Europe 2010 carbon audit

Our route

In 2010, we took a short break between finishing our Master’s degrees and starting our PhDs to spend 25 days interrailing through Europe.  We flew from London to Berlin, then headed south on trains, local buses, long-distance coaches, ferries, metros and trams through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and into Croatia.  We ended our trip in Pula on the Istrian Peninsula and flew back to London.

We decided to calculate the emissions resulting from our travels in order to offset them and to see if there’s anything we could have done differently. Although we’ve taken many trips since 2010, this trip closely represents how we’d like to travel in the future; we journeyed from Germany to Croatia entirely by public transport and we recorded each day’s activities on a blog.  You can read the blog series here if you go back far enough (though cut us some slack, we’re not quite so clueless these days).  We’re still arguing over whether we ate butter or cheese in the Serbian restaurant in Ljubljana, and we still sing the Budapest metro song all the time.

We started by creating a log of every journey we had taken (including every last tram, bus and metro), capturing both the mode of transport and the distance travelled.  It’s been more than ten years since our trip, so this took quite a bit of detective work.  We then looked up the carbon emissions per kilometre for each mode of transport. The results were pretty stark.

The two flights at the start and end of the trip accounted for 80% of our transport emissions. We knew flying was carbon-intensive, but we didn’t realise there was such a big gulf between it and other modes of transport. To make matters worse, we’d actually covered a similar distance by air as we did by rail.  We were responsible for more carbon emissions during our four hours in the air than during nearly four weeks of travel through Europe!

Emissions by mode of transport during our trip

We could have reduced our transport emissions by 61% by avoiding flying. This calculation is based on travelling by rail and bus from London to Berlin and from Pula back to London. These journeys would obviously have taken longer, and also would likely have cost more money too.

While it makes most sense not to emit the carbon in the first place (particularly on avoidable short flights in Europe), we can’t travel back in time to change our decisions. Instead, we’ve offset our emissions via Gold Standard’s Climate+ Portfolio, and you can find the retired carbon credit in the Gold Standard Impact Registry. This means that as much CO2 has been prevented from entering the atmosphere as was emitted as a result of our travel. The Climate+ Portfolio achieves this by supporting a variety of emissions reductions projects – from clean cooking solutions and household bio-gas to renewable energy, like wind and solar.

If we were to do this trip again, would we do anything differently? Absolutely. In future, we’ll need to make the most of travelling slowly (and accept that we’ll sometimes pay more) if we want to commit to low-carbon travel. Definitely food for thought.

Day 25/25 (Completed it, mate)

There was an enormous storm overnight which kept Sara awake, although Oli slept blissfully through the whole thing much to Sara’s disgust!  We woke up to a very wet Pula, but thankfully the rain soon eased off, which was lucky as breakfast was served across the road.  However, no sooner had we packed up and left the hotel, the rain returned with a vengeance and we got pretty wet walking to the bus station.  We reached the bus station in plenty of time for our (once daily) bus to the airport and made the journey without a problem.  When we were collecting our bags the friendly bus driver asked us where we were from and where we were going, but looked very confused and slightly concerned at our reply.  He turned and pointed at the only plane on the tarmac and asked doubtfully if it was ours (it wasn’t), so at this point we were pretty worried that we were at the wrong Pula – thankfully, we were not!  As soon as we had got through security we heard a last call for our flight even though it was over an hour until takeoff, which had us worried again.  We rushed to the gate, but there was still no sign of the plane.  After about 10 minutes we saw it land…thanks, Ryanair!  After a quick turnaround we were finally on our way home.

We had a fantastic trip 🙂

24 hours in Pula

There were no trains connecting Rovinj and Pula, so we took a bus for the 40-minute journey.  We walked to our hotel to drop off our bags, and then headed straight out to make the most of our last day sightseeing.  We saw the Roman amphitheatre, which was very much like the Collosseum in Rome but even better preserved.  After a lot of speculating about what things were and how things were built (as we didn’t have the budget to buy an audio guide), we were about to leave but then realised we’d almost missed the underground museum.  This was quite interesting, but mainly contained loads and loads of pots!  We also saw the chambers where gladiators waited along with the beasts that they were fighting. 

Next, we went to a sculpture garden which was pretty weird, as it wasn’t really maintained by anyone, but contained what most people would probably regard as priceless artefacts just stacked up everywhere.  We climbed up a hill beyond the sculpture garden and saw a Roman theatre, then climbed some more to the Citadel to get a good view of Pula.  After our descent and a rather unsuccessful lunch of stale pastries, we came across the extremely old town hall (1296) and Temple of Augustus in the main square. 

We strolled happily around the old town until we realised we needed to check the bus times to get to the airport the next day, so we walked back through town to the bus station.  We could not believe it when we were told that there was only one bus per day!!! Luckily, the bus was roughly the right time so we decided to go for it so that we could complete the whole trip using only public transport.  It felt like we’d seen most of what Pula had to offer, so we spent the late afternoon having a (somewhat) well-earned nap back at the hotel.

After changing for dinner, we went in the direction of some restaurant recommendations and coincidentally ended up in the one closest to us when the heavens opened!  The food was surprisingly good, and after our previous success with the meat platter we gave it another go, which turned out to be an excellent call!  Once the rain had stopped, we wandered through the old town looking for somewhere to have a drink.  We were really surprised to discover just how quiet everywhere was, even on a Friday night.  In fact, the only group of people we could see were a group of ‘youths’ hanging out on the steps of an ancient temple!  As usual, after looking around the whole town we settled for the first promising place we’d seen – a welcoming cafe-bar with mismatching chairs and tables and murals on the wall.  Oli had a thick hot chocolate with brandy (a combination which surprised the waiter quite a lot!), and Sara had an amaretto floater coffee.  Both were lovely and a nice way to round off the slightly soggy evening.