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Alternative options for green business travel

Posted: 09 April 2021
Train Travelling Through Countryside

Using eco-friendly options on business trips

As a carbon-neutral company, Egencia is big on going green — just like our parent company, Expedia Group. One big step to cutting down on your carbon footprint when it comes to corporate travel is to look to alternative transportation.

Getting from A to B

In terms of getting from one destination to another, air travel has the highest carbon footprint.

If you have to fly (and let’s face it, it’s hard to get across a country or ocean in time for a meeting without boarding a plane), consider booking a non-stop flight and flying economy.

This will reduce your carbon footprint in two ways. The first is that a direct flight will by shrink the number of miles you travel (it also cuts down on energy-intensive take-offs and landings). The second is by shrinking the amount of space (dare we say, footprint?) you’re taking up on a plane by taking only one flight instead of multiple flights.

A seat that takes up half the room on a plane will carry with it half the carbon footprint.

If you’re looking at shorter routes, however, it pays to look into trains. Take a corridor route like New York to Washington D.C., for instance. A flight is just under an hour and a half. But by the time you add in travel to the airport, time to check in, getting through security, and time traveling from the airport to the city center you’re easily on the road for four or more hours and have logged nearly 150 pounds of carbon emissions.

By contrast, a train trip is three and a half hours from city center to city center and cuts your carbon impact by a factor of six. Plus, you get to sit back and enjoy the view.

In Europe, Asia, and other regions with high-speed rail travel, the time difference between planes and trains shrinks even more, while the environmental impact continues to add up.

A rental car might be tempting, or even taking your own for shorter trips, but it’s not a good idea. Traveling alone in a car has a higher carbon footprint than flying the same distance. If you’re traveling as a group, though, your impact will be divided by the number of people in the car. So, if four people are traveling in one car, your emissions will be about the same as taking a train. Add an additional 20% to your carbon savings if you opt for a hybrid car.

One detail to note is the source of electricity in a given region. An electric train in France, which is fueled mainly by nuclear power, has a much smaller carbon footprint than one in Poland, which is powered primarily by coal. As a general rule though, if your flight is less than two hours, it’s worth a look to see if a train will work for your trip instead.

Once you’re there

The ability to make green choices doesn’t end once you’ve arrived. For every 50 miles you avoid driving in a traditional gas-fueled car you’ll save 30 pounds of CO2 emissions. Here are more eco-friendly options to consider once you’ve hit the ground:

  • Choose an electric or hybrid vehicle. Whether you’re renting your own or hailing a taxi (or even a tuk-tuk), choosing an electric or hybrid vehicle will save on CO2 emissions as you move about town. Many major cities have rolled out hybrid taxi service in the past two decades, so hailing a Prius is now a piece of cake. In London, The London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) rolled out 2,500 electric taxis in 2019, which they estimate will keep 6,800 tons of carbon emissions from polluting the city. And to make booking a hybrid easy, you can quickly sort your rental car options with Egencia.
  • Grab a ride share. Sharing a ride means you’re sharing the environmental impact too. Research which services are popular in the locale you’re traveling to (Uber and Lyft are common in the U.S. and Europe, for instance, and Grab is popular in Southeast Asia) and create an account before you leave so you’ll be ready to roll upon arrival.
  • Take public transport. One great way to cut down on your carbon impact is to opt for public transit. Many cities have extensive systems — subway, trams, buses, or trolleys — that disperse the carbon footprint among multiple options and are often built on green energy themselves. Plus, you’ll get to experience the city like a local, whether riding the Metro in Paris, the Tube in London, or a streetcar in New Orleans.
  • Pedal or scoot. If you’re traveling to a city with a fairly compact downtown it may make sense to forgo vehicles altogether and get a bike, electric bike or electric scooter from a local bike or scooter share provider. Google your destination city and “bike share” to see if there are public programs (like Denver’s B-cycle bike sharing system, with 88 stations and 700 bikes throughout 10 neighborhoods in and around downtown) with docks near where you’ll be staying or visiting. You can also download the Lime or Bird app to see if they host electric scooters in your destination city. Do remember though, with any of these options it’s safest to wear a helmet.
  • Take a walk. The simplest way to lower greenhouse gas emissions is to walk. If you have meetings at headquarters or a client hub, choose a hotel within walking distance. Travel managers can add frequently visited destinations to the Egencia booking tool so travelers can easily search for lodgings nearby. Once you’re there, use Google Maps to plot your route on foot. You’ll be able to get your steps in while truly seeing a city, rather than just speeding through it.

If you’re seeking out ways to cut down on your carbon impact during your business travels, look to alternative transportation. You’ll be contributing to clearer skies and — whether walking, biking, or taking a train — you’ll be better able to enjoy the scenery too. It doesn’t just stop at transportation either. Check out our blog: 18 tips for eco-friendly business trips to find out what else you can do to achieve greener travel.

Check out what else we’re doing to help you achieve greener business travel.

Information on the amount of carbon emissions and offsetting from Climate change: Should you fly, drive or take the train? and The future of micromobility: Ridership and revenue after a crisis.

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