Carbon reduction

The average Briton produces around 4 tonnes of CO2 each year as a result of personal transport but this figure hides a huge range of different experiences. The major differentiator is whether or not one flies. The second is car ownership. To reduce one's transport carbon footprint below the national average it is more or less necessary to work on major reductions in both plane and car use.

This may sound extreme, and for some people it would be. If your relatives or close friends live on another continent it is hard to decide to give up flying. If you are living in a rural area without good public transport it's almost impossible to manage without a car. But for plenty of others in the UK, particularly those living in cities, it turns out to be rather painless to give up both flying and car ownership.

We live in a London suburb with good public transport and we didn't have relatives to visit in distant lands so we decided to plot our travel and see if we could reduce our transport carbon footprint. In January 2013, some important relatives moved to Japan for a year or so and we guiltily lifted our flying embargo to visit them.

Year Car Flights Total miles travelled CO2 in tonnes for 2 person household CO2 in tonnes per person
 2004-5  owners  1 to Madrid  19,351  4.43 2.21
 2007-8  car club none  19,790 2.24 1.12
 2008-9  car club none  11,144  1.14 0.57
 2009-10  car club none 16,084 1.39 0.70
 2010-11  car club none 13,580 1.07 0.54
 2011-12  car club none 12,970 1.17 0.59
 2012-13  car club none 11,036 0.91 0.45

Worth considering:

No fly holidays


UK - Taking holidays in the UK is an obvious way to avoid flying but should not be disparaged for all that. With a bit of planning, we've been amazed how easy it is to have successful UK holidays without a car. We've walked several long distance footpaths as holiday projects.

Europe - The channel tunnel and fast rail links make it feasible to holiday in mainland Europe without flying. In our experience, it involves far less stress and queuing than air travel. In recent years, we've been by train from London to Berlin, including the sleeper service between Metz and Berlin and several times to the South of France.

Eurostar and TGV trains claim to be carbon neutral since most of the power they use originates from French nuclear power stations.

Useful sites:

The Man in Seat 61 - contains much useful information and links to many timetable and online booking sites

SNCF - European rail services - online booking site covering a wide range of destinations


Car clubs

People who give up their cars can be like former smokers in their evangelical zeal but will usually admit that a car is sometimes useful. We found it remarkably easy to give up our car and join a car club (initially Streetcar).

Car clubs permit members to book a car from a pool for short term use. The club manages the cars, their parking, servicing etc. and members pay an annual membership fee and a hire charge.