A manual to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of our business travel. This is a wiki. Please contribute to it by adding the information and experiences you might have.
- 2.1. Rail: websites and apps
- 2.2. Rail: cards and fidelity programs
- 2.3. Buses
- 2.4. Ride sharing
- 2.5. Initiatives
- 3.1. Before your trip: planning well
- 3.2. On the road: a kit for pleasant and productive trips
- 3.3. At destination: take your time
- 3.4. At the end: document your trip
1. Staying at home
Edgeryders is a service company with minimal office facilities and no obligation of physical presence (no one has to commute). Our greenhouse gas emissions come from our use of computers and Internet and from business travel. It is safe to say that business travel accounts for the lion’s share. This manual is meant to help us reduce these emissions, but may also offer inspirations for other organizations to do the same.
1.1. Do you really need to travel?
In general, we do not recommend you travel just to have meetings, exchange words or other information. Valid reasons to travel can include, however:
Serendipity. If you want to work closely with certain people and to spend time together without an agenda, bouncing ideas around as they come: that’s something that is hard to replace with online tools, as it is a lot about having enough time together to catch mutual creative moments. Such a time would be a substantial investment; think two weeks or more of living close, not just of sitting in the same office.
Study visits. Spending a substantial amount of time in a different place to get to know a group, their problems, their way of working or a set of physical artifacts (let’s say, architecture) can hardly be replaced with digital communication. Short study visits (say, less than a week) can often be replaced with video interviews, videos sent as documentation material and the like.
Physical work. Non-digital work cannot be performed through digital communication tools. Sometimes you can replace your involvement with somebody living closer to the target destination. Sometimes the work is not important enough as the only reason to travel. Sometimes you’ll have to travel.
1.2. How to avoid traveling
You can replace most meetings with a blend of conference calls, written interaction via this forum, and other asynchronous collaboration tools. We explore this topic in detail in its own manual:
2. Staying on the ground
Air travel entails much higher CO2 emissions per kilometer than overland or sea travel. Whenever possible, we encourage Edgeryders employees to travel overland.
2.1. Rail: websites and apps
Rail travel is relaxing and comfortable almost anywhere in Europe. Unfortunately, the degree of integration between the ticketing facilities of different railway companies is still limited – forget about the full interoperability of airlines. Despite this, the quality of intermediary services is growing rapidly. Seat61 has a handy guide to buying tickets for European trains online. Spoiler: it really matters who you buy from.
Omio (formerly GoEuro) runs simultaneous searches for trains, buses and flights. You can then pick your favorite travel mode by clicking on a tab. IN practice, it does not seem to be particularly strong on finding train itineraries.
Railtic is a search engine: it can find train rides, but won’t sell them to you.
Rome2Rio is a multi-mode journey planner that seems to be built on the Google Maps APIs. Quite confusing at first, as you need to set dates and times of each leg of your journey separately. Not recommended except for getting a rough idea of what modes of transport are available from point A to point B.
Flixtrain is the sister company of Flixbus. It does not simply resell train seats, it actually runs a small network of its own trains, for now limited to some cities in Germany. It promises trains running fully on renewable energy.
The Trainline makes you compare and book train and bus tickets for many railway companies in Europe, using your loyalty cards and buying tickets at (they say) even cheaper prices. @ilaria is happy with it.
2.2. Rail: cards and fidelity programs
The reality of European rail travel is that each international trip will consist of several legs, each ran by different companies. There seems to be nothing comparable to Skyteam or Star Alliance in airlines. This leaves us with a maze of (national) railcards, rail passes, fidelity programs etc. There seem to be serious opportunities: for example, Deutsche Bahn issues Bahncards that look attractive if you are doing a lot of your travels in Germany.
Interrail passes are promising; they start at around 200 EUR for 3 days within a month. They also work as a perk for Edgeryders staff: if you are traveling a lot in a given month, and it makes sense to buy an Interrail pass rather than just tickets, you get to keep your Interrail pass when you are done with company-related travel. So, go ahead and take that holiday break, the train ticket is paid for!
Much more research is needed in this area.
Bus travel has upgraded a lot in Europe in recent years. You can now expect onboard toilets, good seats, wifi and power sockets.
The landscape of bus travel is even more fragmented than that of rail travel. Some operators are micro companies that only offer one or two long-distance lines.
Flixbus is a German startup vying for dominance in Europe. They have a good network centered on Germany, with destinations from Oslo to Paris, Milan and Kiev. Best coverage outside of Germany seems to be in the Netherlands and Central and Eastern Europe.
BlaBlaBus is a new coach service set up by ridesharing platform BlaBlaCar. Provides bus connections within Europe.
2.4. Ride sharing
Flight-Free Travellers Network: Facebook group where you can find suggestions and support for travelling without taking a plane.
3. Making the most of your journey
Travel time does not have to be a “dead zone”. You can and should reclaim that time to work, play or reach out to your loved ones. This is much easier when traveling overland, without the annoying interruptions of air travel. In Edgeryders, we commit to not making trouble paying you for work done while on the road.
3.1. Before your trip: planning well
If you do have to travel, we recommend you spend some time planning your trip carefully. @alberto believes in “merging” trips: if you can, schedule your trip so that you go from destination B directly to destination C. This way, you can cover two destinations with only three legs of your journey, instead of four (two there-and-back journeys). This generalizes even better to more than two destinations.
3.2. On the road: a kit for pleasant and productive trips
Experienced travelers have many tips and tricks for making the most of the long hours you will spend on the road.
A noise canceling headphones set eliminates the hum of the road. This helps you feel more rested, and is especially good if you want to sleep.
A travel pillow can be a great help if you want to sleep.
Make sure you pack power banks not to run out of juice (though most trains and buses in Europe nowadays offer power sockets). Always take an international power adapter with you, it can save a lot of frustration!
If you plan to do a lot of writing, you can improve your writing posture and comfort even without an external monitor. The Roost holds your laptop screen at eye level, and an external keyboard helps you maintain a correct elbow and wrist position.
3.3. At destination: take your time
If you do decide to travel, be aware that most of the value added by your trip is going to be in socializing: getting closer to clients and partners, better understand their world and their point of view. For this reason, we recommend you take time to spend with the key people you are visiting. A good rule of thumb is to spend at least three nights out.
3.4. At the end: document your trip
Make sure that your colleagues and the community (including people you do not know, or who have not even joined Edgeryders yet) make the most of your trip by carefully documenting what you learned. In most cases, this is best done by writing a post in the appropriate category if this platform. Be mindful of the client’s confidentiality needs: they might require that the documentation is not shared publicly.
4. Compensating emissions
Air travel (and also other traveling) results in direct greenhouse gas emissions. We strongly suggest to follow this policy in any Edgeryders project to deal with this:
When we have to travel because remote collaboration is not possible, we allocate an adequate amount of the project budget to the compensation of the travel emissions.
The idea is to bake emission compensation right into the project budgets of all our project applications. That is hard to decline for any client, avoids any budgetary issues later, and may even
How to compensate. There are many ways to compensate emissions, and not all of them are equally trustworthy or cost efficient. We need to do more research in this area, but here are some initial pointers:
Treedom, an Italian company providing a service of emission compensation by tree planting. The trees have IDs, you can choose their variety and location, and are informed about their status. Edgeryders started its forest there with one Avocado Christmas tree, a gift received from @ilaria when she proposed the compensation scheme.
LifeGate, another Italian company providing emission compensation via tree planting.
United Nations Carbon Offset Platform. A platform with many initiatives to choose from, certified by a UN certification scheme.