Joanna Baginska is a second year Advertising and Marketing Communications student who is studying on exchange at Rennes School of Business in France. She was the first ever Green Global Grant recipient who travelled in September 2024 to Rennes by train. Here are her reflections on the experience…
Every product and service we consume leaves marks on the environment, contributing to pollution, climate change, and exploitation of non-renewable resources. In contemplating how individuals can positively impact the earth’s situation, I found myself with a choice in September 2023 when I needed to travel from London to Rennes for my year studying abroad. Opting for a train journey instead of a plane became my way of contributing to a more sustainable future.
Let us start with the benefits of taking a train. Unsurprisingly, planes emit more carbon than trains, from thirty to fifty times more. In other words, the carbon an aircraft uses from the London to Paris route could provide enough for the train to travel through London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne, and Paris! Trains provide not only environmentally friendly options but also superior comfort. With more space to move around, the ability to stand any time, and less restriction on items, train travel enhances the overall experience! Also, more comfort in trains could help people who feel claustrophobic or uncomfortable with pressure in the cabin. Alternatively, taking a train allowed me to see beautiful and various things, from passing through small villages in the UK, to big cities like Paris and London, which would be impossible to see if I took a flight.
While benefits are significant, it is essential to acknowledge some drawbacks. In the UK, prices for planes and trains are pretty similar, but depending on the route you take by train there can be multiple connections. Based on my research the entire journey by flight (including getting to the airport, checking-in etc.) might take five to seven hours! Whilst, a train with fewer checks and less waiting will likely take a bit longer due to the slower pace of travel. As a result, it could discourage people from travelling more sustainably due to the longer journey time and perceived lack of comfort.
On the whole, I was happy to travel by train and learn about positives and negatives of choosing a more sustainable mode of travelling compared to flying. Personally, I wanted to minimize my carbon footprint and support a more sustainable mode of transportation. While there are challenges, the overall experience for me, and the belief that small individual choices can collectively make a significant difference to the environment made it a worthwhile experience!