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À Paris en train. Bien sûr!

Train at train station. Photo Amanda Elgh.
Early morning at Offenburg trainstation.

Written by:
Amanda Elgh, Student Coordinator, LUCSUS

In this post, I will tell you about how I became a guinea pig for our new travel agency that helps you book train tickets to anywhere in Europe (and maybe elsewhere, I’m not sure! If possible, I would love to take the train all the way to the south of Africa or Japan as well, what an adventure it would be!). I will also share some of my personal tips on how to make the most of your train journey.

I was thrilled when I got accepted to the staff week at Université Paris-Saclay in June last year. But I also had a dilemma: how to get there? I love travelling by train, and I am “emotionally convinced” that we have a responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint, so flying was not an option. But still a slight feeling of uneasiness sneaked upon me! I knew that booking train tickets across borders could potentially be a little painful. I had heard some not so nice stories from my colleagues at LUCSUS, who often travel by train for work. They have shared stories with me on how hard it can be to find the right trains, and the most convenient connections, without being robbed and without having to spend hours and hours on debating with the travel agency who often has argued for the supposedly easier/more affordable/quicker option, flying. Some of them have even given up on the regular travel agency and booked their tickets themselves.

But then I heard the good news: the university was looking for volunteers to test a new travel agency for train journeys. I signed up right away!

I have to say, it was a breeze! The travel agency took care of everything for me. All I had to do was to tell them (through an online form) where and when I wanted to go, and they sent me the tickets by mail within a couple of days. Well, I had to pick the tickets up at the post office at the other end of Lund, but that was only because I made a mistake and gave the travel agency our box address instead of the street address. That’s my first tip for you: use a street address for delivery, or better yet, ask for e-tickets. It’s faster and easier.

Street with flower shop in Paris. Photo Amanda Elgh.
Old car on the street. Photo Amanda Elgh.
Wherever you look, Paris is full of flowers, kitties and cute cars. And also a bit of rubbish, but choose to ignore that 😂
Train station. Photo Amanda Elgh.

The travel itself was also smooth and enjoyable. I and a colleague from the Faculty of Science hopped on the train in Malmö on a Sunday afternoon and arrived in Paris on Monday morning, after a few changes in Copenhagen, Hamburg (where we stretched our legs and had dinner), and Offenburg (where we woke up at 6 AM and had an early breakfast on the platform as the sun rose before we had to jump on the TGV for the last part). The trains were comfortable, clean, and punctual. We had plenty of time to relax, chat, read, and work. And the scenery was beautiful! The experience makes me happy when I think about it.

On the way back, I (I travelled back by myself as I decided to stay for an extra day) had a minor delay, but it was no problem. I used the Rail Planner app to find an alternative route, and all in all I only arrived to Malmö one hour later than planned.

Eiffel Tower from below. Photo Amanda Elgh.

Here are some more tips to make your train journey even more fun:

  • Travel light! You don’t need a lot of stuff. Rather bring some laundry detergent, or use the hotel services than carry a heavy bag.
  • Baby wipes are your best friend! They will keep you fresh and clean, especially if you don’t have access to a shower.
  • Stay hydrated and energised! Drink plenty of water and eat healthy snacks. You will feel happier and sharper.
  • Download some podcasts or audiobooks that you have always wanted to listen to. Now you have the perfect opportunity!
  • Download and familiarise yourself with the Rail Planner app. The app makes it easy to find alternatives if a train is delayed.

To sum it up, travelling by train was not only good for the planet, but also good for me. I had a lot of time to unwind and focus. And had a lot of fun! I would not hesitate to do it again. If in doubt, don’t be, just enjoy it for what it is.

Portrait Amanda Elgh. Photo.
Amanda Elgh, LUCSUS

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COP28 – Reflections from the Desk

Screenshot from online conference, people meditating on stage. Photo.
A meditation session was unexpectedly held during a seminar at COP28, which was followed online from Lund.

