Us Swedes have been at least decent at environmental policies long before badass spokesperson Greta Thunberg started sailing across the globe throwing zingers and hard facts at men in power.
But it’s mostly been policies enforced from the top down in areas like polluting industries, high taxes on emissions, subsidies for climate smart practices, recycling and low-energy options. We are likely some of the biggest offenders in the world in regard to air travel! Along with folks from other high income countries, we fly a LOT.
Do the North takes a lot of pride in being a sustainable nature travel company. Once you head off on your adventure, your carbon imprint is exceptionally low compared to most other holidays. Your only power sources are your muscles, LED head torch. and a gas stove. We do what we can by using a lot of Scandinavian gear brands with strict sustainability policies, offer lots of plant based food alternatives, recycle, reduce and so on. It’s however a drop in the sea compared to actually getting to your adventure! We are climate culprits just like your average flying Joe, as most of our guests travel to us by air.
Carbon offset programs are often scams resulting in little more than clearing our conscience. It can of course be good to support certain projects that have postive effects on our climate out of a completely separate “charity” perspective. But we can’t fool ourselves into thinking that the carbon we emit when we travel is in any way lessened through offsets.
We need long-term solutions that actually decrease the CO2 emissions WE OURSELVES are responsible for. Buying ourselves free from carbon guilt ain’t it. Few of us opt for several trains to our destination with no chance for sleep, or can sail like Greta. So what can you do?
Go for a longer holiday, but more seldom
Thinking long-term is the name of the game for anything sustainability related. Instead of flying for a short holiday each year, plan a longer one every third year. Maybe you can fly somewhere and then continue to the rest of your destinations by train, or better yet, do the whole holiday by train. If you live your normal life and go for a holiday close to where you live, the UK average carbon footprints is around 10.5 tonnes in a year. If you fly round-trip, say to Sweden, it will increse by 1.3 tonnes! That’s a big difference for a whole year! Check out your overall carbon footprint on the WWF website: Carbon Footprint Calculator
We recommend combining your adventure with other sustainable nature holidays:
Wild Sweden – very unique tours with Swedish wildlife in focus.
Nature’s Best Sweden – all kinds of fantastic nature experiences that have gone through a rigorous certification process for sustainability.
National Parks of Sweden – go hiking in one of Sweden’s amazing national parks.
Take a train the whole way to Sweden
This option goes hand in hand with the above. If you search for the entire trip, as quick as possible, it may seem like a complicated journey with many changes and no possibility for sleep. But if you divide it, and take some time to visit one or two spots on the way, it’s a fantastic chance to experience new places. An example, London to Norrköping:
London – Brussels, 2 hrs, 0 changes
Brussels – Hamburg, 6,5-8 hrs, 1-2 changes
Hamburg – Copenhagen, 4,5-5,5 hrs, 0-1 changes
Copenhagen to Norrköping, 3 hrs 45 min, 0-1 changes
Each of these cities are very beautiful and interesting, there are plenty of departures and you can puzzle together your journey as you see fit! Search trainline.eu for departures. From Copenhagen to Sweden you can also check sj.se.
It may be worth it to look at an Interrail pass (for European citizens) or a Eurail pass (non-Europeans). For example: an Interrail pass to travel for 4 days within a month is EUR 185.
Your carbon emissions will be around 75% lower than flying.
Fly a shorter distance, and then take a train
Flying from many destinations in Europe to Copenhagen instead of Stockholm will reduce your carbon emissions by around 25%. There are highspeed trains from Copenhagen to your pick-up point in Norrköping (3 hr 45 min). Since you need to spend the night somewhere before your kayaking trip anyways, you may just as well do it in Copenhagen! It’s a fantastic vibrant city to visit.
This is an especially good option if you would otherwise need to transit somewhere and take two flights to Sweden. Most emissions happen during take off and landing.
Take a sleeper train from Berlin to Sweden
“Snälltaget” from Berlin to Sweden has daily departures during peak summer (June 24-Aug 18). Leave Berlin in the evening and arrive to Malmö in southern Sweden by the morning, around 12 hours later. From Malmö there are frequent high speed connections to Norrköping. You can use Eurail or Interrail passes on Snälltaget!
Your carbon emissions will be around 75% lower than flying.
In the future – take a sleeper train from other locations
There used to be sleeper trains from e.g. Amsterdam to Copenhagen, but unfortunately they have been cancelled. Too hard to compete with cheap air travel. There are however good stuff in the works! We are keenly following the development of a sleeper train from London and Hamburg to Sweden. These specially built trains are projected to start running in 2022/23.
Drive to the launch
Carbon emissions per person when driving are a little trickier to calculate. It depends on several factors like how many passengers are in the car, fuel type and fuel effiency. In very broad terms, you will leave around a 50% smaller carbon imprint than flying the same distance.
Fly on planes using jet biofuels
Many argue that the near future of air travel lies in changing to sustainable biofuels, since it’s not reasonable to expect people to stop flying altogether. NASA has determined that a 50% aviation biofuel mixture can cut air pollution caused by air traffic by 50–70%. How? Since biofuel, when grown from plants or trees, take up the same amount of CO2 when it grows as is emitted when it burns. For this to work and not have other adverse effects, it comes with quite a lot of stipulations such as not competing with food supplies or consume prime agricultural land and fresh water. Right now, the cost of aviation biofuels is extremely high compared to fossil fuels, mostly because production is so low. It’s usually made from used frying oil.
Many airlines offer carbon offset programs, but they do not get to the root of the problem, which is using fossil fuels in the first place. Although several airlines are in the process of collaborating with biofuel producers, building plants for biofuels or supporting research projects, it’s not that easy to affect on the consumer level.
Scandinanavian Airlines offers purchase of biofuels for all their flights. An example: 100% biofuels for a flight lasting 1 hr and 20 mins will cost you 400 SEK, 50% will cost you 200 SEK. There is no profit involved, jet biofuels are actually that much more expensive than fossil fuels. In the future, if production is large-scale and local, this cost will be much lower. Your seat on the flight, if you fund biofuel for all of it, will emit 80% less CO2 than with fossil fuels. Keep in mind through, that most of the seats on the flight will not have opted for biofuel, so it’s still much better to take a train.
Biofuels may not be a really large-scale solution for the future because of limits in supply and potential adverse effects. But it is at least something we can do right now or very soon. Synthetic kerosene or electric planes are other options in the future.
If you do need to fly on fossil fuels, choose the right airline
Skyscanner has launched a labelling system for flights that are greener than others. They analyse factors like aircraft model, fuel efficient engines, distance, capacity, cruise time and whether the flight is direct. For long-haul flights this can make a big difference, but for shorter flights within Europe, the difference between alternatives is quite small, about 5% lower carbon emissions.
Funding carbon reduction programs
Be aware that you are not lowering the amount of fossil fuels used in the world, and this option is not a valid way to reduce your own emissions. Carbon reductions are more like treating the symptoms instead of the desease. There’s nothing wrong with supporting all kinds of good causes in the world though. If you do choose to fund these types of projects, do it because you care, not to free yourself from carbon guilt for your own travels (which takes a lot more commitment than spending a few bucks, see above).
Make sure it’s a project certified by for example the Gold Standard, so that you know that the program has been thoroughly vetted to actually have positive effects on the climate. They are easy to support on the spot by simply choosing the project and fund right away via a ‘shopping cart’. There are also other good organisations for certification but it’s a little trickier to find an easy way to support their projects, for example Verified Carbon Standard.