Eurostar Goes Green

A Eurostar train ride from London to Paris is a study in eco-friendly travel.

By: By Deborah Dimond

The Details


If there is anything that the recent Icelandic volcano eruption has demonstrated to us, it is that trains remain a viable and reliable mode of transportation, especially throughout Europe. And while trains have long been viewed as an economical and environmentally friendly way to travel, Eurostar, in particular, has gone out of its way to go greener. 

Eurostar, shown here at its station in St. Pancras,London, is making a concerted effort to go green. // © 2010 Slideshow Bob

London, is making a concerted effort to go green.
// © 2010 Slideshow Bob

When I began making travel arrangements to journey from London to Paris this past March, my main concern was to keep things simple. I was more interested in the ease of transferring from tube station to train station and forgoing the hassle of traffic at Heathrow or being gouged with ridiculous baggage fees. Thus, I decided to travel by train.

The high-speed-rail passenger service, which primarily serves travelers between England, Belgium and France, celebrated its 15th anniversary last year with an impressive milestone: transporting more than 100 million passengers and accruing enough miles to travel the equivalent of 338 trips to the moon. In the process, it has also become committed to adopting environmental initiatives.

According to research commissioned by Eurostar in 2006 and 2009, a Eurostar trip between London and Paris/Brussels generates just one-tenth of the carbon dioxide emissions produced on an equivalent flight. Other statistics tout the eco-friendliness of train travel as well: For every 0.3 gallons of gas used, you can travel 15.5 miles by plane, 27 miles by car
or 90 miles by high-speed train. Traveling by high-speed train emits only 8.2 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger, while a car emits 144 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger and a plane emits 120 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger.

Eurostar isn’t stopping there, either. The rail service has also set a target of reducing its carbon-dioxide emissions by 35 percent per passenger by 2012. Because science has yet to invent emission-free train travel, Eurostar has also become the world’s first train operator to make all of its journeys carbon-neutral, without passing any of the costs onto its customers.

While carbon-dioxide reduction falls under the company’s Tread Lightly environmental plan, which was originally launched in April 2007, Eurostar’s plans for sustainability extend much further, as I recently discovered when I boarded my first-class passenger car. The plan incorporates three main principles: reducing usage wherever possible, sourcing supplies responsibly and recycling whatever is used or produced.

These three principles could be seen in action throughout my train ride. The onboard menu consisted of seasonal and locally grown organic produce from the U.K., France or Belgium, and the menus were printed on recycled paper. Disposable items such as the plates and napkins used onboard were either biodegradable or fully recyclable. And when I walked through the train cars, I also noticed an abundance of recycle bins.

After exploring the train, I settled back into my chair to finish my meal and glass of wine, all while watching the French countryside fly by. And, when the cheese plate finally arrived, I’ll admit I started to feel a bit smug, knowing that my exceedingly convenient and quick two-hour journey was also easy on the planet.