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Taking the train is one of those things that gets less cool the older you are. Remember the days when it seemed like such a romantic form of travel, with its promise of adventure and escape? Maybe you even inter-railed through Europe during your student days, happily sharing sleeper cabins with friends and strangers alike. Ah, the lifelong memories you made…

Well, those days are over. So, in the words of Eminem, snap back to reality.

Nowadays, it’s more likely to be a sweaty slog, as you try to squeeze into an unreliable metal prison designed to take you to work. You spend half the time competing with your fellow passengers for armrests and legroom. That is, if you can get a seat at all.

And although it’s often touted as a greener option than flying or driving when it comes to reducing our environmental impact – does it really measure up?

To answer this question let’s look at the facts.

Person in orange with blue car and trees and sun in the background.

Trains vs Planes - the environmental impact

So are trains always more eco-friendly than planes? If you’re lucky enough to be travelling from London to Paris on the Eurostar, then yeah – it’s all good news. In fact, that particular train ride would save more than 90% of the carbon emissions produced by flying.

But that’s because France and Britain are trailblazers in their renewable energy production together totalling over half of their electricity sources.

Does this translate across the board though?

If you’re taking the train in the UK, chances are you’re travelling sustainably. But, if you’re travelling around the US, that might not be the case at all.

In fact, a study found that a popular commuter train in the US – the Boston light rail, produced more emissions per passenger than plane travel. This is because the electricity for this electric train is actually generated by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal.

Man with blue hatchback car with trees and the sun in the background

HS2: Will trains always be the default green option?

High Speed 2 (HS2), is an ambitious rail project that will see major cities across the UK connected by, as the name suggests, high-speed trains. And while this is expected to reduce domestic flights and car journeys, experts are unsure whether it will necessarily be the default green option.

For instance, the government is planning on banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030, with electric cars taking over. A think tank has estimated that the move means that the environmental cost of building HS2 will outweigh the environmental saving by the railway as a result. Ancient woodlands and protected wildlife sites will also be affected by the creation of HS2.

Plus, there’s also the elephant in the room; train travel tends to be more environmentally friendly when trains are at capacity. This means that HS2 needs to offer an affordable, reliable service that beats taking a car or a plane. At the moment, trains are often significantly more expensive and often affected by cancellations and you have still got to find a way to get to and from the station.

When the trains are running, and if you can spare the money needed to buy a kidney, then why not make the whole endeavour a little more planet friendly by booking your ticket through Train Hugger, and plant a tree for free every time you book a ticket. Train Hugger is just one of the 21 awesome eco apps that we take a look at.

But who knows what the future holds? Perhaps, a train service that’s on time and costs less than a plane ticket.

Blue hatchback car with trees and the sun in the background

Zixty - Making driving as environmentally friendly as possible

We can’t always take the train. At least not until HS2 is complete and ready to zip us ‘round the UK’s hotspots in record time. In the meantime, most of us will have to stick to driving at least some of the time. And sometimes, we’ll even need to take out temporary car insurance to make that possible.

That’s where Zixty’s temporary car insurance policy comes in. It’s designed to make driving eco-friendly. When you take out a policy through us and enable Zixty Miles (which is free), we will plant trees on your behalf while you’re a customer. We will also offset your carbon emissions up to 100 miles every day. And we’ll give you an EcoScore to tell you how green of a driver you actually are.

Driving might not be as green as taking the train, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your best for the planet while you’re behind the wheel. And with Zixty, it doesn’t have to be hard at all!