Eurostar goes carbon-neutral

23 November 2007

From today, all Eurostar journeys will be completely carbon neutral, making it the world's first footprint-free method of mass transport.


The impact of rail travel between London and Paris or Brussels had always been at least 10 times lighter than the equivalent journey by plane, a traveller generating 11 kilograms of carbon dioxide compared with 122 by his or her counterpart on the plane. It is, the company says, the difference between enough CO2 to fill a Mini and the amount needed to fill a double-decker bus.


But by making a raft of new changes across the business - from installing energy meters on all trains to tightening up on recycling and making "train capacity efficiencies" (filling every seat, in other words) - the operator is lightening its environmental load.



In addition, it has set itself a new target of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions per passenger by a quarter by 2012. Where they cannot be completely eliminated, it will now invest in offsetting schemes to ensure that every journey is carbon neutral.


Basking in the glow of environmental virtue, Eurostar has teamed up with Friends of the Earth to push out its green message with even greater intensity.


A formal partnership between the two organisations was announced last month when the train operator heralded its even greener credentials with a programme called Tread Lightly.


Given the increasing attention paid to climate change, passengers are starting to take the environment into consideration when making travel choices. According to a YouGov poll, four out of ten people have changed their travel patterns because of personal concerns about climate change.


So how will Eurostar make a difference? There will be some radical new technology employed on the trains as they hurtle between St Pancras International and the continent. Energy meters have been installed to make sure they are driven as economically as possible. To use fuel more efficiently, the company intends to fill its trains to capacity. Power consumption will be reduced further with new controls for on-board lighting and air-conditioning units. Eurotunnel and Network Rail, who provide the power, will be expected to provide the electricity from as clean a source as possible.


Energy efficiency will be incorporated into the servicing and refitting of the existing fleet. As far as possible, train waste will be recycled – including unused food. Meals served on board will come from organic sources where possible. Anything from further afield, Fairtrade suppliers will be used. Disposable items such as paper cups and napkins will be made from maize extract, and thus will be biodegradable. If not, they will be fully recyclable.


The use of paper will also be frowned upon. The company is switching to e-ticketing, whereby passengers don't need a paper ticket, only a reservation number.


Those with an advanced mobile phone with a bar-code facility will be able to check in with a simple swipe.


Rather than relying on the post for its "direct marketing" campaigns (junk mail) it will promote its services via the internet. Where paper is used, it will be sourced from sustainable forests or recycled.


Other initiatives will involve not just passengers but the company's office and maintenance staff as well.


A "switch off" culture will be encouraged throughout the company. As well as cutting CO2 emissions, this will slash the company's electricity bills.


The environmental message will be taken to the new marshalling yard in east London, too, where the target is to recycle 80 per cent of waste by 2009, as well as avoiding using landfill at all.


Even staff uniforms will be thrown into the mix. Being unbranded means they will be recyclable when they come to the end of their natural life.


According to Eurostar, this "ambitious and demanding" programme will take three to five years to achieve in the countries where it operates – Britain, France and Belgium. The company knows it cannot lose from its Tread Lightly initiative.


Portraying itself as a green business clearly has commercial appeal in an increasingly environmentally conscious age. But cutting down on waste not only has its reward in climate change heaven, it does little harm to any company's bottom line.



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