner…. Those are the special moments that make life that bit more magical, and I think when you make those kind of choices consciously, understanding their impact, they become even more meaningful.
And I’m not saying by any means that these acts don’t have a negative environmental impact, because of course they do – but our role as consumers is to make the changes that we can within reason, while also putting pressure on the big companies to keep us informed with clear data, and make the technical advances to help us get to zero carbon as soon as possible, while still being able to increase our quality of life.
Cassie: It’s that idea of a personal carbon quota – we need to all do everything we can to reduce our environmental impact as low as possible, and it is not about doing everything 100% of the time, it’s about doing the things that work for you in the way that works for you – celebrating the steps that you do take, and not feeling guilty for the impact that you have. Celebrate the wins and don’t panic about the impact. By taking small steps, it will become part of your everyday habits, which will be more sustainable in the long term and help you to shift your mindset to be more conscious.
Jennifer: Yeah definitely, celebrating the wins and not panicking about the negative impact. Just doing what we can within reason really. And of course, we need to keep talking about all of these issues so that we better understand them
Cassie: Exactly. So that actually brings us towards the end of our episode today as well as the end of our first season! We’ll be back with season 2 in the new year. Thanks for joining this episode of Green Talking, the podcast helping you learn English for Good. We’ll link to all of the topics discussed today in the podcast notes but we’re really keen to hear from you. How have you made a change after today’s podcast? What have you learned? What would you like us to talk about next? You can join the conversation on social media, we’re at @greentalkfr. And we look forward to you joining us next season.
Jennifer: Thanks for listening! And my final catchphrase of the season….!
Get out the car and get walking, you’ve been listening to Green Talking.
Cassie: I really like that one! Good… I feel like you’re getting better as the season goes. Bye!
cycling => the sport of traveling on a bicycle or motorcycle
stark => complete or extreme
travelling => the act of going from one place to another
lastly => the item at the end
vary => make or become different in some particular way.
deprive => take away; prevent from having
paradox => a statement that contradicts itself
awakening => an act or moment of becoming suddenly aware of something.
mindset => the established set of attitudes held by someone
perspective => noun the appearance of things relative to one another as determined by their distance from the viewer; a way of regarding situations or topics etc.
broaden => extend in scope or range or area
helpful => providing assistance or serving a useful function
airlines => companies that provide air transport services for traveling passengers and goods
aircraft – a vehicle that can fly
like-minded => having similar tastes or opinions
magical => beautiful or delightful in a way that seems removed from everyday life.
consciously => with awareness
meaningful => serious, important or worthwhile
quota => a limitation or restriction assigned to each participant; a prescribed number
panic => an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety