This one’s pretty obvious at the basic level. It’s better to walk or cycle than catch a plane…

…but in between those extremes our daily transport choices make a huge difference to our individual contribution to climate change and pollution. 

So, for a quick overview here are the grams of CO2 emitted per mile travelled using various forms of transport taken from the Green Ration Book website, with the real world figures for specific cars from the Next Green Car website.

It’s worth remembering that the train, coach, bus and plane figures are per passenger per mile, whereas the car is for the vehicle, so the more passengers in the car, the less bad it becomes.  Even so, the train is by far the best other than walking and bike.

These are all approximate but they are a good starting point, and we will explore transport in more detail on the blog over time.

  • Foot

    zero carbon emissions and great for the health and happiness too

  • Bike

    zero carbon emissions and gets you fit

  • Train

    at 40 grams of CO2 per passenger mile this is the best of the powered transports

  • Coach

    at 80g CO2 per passenger mile intercity coach is not as good as a train, but usually cheaper and better than all but a fully occupied car, and creates less congestion.

  • City bus

    170g CO2 per passenger mile. All that stopping and starting means it's more polluting than a long distance bus, but still less polluting than solo car use, and less congestion, and no parking spaces needed.

  • new small car

    220g CO2 per mile. More than 5 times worse than a train for single occupancy. Better with more passengers. Better per mile on longer journeys.

  • medium hybrid car

    260g CO2 per mile. More than 6 times worse than a train for single occupancy. Better with more passengers. Better per mile on longer journeys. Surprisingly little difference from a non-hybrid of same size.

  • new medium car

    280g CO2 per mile. 7 times worse than a train for single occupancy. Better with more passengers. Better per mile on longer journeys.

  • new large car

    320g CO2 per mile. 8 times worse than a train for single occupancy. Still twice as polluting as a train even with 4 passengers.

  • long haul flight

    340g CO2 per passenger mile in economy class. Long haul is less polluting per mile than short haul or domestic because the take off and landing use so much fuel, but long haul flights are always... long! So lots of pollution. Business and first class worse because they carry fewer people for the same fuel use.

  • Porsche 911

    405g CO2 per mile. 10 times worse than train. Worse than long haul and almost as bad as short haul flight. probably no worse than busness class... hmmmm

  • short haul flight

    415g CO2 per passenger mile. 10 times worse than train. European train travel wins hands down!

  • Range Rover

    500g CO2 per mile. More than 12 times worse than train. Almost as bad as all forms of flying.

  • Domestic flight

    505g CO2 per mile. More than 12 times worse than train. Worst way of getting from Bristol to Edinburgh other than taking the Porsche Cayenne.

  • Ferrari 488

    590g CO2 per mile. 15 times worse than train. More polluting than everything except Porsche Cayenne.

  • Porsche Cayenne

    590g CO2 per mile. 15 times worse than train. Probably better than helicopter for the school run, but I've not checked.

Some of these figures are pretty surprising and some are shocking, so here’s a blog post putting them in perspective.

Greener transport ideas for your Change List

Avoid the jam

Sitting in a traffic jam with the engine running, stopping and starting, and getting nowhere fast sends your blood pressure and your fuel consumption (ie carbon emissions) sky high. It’s crazy. So if you can’t walk or cycle or take the bus, tram or train, plan your car journeys for...

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Group your trips

If a lot of your car use is for short journeys on errands, school runs, dog walks and shopping trips, do a bit of planning and group the trips together so that you can cut the too and fro and take the car out once instead of lots of times....

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Google a bus

There was time when the challenge of finding the right bus or even the bus stop to get you where you wanted, and then working out the timetable, might have put you off using public transport altogether, but those days are gone thanks to Google maps on your phone. If...

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stay under the limit

Speed limits make driving (and walking and cycling) safer, but they also make it greener. Accelerating and braking gently so that you stay at or below the speed limit takes the stress out of driving and cuts fuel consumption....

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Pump it up

If your tyres are flatter than they should be there’s more of them touching the road surface, so your engine has to work harder against the friction of tyre on tarmac. Check them regularly to make sure they’re at the right pressure for the best fuel consumption. It really does...

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Leave early

New research from the Institute for the Blindingly Obvious shows that leaving 10 minutes earlier means that you can drive less frantically, more fuel efficiently and arrive relaxed and on time. (For those constutionally incapable of leaving early we suggest simply planning to arrive everywhere 10 minutes late…it has the...

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Ask the man in seat 61

In 2001 former British Rail Station Manager, Mark Smith, set up an extraordinary website as a hobby to help people plan train journeys across Europe. It's called the man in seat 61 and it has grown! It is now an award-winning resource if you’re looking for alternatives to flying.  Here’s...

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car free days challenge

For those who like a challenge and a reward.. draw up a car-free calendar with tick boxes (or gold stars) for the day of the week. Give yourself a tick/star for each day you leave the car unused. Start by  using the car as you always have done and see...

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Don’t be a Bigfoot

It’s not complicated.. accelerate gently, brake gently, coast when you can. It’s astonishing how much that can improve your car’s fuel consumption. There’s a word for it, hypermiling, that weirdly came from the US NASCAR scene which involves driving stock cars very fast in circles round a track. It’s not...

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