On my recent trip from Marburg to Venice, I decided to go by Flixbus, a long-distance coach filled to its capacity plus one poor bloke that had to sit on the stairs. As I arrived in Venice I excused myself to my parents for my appearance and probable smell after nearly twenty hours of transit. My parents felt sorry for me but respected my choice to travel by bus rather than plane.
I don’t want to be a “flight shamer”. I flew twice this year to Portland to visit my twin brother. There are sadly no Flixbuses over the Atlantic but I still wanted to see Ali. I also flew recently as a last-minute decision from Venice to Frankfurt. I’d found out I may get onto a course at the university after all but had to be in Marburg as soon as possible. I thought of getting a bus or train but after assessing the time-pressure aspect, I booked a flight. I’d travelled around Europe all summer on trains and buses and desperately wanted to avoid flying but “if there’s anytime to be in a rush, it’s now”, I thought.
Everyone has their reasons to fly. I just want to have a low carbon footprint whilst seeing the world and one of my goals in trying to lead a sustainable lifestyle includes avoiding unnecessary flying. I define “unnecessary” flying as flying that could be replaced with trains and/or buses.
I discovered night buses during my internship in Paris in 2016. In an attempt to make the most of my year on the mainland, I would take a bus after work on a Friday evening to another city and return on the Sunday evening, arriving back at my flat in time for a quick shower and breaky before heading off to work. I would put in my headphones and listen to music or podcasts and wake up to my destination, whether it was Bordeaux, Freiburg, Berlin or London. If I travel throughout the day, I treat it as a workspace and get my books or laptop out. Trains do tend to be more enjoyable because if there’s not a food cart on board, then you’ll likely have changes where you can stretch your legs for twenty minutes and have some nourishment. However, if you take supplies on your Flixbus, you can’t go wrong.
Upon my arrival, I was asked by my dad whether travelling on a bus for almost a full day might not actually produce CO2 emissions comparable to the one (and a bit) hour flight from Frankfurt to Venice. This encouraged me to look at my possible carbon footprints from Marburg to Venice.
It’s not easy to figure out how many grams of CO2 a journey produces because the factors vary humongously. If you’re flying, what type of aircraft is it, which altitude does it fly at and is the plane full? If by bus or train, is it powered by diesel, electricity or a mix?
There are many carbon calculators out there but each one gives different statistics. In the end I found Eco Passenger to be a reliable source as its methodology is based on the Environmental Strategy Reporting System as well as data from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the Sustainable Development Foundation. The carbon calculator takes into consideration the type and make of vehicle and its average capacity.
The EP suggests that the flight from Frankfurt to Venice would produce 169.2 kg of CO2 per person and that the train journey from Marburg to Venice via Frankfurt and Munich would produce 26.2 kg of CO2. For the train feature, I chose the “Green railway” function instead of the “national railway” function because intercity European trains tend to run predominantly on electricity such as in Austria where over 90% of the electricity used to power trains comes from hydroelectric power and in Germany where 57% of the electricity used in intercity travel comes from renewable energy.
The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research carried out a study that found that long distance coaches such as Flixbus produce up to 23g of CO2 emissions per person per kilometre. Although I couldn’t find out whether this figure takes into consideration how full buses are on average, from my experience they tend to be very popular possibly due to their low prices. This would mean that travelling with Flixbus from Frankfurt to Venice via Milan (989km) would produce just under 23 kg of CO2 emissions per person.
So there you have my reasons to endorse Flixbus, from environmental to “saving-time”. I see this sort of transport as the (low) fee I pay to be able to travel and be inspired.