Travelling green: reducing the carbon emissions of business travel

This is a wiki. Please contribute to it by adding the information and experiences you might have.

1. Why

Edgeryders is a service company, with minimal office facilities and no obligation to work from anywhere in particular (so no one has to commute). So, its carbon emissions come from our intensive use of computers and the Internet and from business travel. It is safe to say that business travel accounts for the lion’s share of our total direct emissions.

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.

  • Loco2 allows to plan and buy trips across multiple European countries. It has the most comprehensive coverage so far (according to @alberto, but you might want to run your own experiments).

  • 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.

2.3. Buses

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.

2.4. Ride sharing

@nadia likes French startup BlablaCar.

2.5. Initiatives

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 leaving: do you really need to travel?

In general, we do not recommend you travel just to have meetings. You can replace most meetings with a blend of conference calls and written interaction via this platform. Edgeryders subscribes to a state-of-the-art video conferencing service, that anyone working with us is welcome to use. A full manual is here.

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.

3.3. Always 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, no exceptions. 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 Likes

I like this policy, but to clarify a bit…

For me, this will mostly be practically impossible unless I’m traveling within Scandinavia. For example, traveling overland even to the closest destinations from Stockholm outside of Scandinavia, like Amsterdam or Berlin, takes 16+ hours. Adding to that, the shortest path is usually a combination of busses and trains with at least two to four transfers, making work and sleep interrupted. That’s similar to traveling from Brussels to Madrid. I’m just flagging for this now, seeing that it’s easy to underestimate how long it takes to even get out of Scandinavia. Overall, this is a good policy though!

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Of course. No hard rules, just a strong orientation.

Comment on section 2.1. Rail: websites and apps

I recently travelled from Maastricht (NL) to Belgrade (SRB) by train on an Interrail pass (https://www.interrail.eu/nl/interrail-passen). Interrail offers a wide range of different passes, amongst which a global pass that allows you to travel through 31 countries using only one card, so no fuss with buying a new ticket for every change of train.The type of global pass I bought grants me 5 days of travel during a one-month period in second class. My journey to Belgrade took me 25 hours, but since my journey included a night train*, I still have 4 days of travelling left (during which I can explore the rest of the region, and make my way back home). I believe that for less than 300€, that’s a pretty good deal! Interrail’s app allows you not only to plan your journey from a to b, but also to filter on reservation-free routes, and pass-network-only routes. This enables you to travel with trains that do not require any additional fees or administrative actions. Of course, that means that it might cost you a bit more time to arrive on your destination. You can however also opt for a first class ticket, and reserve your seat in advance. Generally, you will need to pay additional fees for travelling with high-speed trains like the TGV. What is great about interrail, is that the global pass also covers travel with several bus companies and ferries in Europe. Personally, I did not make any reservations in advance, used pass-network-only routes, and…had an unexpectedly smooth journey!

I hope this information was useful :slight_smile:


* If you enter a night train before midnight, the specific train ride will be counted as part of that travel day, regardless of its duration.

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Hello @LauraAuguste, welcome back and thanks for the tip. Do you feel like adding this information to the wiki yourself? Just click on the “Edit” button. :slight_smile:

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Example: planning a trip to northern Europe

I tried to apply the policy to my next batch of trips, scheduled for the second half of September.

Situation

  • I need to go to Berlin to the Creative Bureaucracy Festival on 20-21.
  • I need to go to Helsinki for the NGI Forum and MyData on 25-26.
  • I also need to go to Copenhagen for personal reasons, with more flexible dates.

Do I need to travel?

Yes. Edgeryders’ participation at both events is geared towards high-bandwidth, one-on-one interaction with people whose buy-in is critical to our activities in the respective fields. For Berlin, the project leader (@bob) made the call; for Helsinki, our presence is insistently required by the European Commission. I also have to speak on panels in both events.

Can I go overland?

  • Berlin-Brussels by train is a piece of cake. 6 hours each way
  • Brussels-Copenhagen also doable. 12 hours each way.
  • Brussels-Helsinki is NOT doable. According to Rome2Rio, the fastest way to travel without flying is to travel by train to Köln, then Hamburg, then Lübeck. Then travel by road somehow to Travemünde, board a ferry and travel by sea to the Helsinki area. Total travel time is about 40 hours each way.