Written by:
Alexander Paulsson, Senior lecturer, Lund University School of Economics and Management, LUSEM

Just over a month before the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai commenced, I received the exciting news. In my inbox, there was an email from UNFCCC informing me that I had been accredited for virtual participation at COP28. Almost immediately, I attempted to rearrange my calendar to make room for this. Meetings with few participants are relatively easy to adjust, but teaching is a bit trickier, as are meetings with many participants that have been planned well in advance. Unfortunately, keeping the calendar completely empty of activities was not an option in my case. Despite this, I managed to create room in the calendar to participate in most of the sessions and meetings that I later signed up for. Another thing I began to ponder was the time difference. In my previous professional life, I worked for a company whose clients were mainly located in Saudi Arabia. Dealing with the time difference was challenging, especially when real-time communication was needed. So, how would the three-hour time difference play out during COP28?

As soon as I could log in to the website and the virtual platform where COP28 would be broadcasted, I searched through the program for sessions and meetings related to economic issues and financing. There were quite a few, which did not surprise me, given that many discussions in previous meetings had largely revolved around Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and the disputed market mechanism.

How was it then to follow COP from the desk?

The short answer is: at times very exciting and engaging, and at times quite challenging. Following the discussions and meetings in real-time went well despite the time difference. Thanks to some planning and rearranging, it worked out well. It was occasionally difficult to maintain concentration, however, especially, when the conversations during meetings revolved around how individual sentences should be formulated. At those times, I zoomed out after a while. It was easier, though, when disagreements arose and the conflicts became clearer. Then I was drawn into the conversations in a completely different way.

The oddest – and most surprising – moment was when I tried to log in and follow a discussion on how the climate transition should be financed, but instead, I found myself right in the middle of a presentation by an NGO about climate collapse and inner transformations. The long-haired chairman talked about a NASA-funded report that mapped out how civilizations had collapsed, only to quickly transition into a collective meditation. “We need to start with an inner transformation,” he said. The meditation included people both present in Dubai and online.

The “historic” agreement marking “the beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era, I heard on the radio just before eight o’clock on December 13th, on my way to work. All in all, I learned about the negotiations lot by following COP 28 from the desk, and I would definitely like to do it again if the opportunity arises.

Portrait Alexander Paulsson. Photo.
Alexander Paulsson,
Lund University School of Economics and Management
Photo: Johan Persson

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“Oh, you came here by train? Magnifique!”

Woman on train. Photo.
Heading to Versailles for a meeting.

Written by:
Pernilla Borgström and Cheryl Sjöström, Centre for Environmental and Climate Science

When we applied to go on an Erasmus+ staff training trip to Université Paris-Saclay, train travel felt like the obvious mode of transport for both of us. Primarily for personal reasons of wanting to travel as sustainably as possible, but also since the Erasmus+ mobility programme offered a (modest but welcome) funding bump for those choosing not to fly.

Planning our trip

Booking the trip was easy thanks to the university’s newly procured train travel agency. We sent them an e-mail specifying our preferred dates and modes of travel, and they got back to us quickly with a suggested itinerary. We chose to travel with Interrail passes (this is often the cheapest option), but with reserved seats on each connection, and the agency took care of the otherwise time-consuming task of getting us those reserved seats. It’s good to keep in mind that the prices the agency gives you are in DKK (Danish Krone), and given the current eye-watering exchange rate, you or whoever holds the budget will want to avoid ugly surprises when the bill ultimately shows up in SEK (we may or may not be speaking from experience…). 

An unexpected Brussels holiday

We set off from Copenhagen bright and early on the 3rd of December, with a smooth and sleepy ride to Hamburg. The “adventsfika” we’d brought along went nicely with the crisp, snowy views outside the window. Once in Hamburg, however, the chaotic energy of Deutsche Bahn kicked into gear, and our next connection to Köln was announced to have a 15 minute, then 30 minute, then 45 minute delay. We watched our intended connection time in Köln shrivel and disappear, which created some timeline tension as we wanted to be in Brussels in time to catch our Eurostar connection to Paris (the Eurostar Interrail seat reservations are mandatory, and quite pricey, so switching to another departure isn’t as straightforward as it is with the regular trains). 

The dream of catching that connection stayed alive through our trip to Köln, and a pleasant stop-over there, wandering through a snowy Christmas market just outside the station, and a potato noodle dinner. But the dream dwindled and died on the next train (to Brussels), also delayed. And so, we built a new beautiful dream, of catching the very last Eurostar from Brussels at 22.15. But alas, once again: dwindling, and death. We arrived in Brussels shortly after that train’s departure, and so booked a hotel for the night near the train station.

Woman reading on a train. Photo.
Time for reading on the train to Hamburg.
Take away food, Christmas market in the background. Photo.
Potato noodle dinner in Köln.

RER you ready for Paris rush hour?

After a few sweet hours of sleep, we caught the first Eurostar from Brussels to Paris the next morning. Thanks to friendly onboard staff, it was no problem to travel with our expired seat reservations on the “wrong” departure. We arrived at Gare du Nord on time, treated ourselves to a pain au chocolat breakfast, then got tickets for the regional RER train that was to take us straight to our first meeting at Université Paris-Saclay. Traveling from central Paris at peak rush hour turned out to be a true baptism of public transport fire; we not so much lined up as squeezed ourselves into the mass of people waiting by the doors, drifted with the crowd onto the train, then stood squished and unable to move for several stops before people started filing off. (An important lesson learned: don’t bring a cup of takeaway coffee to RER rush hour, your fellow passengers won’t be amused).

Train travel as an ice-breaker  

The RER trains became our friends during the week, as they took us to the different places we needed to go. Université Paris-Saclay consists of several different campuses, with quite large distances to travel between them, and with our handy Navigo ‘semaine’ pass (30€ for a week) we could easily travel between them on both trains and buses, jumping on and off with a blip of the card on the reader. In our meetings and interactions with staff at Paris-Saclay, we found that people were very interested to hear the why and how of our chosen mode of travel, and it proved to be a pretty good ice-breaker (especially in that first meeting, when we showed up sleep-deprived and frazzled yet very enthusiastic and happy to have arrived!). 

We were staying in the town of Massy, roughly midway between central Paris and Paris-Saclay, and with our Navigo passes, it was easy to go into Paris for a short visit when we had the time. The passes were also valid on the Paris metro – great value for money!

Smooth training through Switzerland

Our trip back home went much smoother than on the way down. A TGV got us to Basel in good time for our night train; perhaps too good, as we ended up waiting there around three hours with very little to do when the Nightjet towards Hamburg was delayed. This frazzled our nerves a bit and we started dreading a repeat of our involuntary Brussels holiday, but thankfully it was only a modest delay, and we were soon comfortably settled in our small Nightjet cabin, with complementary goodie bags of slippers, chocolate and – ojoj – fizzy wine!

In Hamburg we had just enough time to buy some pretzels, then stepped aboard our train towards Copenhagen, which departed beautifully on time and brought us smoothly back to Copenhagen.

What we’ve learned (or re-learned)

All in all, it was a great experience and one we’d happily repeat. Reflecting back on the journey, here are some things we think are useful to keep in mind when deciding to embark on a longer train journey:  

  1. Travel time and expectations: we’ve both done enough long-distance train traveling to know that unexpected things can happen, and this time we were a bit unlucky on the way down, but we were also mentally prepared for possible issues arising. As Jessika Luth Richter put it nicely in a previous blog post, long-distance train travel does require you to think of time differently – of course it will take you longer to reach your destination than if you would fly there, but that extra time can be filled with useful and interesting things and experiences, such as work, books, long conversations (with both travel partners and strangers), music, day-dreaming, potato noodles… And from these things, new perspectives and ideas might arise. Accepting, but ideally also appreciating, the added time and the opportunities you get from it is key to a pleasant journey. Which brings us to a practical point of…
  2. Turnover times: time pessimism is, sometimes, your friend. Especially the German trains are notorious for being delayed, so if you’re a nervous traveller it can make the journey more pleasant if you add some extra time at each stop, and at most of the big stations there’s enough to keep you entertained in or around the station for an hour or two if you end up having to wait. 
  3. Extra expenses: it can be good to check beforehand how it works if you end up having to pay for hotels, taxis and more because of missed connections – this is especially unclear when traveling on an Interrail pass, and we found that the onboard staff on our delayed trains couldn’t really guide us through the process, as they referred us to station staff for answers, with the station staff in Brussels in turn referring us back to Deutsche Bahn. This would have been a bit easier to navigate if we’d known our full rights beforehand, and what sort of documentation (e.g. proof of delay) that we would need to ask for.
Two women on the street, houses in the background. Photo.
In our temporary home base of Massy.
Exterior of a train station. Photo.
A misty morning at the station in Versailles.
Exterior of a train station. Photo.
At Gare de Lyon, getting ready to leave a rainy Paris.

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From Train Delays to Arctic Light and Whale Watching

Orcas in water. Photo.
Orcas near Skjervøy. Photo.

Written by:
Ranka Steingrimsdottir, Librarian, the Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology

In the beginning of November, I travelled by train and bus to the Arctic University in Tromsø, to take part in the yearly Munin Conference on Scholarly Publishing. As a librarian working with research support at the Libraries of the Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology, this conference covers issues that are key for me and my colleagues’ work. So, I was very happy to get funding from Erasmus Plus and be able to go to the conference. However, in these times of climate crisis, it was unthinkable for me to fly to the conference. The very few flights our remaining carbon budget allows us to take, we need to save for absolutely necessary travels, which in my case is to be able to fly to the island where a large part of my family and friends live (going by train to Iceland is unfortunately not an option). For the last six years or so, and since I decided to do what I can to reduce my carbon footprint, for all other trips I have chosen the train before the plane (or in some cases the bus). During holidays I’ve taken the train to destinations such as Abisko (to hike the Kungsleden trail), to Sundsvall and from Örnsköldsvik (to hike the Högakusten trail), but also to Cinque Terre, Pisa, Rome, Berlin, Paris, San Sebastián, Bilbao, Madrid, and Barcelona. Moreover, during these years, I’ve taken the bus back and forth to the French Alps three times, to go skiing. All this without any problems or delays whatsoever! But this time going to the north of Norway, I really got to experience some delays (which can of course happen with flights as well – there was actually a group of people onboard the night train because their flight had been cancelled due to heavy fog).

Arrival Just on Time

The delays started already on the train going from Lund to Stockholm, which was 2,5 hours delayed, so when I finally arrived in Stockholm, I had missed my night train that was supposed to take me directly from Stockholm to Narvik, Norway. A few hours later, I managed to get on another night train to Norrland. This train, however, ended up being more than five hours delayed, which meant that I arrived in Boden at about three in the afternoon instead of at ten in the morning. From there I took a train to Kiruna, arriving there at half past eight in the evening. Because there were no more trains going to Norway that day, I had to take a taxi with three other people (paid by the train company!). Two of them were going to a research station in Abisko and then there were two of us going to Narvik. On the way driving through the snow-covered winter landscape the taxi-driver all of a sudden stopped to let us get out of the car and see northern lights! I spent a short night at a hotel in Narvik and then got on a bus to Tromsø at 5.35 in the morning. And arrived on time to the conference that started at ten o’clock (instead of having arrived in Tromsø in the afternoon the day before)!

Woman outside building, with snow on the ground. Photo.
The Arctic University in Tromsø in daylight.
Snow-covered garden. Photo.
The Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden in Tromsø.

Bonus Experiences

As there was no return train until the Sunday (due to track work), I got to stay for an extra day in Tromsø. Therefore, I took the opportunity to go on a whale watching tour (on an electricity-fueled catamaran), that took us to Skjervøy. We were away for seven hours and saw both orcas and humpback whales, even though I think the scenery and the Arctic light was actually the best part, as we were away to see both the sunrise (at around 9 o’clock) and the sunset (at a bit past 1 o’clock) over the icy fjords and snow-covered mountains. Back in Tromsø I took a cable car up to the top of a mountain nearby, hoping to see northern lights from above the clouds.

The return trip went completely according to plan – beginning with a four-hour bus-ride from Tromsø to Narvik, with a short stop to buy a pad thai in Narvik, followed by the direct night train between Narvik and Stockholm, that takes eighteen hours. And finally, I took the train from Stockholm to Lund. All in all, both the conference and the travelling, was very interesting and rewarding, even though the way to the conference ended up a bit more adventurous than I had expected.

Woman on boat, mountains in the background. Photo.
Arctic selfie.
Night view over city. Photo.
View over Tromsø from above the clouds.

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Choosing Sufficiency: Redefining Travel Quality in a Climate Crisis

Written by:
Jessika Luth Richter, Associate senior lecturer, IIIEE, The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics

I decided to stop flying within Europe in 2018, towards the end of my PhD. In part, I was influenced by many of those who have already written sustainable travel blogs here, including Kimberly Nicholas. I had been researching climate and sustainable consumption for years and just couldn’t justify the environmental impacts in a time of climate crisis.

Of course, Covid followed soon after so not flying became the norm for everyone. In 2020, I started working with the EU 1.5° Lifestyles project, in which the project partners pledged to travel as sustainably as possible – to “walk the talk” so to speak. Through the endeavor to travel as sustainably as possible, I have learned a few lessons along the way.

Take it easy on myself and think of time differently

Making a commitment to not flying for work didn’t go as planned from the beginning. My first meticulously planned itinerary from Lund to Helsinki ended before I’d gone even 100km, stopped in Hässleholm due to a fire on the tracks up ahead and no hope of getting to the ferry in Stockholm in the near future. The travel agency apologized and suggested I turn around to Copenhagen and take a flight. I learned quickly to leave some extra time to get to the destinations and build in a working day while travelling and long breaks when switching modes to grab a meal or a quick walk around a city (train stations are great for that – they are almost always in the center of everything). When I know I am going somewhere I book several days on either side in my calendar to avoid scheduling teacher or other on-site activities in case I need to be on route once I figure out my itinerary. Many trains now have wifi and the last train trip on the German ICE train felt like I was in a co-working space – everyone was working and I was compelled to also have a productive working day.

Woman on train station. Photo.
City view with bridge and river. Photo.
Cup of coffee and chocolate cake. Photo.
A couple of hours in Villach, Austria waiting for a train connection allowed for a quick walk around town and a taste of some local chocolate cake.

Flexibility is needed

Last summer a storm named Polly disrupted all travel to the Netherlands for a project meeting and sustainability conference combined (the project aimed to put the project meetings close to planned conferences if possible). Getting there required heavy use of the public transport apps in finding viable alternative connections. Having those apps to support me had come with a trade-off because my old phone had stopped being able to run them effectively (to be fair, after 7 years) and I had to buy a new phone before the trip to feel that I could handle disruptions if they arose.

Apps were not the only support along the way. Anytime I was interrupted while travelling, I found others in the same situation who helped me too. My travel to a conference in July in Zagreb was only supposed to be three trains and 24 hours. Five trains and 3 days later, I arrived after a lot of troubleshooting but with a group of other conference attendees I had met along the way. I had already met one objective of the conference – I had a great network of sustainability researchers and practitioners. Nothing breaks the ice more than being stranded for hours at an unmanned train station!

View from rainy window. Photo.
Mountains and green fields with yellow flowers. Photo.
A trip to Zagreb disrupted by floods but after three days I made it to my destination. There were some beautiful views along the way once the clouds cleared.

On the one hand, train travel through Europe gets a reputation for being unreliable. Certainly, the travel to project meetings proved the need to be flexible and understanding rights and options as a traveler. However, travelling in weather events interrupted all travel, even flying. On the trip to the Netherlands, it turns out the train was easier than flying when all the transport to and from airports is stopped. Which is to say, travel in general requires flexibility, sustainable travel included.

Determining what is sustainable travel can be tricky

It is important to me as a sustainability researcher to practice what I preach. Yet, even for me there can be times when it is hard to know what actually is the most sustainable option. The second time I was planning to go to Helsinki I was determined to take the train and ferry. At the time, another project I was involved in, Mistra Sustainable Consumption, had just completed a carbon calculator for travel. I tested it and was a bit shocked that my train and ferry trip would be very close in carbon emissions to flying the same route. I read a bit more about it and asked the researchers. The ferry calculations depended on the speed of the ferry, the fuel, and how emissions are allocated between freight and passengers. Considering this, I found that one ferry line between Stockholm and Turku had switched to a more efficient ferry that could potentially use biofuel. I booked an overnight train to Stockholm and then took the ferry to Turku/Åbo. Since it was a day crossing, it was very cheap to book a cabin with wifi as my office for the day. Instead of the night before the conference in Helsinki, I spent the night in Turku/Åbo and commuted to Helsinki in the morning.

