This interim travel guidance, published in September 2022, is designed to help staff and students across the University make informed choices when travelling for business or academic purposes, whilst a wider review of business travel policies is developed.
Please remember that all travel (air, rail and accommodation) must be booked through the University booking provider Key Travel (UoL login required) who are well placed to support all travel requirements with sustainable options. For any issues, or in the case of exceptional circumstances, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A risk assessment needs to be completed for all travel activities, with further help and support available from your local Health and Safety team.
Reduce your emissions with virtual meetings
Check if you can use technology to replace travel by connecting virtually.
Virtual meetings not only eliminate travel-related carbon emissions, but they also create a more accessible environment with more people from all over the world being able to attend and collaborate with us.
Take the time to consider if a meeting could be replaced with a phone call, email, or virtual meeting. For virtual meetings, some good options include the following technology which is supported by the University IT service:
- Microsoft Teams
Phone calls are the least emitting. If you want to reduce your footprint during virtual meetings you can switch your cameras off.
If you are hosting a conference, consider hosting one virtually instead.
You could also consider a hybrid conference, with some individuals being physically in attendance but providing the option to attend virtually and have the sessions recorded.
Before booking travel
If you are required to travel, take the time to ask yourself the following questions before you book your trip:
- Think about how often you need to make a physical trip.
- Think about how many people need to go when you do go.
- Could this trip be replaced with a virtual meeting/conference?
- Could this trip be achieved by rail? (including within Europe)
- Could we avoid multiple separate trips to the same destination by combining them into a single, longer trip?
- If you have to travel can you explore the CO2 effectiveness of different routes?
Choosing different modes of transport can have a significant impact on emissions, as illustrated in the following table which shows options for an illustrative journey from Leeds University (Parkinson Building) to London UCL Campus:
|Mode of transport:||From:||To:||Departure Time:||Arrival Time:||Travel Time:||Door to door journey time:||Cost:||CO2e emissions:|
|Coach||Leeds Coach Station||London Victoria Coach Station||09:00||13:50||5 hours 20 minutes||6 hours 5 minutes||£24.90||9kg|
|Rail||Leeds Railway Station||London Kings Cross||09:15||11:31||2 hours 15 minutes||2 hours 55 minutes||£59.00||11kg|
|Car||Parkinson Building||UCL Campus||09:00||13:00||4 hours (average)||4 hours (average)||£65 (including congestion charge and parking)||55kg|
|Air||Manchester Airport||London Heathrow||11:40||12:50||1 hour 10 minutes||5 hours 20 minutes||£278 (including rail transfer)||57kg|
Mode of transport
Please consider the following alternatives to air travel when making your trip. Wherever possible we would encourage you to not travel by plane. Please ensure that you speak to your line manager about safety considerations as well as family responsibilities related to longer journeys before you travel.
For domestic journeys rail should be your first choice, booked through the University’s contracted travel supplier, Key Travel.
For European journeys, high speed rail should be considered for all Eurostar destinations. Sleeper trains are also an option. The website 'The Man in Seat Sixty-One' illustrates all international rail options and Key Travel can handle your booking requirements.
Even if your destination is not on the rail network, consider travelling by rail and using a hire car for the final leg of the journey. If possible, electric vehicles are a great way to reduce your emissions as well as save money on fuel.
Coach travel is also an option for domestic and European journeys and are much lower emitters in comparison to air travel.
If you have explored all of these options and you must travel via airplane, please consider the following:
Flying economy - Flying economy means you take up less space in the plane, and means lower emissions per passenger.
Direct flights - Take off and landing account for a higher proportion of emissions.
Where there is no other option but to travel, consider an offsetting scheme to offset the carbon emissions of your journey. Offsetting should only be used as a last alternative, as the trip is still generating significant carbon emissions regardless of offsetting.
