Summer travels: bus, train, or car?

The summer is magic, and with all the heat that has been going on, we all feel like we should take that well deserved vacation. But as we have been learning for some time now, the tourism industry has a big impact on the environment, one of the reasons being transportation to and back from your destination.

Flying has been at the top of the list as the most environmentally harmful means of transportation due to carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, such as nitrogen. That is the case especially if you have a connection or fly short distances (until 1,5 hours). Luckily for nature, most of us are probably ditching the plane this year, which automatically means considerably lower carbon emissions.

To wonder a bit around Europe, the most sustainable options are bus, car or train. But how do you find out which option will turn out to be the most sustainable, given your destination, type of car you may use, and number of travelers?


Eco Passenger

Eco Passenger is an online calculator that allows you to compare the energy consumption, carbon emissions and other environmental impacts of cars, planes and trains used for passenger transport.

The tool is very user-friendly and you can either use standard settings, such as the European average number of passengers per car, which is 1,5, or enter the data specific to your case. You can customize the type of fuel and class of the vehicle you intend to use, for instance. For the train, you can inform the type of energy (green or not) used in the railways you’ll travel.

The calculator is based on the “best and latest available data for all modes”, and developed in a multiple cooperation effort that includes the Sustainable Development Foundation and the German Institute for Environment and Energy.

When you enter your place of departure and of destination (that is, how far you’re going), number of passengers, desired departure time, and date of travel, Eco Passenger shows a detailed comparison among the three options. It’s very interesting to notice that, in some cases, when a car is occupied with 4 instead of 1,5 passengers (European average utilization), carbon emissions and energy consumption between train and car are very similar. On the other hand, it looks like trains are always the most sustainable option in the case of emissions of nonmethane hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.

In summary, Eco Passenger offers you detailed insight into the environmental footprint of your travel, so you can choose to make the least impact without having to think all by yourself about the dis


About the bus

Just like with cars and even planes, the age of a touring bus matters, due to the type of engine and, therefore, the fuel it uses. In general, international touring buses must comply with strict environmental guidelines, and emit fewer kilograms of carbon dioxide per passenger due to their higher capacity.

To make sure the bus is a good option for you, check the sustainability practices of the company you intend to use.


Exceptional times

It is important to note that high occupancy vehicles (here of interest the train and the bus) may not travel at their full capacity during the Corona pandemic. That can certainly alter the kilograms of emissions per passenger and result in a situation where it may be more sustainable to travel by car.

Because of its flexibility in settings, Eco Passenger is a valuable tool in this sense, while it may be more difficult to assess the sustainability of a bus tour. In that case, contacting the touring bus company and asking about occupancy and their sustainable practices is your best bet.

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