Solution

  • I merge the three trips into a long one. This is a bit uncomfortable for me, but it has the advantage os saving two legs: instead of three return journeys (six legs) I travel on a ring in the order: Berlin first, then Helsinki, then Copenhagen, then back to BXL (four legs).
  • Two of the four legs (BXL-BER and CPH-BXL) I do overland, by train.
  • I fly the other two, in and out of HEL.
  • This also allows me to spend substantial time in my destinations. I am scheduled to spend five nights in BER (though, realistically, I will have any access to clients and partners for only two, maximum two and a half days, because the Festival is only two days long); and three in HEL.

What do you guys think?

2 Likes

Seems reasonable, with 2 disadvantages outside of the carbon footprint net positive.

  1. The additional and probably personal costs of stays in each city
  2. The time spent outside of one’s home - makes it for 2 weeks in total? That’s OK for people with not many personal commitments, but might be harder for others.
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Indeed. I am making it work by turning the waiting time in Berlin into a mini-holiday. But very true, if I had small children it would be harder. But then even doing this trip in any form would be harder.

True in a practical sense, but let’s totally not worry about the (monetary) costs here. Let’s pioneer instead.

Traveling nowadays is a kind of capitalist extortion of people in vulnerable situations (“Oh, you don’t have a place to sleep in this city? I’d have this hotel room for a mere 100 EUR. What? No, not per month. Per night.”) It does not have to be like this, at all. When more people pioneer with us this new way of traveling, there will be a need for cheaper short and medium term accommodation for the “nomads”. And then there will be a market for this.

Or even better, a community initiative could form around this. Like a couchsurfing for business. Maybe as part of a global accommodation barter economy, where Edgeryders’ guestroom in Brussels would host other business travelers and earn us some kind of “credits”, and in exchange we can use others’ guestrooms for free in other cities. In fact, we could already offer that “service” to others as part of this green travel policy.

5 Likes

Hi Alberto,

First of all, I’d gladly add my tips to the wiki myself asap :). Secondly, I see you have quite some travelling to do. If it would be possible for your to stay in Berlin (or Copenhagen) for a couple of days, you could consider travelling by train from Berlin to Copenhagen, and travel to Helsinki by train and ferry from there. It will still be a long journey, 25 hours, but you can generally book private space/a bedroom on a ferry. This would allow you to get some work done on the way. Speaking from personal experience, these ferries are generally pretty comfortable and feature (tax-free) shops and restauration as well. Again, the Interrail global pass covers ferries as well! #bonus!

If you want to spend more time in Copenhagen afterwards, you could take the plane to Copenhagen from Helsinki, and then take the train back from Copenhagen to Brussels. If that’s not the case, you can fly straight from Helsinki to Copenhagen. Both scenario’s would reduce your number of (long-distance) flights from 2 to 1.

The last scenario would look like this:

Brussels-Cologne-Berlin, total 7h

Berlin-Hamburg-Fredericia-Copenhagen, total 7,5h

Copenhagen-Stockholm Central-Stockholm Tegelvikshammen(ferry)-Helsinki Katajanokka-Helsinki; total 25h

Helsinki-Brussels (by plane)

What do you think? I of course do not know your calendar, but I tried to think along :slight_smile:

3 Likes

Wow, @LauraAuguste, I am super-flattered that you would take the time to offer an alternative planning!

You had a missing information, which is this: not all the dates are flexible. Some (Berlin and Helsinki) are completely inflexible. So, I could not plan the much more sensible BRU-BER-CPH-HEL-BRU, as you suggest, but had to settle for BRU-BER-HEL-CPH-BRU.

Other than that, you are right: 25 comfortable hours might still be doable (though expensive, because I’ll need cabins, wagon-lits etc.). Something to try for next time.

For now, greetings from… the train from Milan to BXL, via Paris. :smile:

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Dropping this here for later processing:

Many thanks to @orangejon for setting up a group advising on alternatives. Too bad it’s on facebook, but appreciating the generosity :PP

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