If flying is necessary, carbon offsets should be purchased. The University is currently a member of the Carbon Coalition, where offsets are verified by a board of experts, practitioners and scientists from the education sector to provide quality assurance. The most recently reported cost per tonne for this is £31.68. We recommend that this figure is used to estimate the cost to offset a tonne of CO2, although it's worth being aware that this cost is expected to rise over the coming years.
Please see the University of Leeds guidance on how to calculate your carbon offsetting costs for your journey.
At your destination
Use accommodation that has a reputation for being sustainable
Research the accommodation you want to stay at beforehand, and see what their policies are on recycling, use of alternative forms of energy, and if they are owned by local or foreign groups. Have a look into how they contribute to their local communities.
There are several accredited certification systems that accommodations can obtain if they are operating sustainably (for example: Global Sustainable Tourism Council, Green Seal, Earthcheck, Travelife Accommodation Sustainability, Green Key International, EU Ecolabel). Check to see if the accommodations have any labels that indicate they are sustainable, and you can use this to help choose where you stay. You can also inquire about this at local tourism offices.
When you book accommodation with the University travel booking provider, Key Travel, the emissions from the stay will be offset.
Whilst at your destination, consider walking and cycling to get around. If you do need to travel further afield, try to take public transport. Please remember to only use these methods of transport if it is safe to do so in the location that you are in.
If you want to learn more about sustainable business travel, please contact email@example.com.
Sustainable Travel In Practice
Benefits of Virtual Conferences: The AFRICAP iFEED Workshops
The digital transformation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has opened up opportunities to facilitate collaboration with groups around in the world. Helen Costerman of the School of Earth and Environment details her positive experience with the virtual AFRICA iFEED workshops in June, 2021:
“In June 2021, we held four virtual workshops focused on one of our key outputs, the integrated Future Estimator for Emissions and Diets (iFEED). Colleagues joined us over Zoom from Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, the UK and Zambia for 3-hour sessions facilitated by the Head of Interdisciplinary Research at Leeds. Holding this event on Zoom allowed us to consult on our project activities with a broad range of stakeholders who we would otherwise not have reached. It also allowed participation by colleagues with caring responsibilities or who are not able to travel. The chat function was also helpful for those who do not have the confidence to speak in front of large groups. While there was the occasional interruption due to bandwidth issues, holding the event online made it more accessible and equitable overall.”
When planning your next conference or workshop, it is worth considering if the event could be virtual or hybrid to increase the range of stakeholders that are able to attend, to improve accessibility and attendance, and to help reduce emissions related to travel.
Vietnam to Leeds: The Trans-Mongolian Express
In 2013, Lindsay Stringer, who was a Professor in Environment and Development at the University of Leeds as well as the Director of the Sustainability Research Institute and Steven Orchard, who was a PhD student at the institute, travelled to Hanoi, Vietnam to present Steven’s PhD findings to researchers and policy makers, as well as to explore possible collaborations with the Hanoi National University of Education.
Lindsay and Steven made the decision to return from Vietnam via the trans-Mongolian railway in an effort to save around ½ tonne of CO2 compared to the return flight. Stop offs along their route included Beijing, Irkuk, Moscow, Minsk, Cologne and Brussels. With the help of the International Office and Alumni and Development, they were able to link up with Leeds Alumni along the way wherever possible.
In a blog post where she wrote about her reflections from their journey, Lindsay wrote that she hoped that they journey would stimulate debate and encourage other researchers to think about what they do when they travel for research, and that a lot can be gained by staying a few extra days in the destination in terms of building research links and contacts. She also noted that traveling using non-standard forms can really help to increase networking opportunities as well.
Lindsay concluded in her post: “With the world’s grand research challenges being problems that we face as a planet (food security, energy security, climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation etc), research for travel is a necessary part of academic life if we are to contribute to the development of solutions. Giving more thought to how we travel, when and why, and what we do when we’re there, seems like a sensible and important way forward, particularly if research travel can be combined with implementing other aspects University Strategy”.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work on business travel is linked to the following SDGs:
- Goal 4: Quality education
- Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
- Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- Goal 13: Climate action
Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.