My travel carbon footprint – planes, trains, (electric) automobiles and of course bicycles

oliver General, Technology/ Energy Saving

In my world the CO2 emissions of our homes is an every present and critical issue, with 28% of the UK emissions being created by them. If you want to know more about CO2 emissions then find out more here with the Energy Saving Trust.

Having spent time energy (and money!) reducing the CO2 footprint of my own home from 10.9 tonnes down to around 2.5 t  I’ve started to think about other areas of my life and how i can cut my emissions from areas such as my travel.  I’m interested to know  what difference it makes using different energy saving transport types such as trains, my bicycle, and even my electric Vauxhall Ampera car .

As a starter this  graphic has been created by @UniCanberra showing average carbon footprints of different types of transport, its a little unspecific but  it does give you an overall understanding of just how much CO2 is emitted by differing types of transport.

Transport carbon footprint


To look at my impact Ive used the brilliant and easy to use Carbon Footprint Calculator website to reveal  the impact is of my travel choices, and the results are surprising…….

Like many of you out there, i use a variety of forms of travel – I love to cycle, i walk if i cant cycle, catch the train up to London and around the UK, drive my electric car and take a few flights for work and holidays. So what is my Carbon emission  imapct…..

Getting to work

I get to my design studio with my beloved trusty Tokyo Bicycle . So I’m already off to a great start, with minimal  greenhouse gas emissions for my daily commute. That’s saving the planet around 0.29 tonnes of carbon each year compared to driving a medium sized car. Not to mention, cycling to work keeps you healthy and happy – unless its raining really hard!

Oliver heath and his bike


On the other hand, I also need to take the train occasionally and calculate that last year i travelled around  6512 miles on trains  for work related trips. In carbon, that’s around 0.51 tonnes. Even so thats better than driving the distance.

Driving for work, family stuff and  leisure

For the past year or so I’ve been driving a range-extended hybrid, the Vauxhall Ampera, which i love.

You can read more about my electric car experiences here

My home with external insulation on the front.

It uses batteries to power the first 40 miles of its journey, before its petrol engine quietly kicks in. It’s been a great way for me to save fuel and energy, especially because I’mm able to charge it from the solar panels on the roof of my home.

Since April 2013 I’ve used 28.5 gallons of petrol, getting an incredible 170.5 mpg on average. That makes even a small city car seem like a gas guzzler!

I use the Ampera mostly in and around town on shorter journeys but also for longer journeys and weekends away with my family, creating  just over a fifth of a tonne of carbon per year using the car, this calculates as 0.29 tonnes: 4859 miles (in 13 months) in a vehicle doing 170mpg

Ampera display

An equivalent 35mpg car over that distance would create 1.84 tonnes of carbon every year, not to mention the cost of the petrol to fuel it. That’s saving more than 1.5 tonnes of CO2 every year .

If that’s not enough to convince you to switch over to electric cars then the news that Ecotricity are installing a fast-charge network across Britain surely will – taking the anx out of range anxiety!


Now to air my  carbon footprint guilt-  I make a couple of flights to Norway to work on TV projects  and also go on holiday abroad with my family  about once a year. That’s more flights than the average person – around half of people in the UK haven’t flown in the past year. And that really pushes my carbon footprint up, almost cancelling out the savings I make from driving a hybrid car, using solar panels and cycling to work.

1.27 tonnes:            3 x Economy class direct return flight from London to European destinations – That’s 60% of my transport carbon emissions!

It just goes to show how aviation needs to be a focal point for sustainable change, as  it’s just so much a part of modern life for many of us.


The total build up of my travel carbon footprint

Trains – 0.51 tonnes

Driving – 0.29 tonnes (13 months)

Air travel – 1.27 tonnes

Total 2.07 tonnes


The results show that whilst i am no where near perfect my regular cycling and driving my Vauxhall Ampera is saving the planet from almost 2 tonnes of carbon every year. That’s as much a whole other person!

I am of course delighted to be able to save so much carbon with my Ampera and my bike – not only are they environmentally friendly but they also make it enjoyable and fun to get around. But there’s still work to be done – I travel a lot to meet clients and work on projects abroad when i have too and that is a tough one to cut out of my life – I would dearly love for there to be a way to travel abroad without the impact and damage that air travel causes. And as soon as there is…. i’ll be on it!