Travel Less Without Loss
More background information
It is alarming to note that approximately 34% of EPFL’s total CO2 emissions are related to business travel. In 2019, trips made on behalf of the EPFL School of Life Sciences alone generated 1195 tonnes of CO2 in the environment.
Given the very urgent need to reduce the amount of CO2, an action plan to address these critical needs is imperative at all levels.
The objective of this project is to identify ways and propose tools in which scientists around the world can reduce the environmental impact of scientific travels, improve accessibility to scientific conferences, data and results, without neglecting the importance of social contacts in such events.
The objective is not to abolish travels, but to reduce them considerably, for example by 50%.
The CO2 footprint generated by aircraft comes from kerosene, a mixture of hydrocarbons from oil refining used to power aircraft turbojets and turboprop engines. During take-off, the amount of kerosene is the most important.
But aircraft pollution also results from the reflection of terrestrial radiation by aircraft condensation trails, accentuating the effects of global warming.
While the distance of the journey is obviously a key parameter of its environmental impact, the class in which one travels also plays a role. Indeed, it influences the space occupied in the plane and therefore the number of people who could have travelled in it.
Three studies were conducted on business travel at EPFL:
- In 2017, a report by the EPFL Share Think-tank association of doctoral students showed that one third of EPFL’s carbon footprint is attributable to business travel. In these 33%, 60% of emissions come from only 10% of travellers. In addition, the report showed that the longer the period of service, the more travel there is. This report also shows that by adopting simple practices, by favouring trains over planes, direct flights over indirect flights, economy class over business class, it would be possible to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 to 30%.
- The EPFL Share Think-tank doctoral students’ association has carried out a second study showing that there is no correlation between the academic performance of researchers and professional air travel.
- A third study by the Swiss Social Science Competence Centre FORS on scientific mobility provides an understanding of the reasons for travel, practices and needs of researchers.
In addition, an impact study carried out to assess the CO2 emissions of videoconferencing shows that videoconferencing generates much less greenhouse gases than air travel: read more
EPFL is part of the Swiss network for sustainable professional mobility. This network brings together representatives from UNIL, the universities of Basel, Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Luzern, Neuchâtel, St Gallen, Zurich, Università della Svizzera italiana, ETHZ and EPFL who work together to reduce the CO2 emissions generated by business travel.
In the world, other universities define rules or recommendations to reduce the CO2 footprint related to the professional travel of their researchers or administrative staff.
Examples in Europe include the universities of Cambridge, Birmingham, Leeds, Lund, Gothenburg; in the United States, the universities of Washington, San Diego; in Canada, in Montreal, McGill University.
This map illustrates all initiatives similar to the Travel Less Without Loss project around the world. For more information, visit the interactive version of the map, the result of Agnes Kreil’s PhD at ETHZ.
And if you still have time …
Discover EPFL Sustainability initiatives for greener mobility
SBB Ticketshop allows you to buy tickets online with a 10% discount. In case of questions, you can contact the SBB Passenger Contact Centre on 0848 111 456. International train tickets can be purchased at the TL shop on the Esplanade
It is possible for laboratories and EPFL units to offset CO2 emissions from air travel via the operating budget