Train VS plane: how to travel more eco-responsibly


Exploring new horizons probably itchs many of us. To the difficult choice of the destination is now added that of the means of transport in the carbon equation . Price, journey time, comfort… The train and the plane have their own advantages and disadvantages. If this unprecedented year has kept us at home, it may have prompted us to reflect and take a different look at our way of life. Traveling is a pleasure to be reconciled with respect for the environment. Are you running out of ideas for getting around locally? We offer you 6 train journeys to explore the treasures of the world while reducing your carbon footprint.

A heavy environmental baggage

Use of fossil fuels, transport, deforestation, heating, agricultural and food practices… Human activities that generate massive emissions of GHGs (Greenhouse Gases) which, added to the natural greenhouse effect, prevent the evacuation of Earth’s heat. On the planet, global warming manifests itself through phenomena such as the intensification of torrential rain and periods of drought, the threat of extinction of many species, the rise in the level of the oceans, in particular due to the melting of glaciers. With it comes the threatening release of microorganisms (including viruses) that we have not yet encountered and to which we are not yet immune.

Between 1970 and 2017, the amount of global GHG emissions nearly doubled. In a century, the average temperature on the Earth’s surface has increased by about 1°C. [1]

Our carbon and climate footprint

The carbon footprint results from the calculation associating our GHG emissions with our consumption. Many simulators estimate our carbon footprint. The Climate Actions website created by ADEME is a public tool, unlike other platforms which may serve their own economic interests. In 2018, it was estimated that the carbon footprint of a French person was around 11 tonnes of CO2e/year [2]. The objective set with the Paris Agreement (COP21) is to reach 2 tons of CO2e per year and per person, the equivalent of a reduction of nearly 80% in order not to exceed a warming of +2°C. in 2100 .


Source: Doing one’s part, power and responsibility of individuals, companies and the state in the face of the climate emergency, Carbone4, June 2019

In France, 31% of greenhouse gas emissions are produced by transport. The first source of emissions ahead of buildings, agriculture and industry. [1]

Train VS Avion

As you will have understood, we must rethink the way we move on a daily basis and travel. Ultra low-cost and low-cost companies will not stop offering ever more attractive prices to make us want to go to the end of the world. However, going by plane to explore fabulous horizons while knowing that these places risk disappearing due to the carbon impact of our flights is nonsense (link eco-traveler guide). In recent years , hostility towards aircraft has emerged. Flygskam  is neither the name of a Norwegian dish, nor that of the latest Netflix series. This word qualifies the “ashamed of flying” for climatic reasons.There are many ways to travel and have an adventure off the beaten path. The train is one of the solutions.


How to calculate the impact of our transport?

The environmental impact of our journeys is estimated by carbon footprint calculators such as the DGAC Eco-calculator or the SNCF mobility comparator . It estimates the carbon impact of 5 modes of transport: train, plane, car, carpooling, bus. If they cannot always go into the details and take into consideration the type of device, the occupancy rate, the energy required for the construction of the infrastructures, they give an idea of ​​the difference in impact environment between the train and the plane.

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