Working from the cabin and taking a break on the ferry to Finland (desk not pictured).

Adopting a sufficiency approach to travel

In the last few years, I not only changed the way I traveled in deciding not to fly. I also changed how much I traveled. I now have to choose between conferences in the summer that before I might have flown from one to the other. I definitely experience the fear of missing out syndrome, but I have also found that while the quantity of travelling and meetings has reduced the quality has not. I now collaborate with some researchers that I have never met in person, and it still works.

During lunch at a 1.5 project meeting July in the Netherlands we were all remarking how great the next project meeting in six months was going to be. The meeting was planned at our Spanish partners in A Coruña on the northwest coast of Spain in November to escape the winter gloom. Then we started sharing our initial research on potential travel itineraries. Would we go overnight on a train, daytime on a bus and then overnight again? Or 24 hours on a bus? Some reluctantly admitted they could not attend without flying. The allure of warm sun was fading fast with the realization of the herculean effort and the irony of 20+ researchers flying to Spain to meet about 1.5° lifestyles. Then it was suggested maybe we should just have the meeting online.

So rather than finishing this piece from a train after our 3 day project meeting, I am finishing it from home. My colleagues attended the meeting together from the office and it actually finished early, giving me a bit more time to work on other things. Now instead of a swim in the sea in Spain, I am off to go ice-skating with my son.

Researchers meeting in person in Lund and online with the rest of the consortium. Not the same as Spain, but with its own benefits.

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Fly less. Yes, you!

Woman outside builing with European Union flags. Photo.

Written by:
Kimberly Nicholas, Senior lecturer, LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)

You already know, dear reader, that if you fly, it’s your biggest source of climate pollution.

Just 1% of the world’s population are regular flyers— and they represent 50% of climate pollution from flights. (I was in that group until I put my frequent flyer card in a museum.) Eeeeeek!

After a big drop in 2020, we see flying rebounding fast right now. But we know that a “recovery” of business-as-usual flying means climate catastrophe. Flying needs to decline, because flying today is at odds with the big-ass reductions in emissions we need to make to avoid blowing all of humanity’s remaining carbon budget in the next 83 months. (ACK!)

A great place to start is to join the Flight Free Campaign, which started here in Sweden. Some chapters, like the UK and US, offer the chance to pledge to go flight-free for a year, to make a significant personal change and work for broader system change. (If work or family commitments mean you can’t go flight-free, you can also pledge to be flight-free for holidays.) Also check out the Stay Grounded campaign.

Some ways to get started or ramp up staying grounded, focusing on work flying:

  • Start conversations about flying at work, and find at least one person who wants to work towards your organisation flying less.
  • Get your organisation to use behavioural science to support flying less, following guidance from World Resources Institute to:
    • (1) Make virtual easy;
    • (2) Use positive social norms and pledges;
    • (3) Encourage senior staff to lead new norms by convening explicit travel-reduction conversations; and
    • (4) Formalize institutional policies and procedures, like changing budget templates or proposal guidelines.
  • Ready to dive in? FlyingLessResourcesGuide.info is a one-stop shop for everything from practical guides to hosting low-carbon conferences, to getting your organisation or industry to fly less, to how to push for funders and incentives to support flying less.
  • Join campaigns and communities like FlyingLess.org, which has fabulous resources and stories for academics flying less.
  • Here’s 4 minutes of me talking about how our department is going about flying less, and here’s a whole podcast on Flying Less!
  • Make institutional guidance like the Tyndall Centre decision tree to prioritise flights, and start conversations about equity. (Flying is usually distributed very unequally within organisations; their guidelines prioritise flights for younger and less advantaged scholars.)
  • Get inspired by others who are already leading the way- like these universities who have implemented or are planning measures.

EuroTour23

stopped flying within Europe in 2012. In fall 2023, I took a 3-week, 9-country overland tour, mostly by train, to give a series of talks and join meetings with policymakers, researchers, and climate communicators. Here are a few photo highlights. 

Map of route in Europe. Illustration.
Map of my Eurotrip September-October 2023.
Woe
EuroTour -23 begins! First trip Lund –> Oslo.
Take away food. Photo.
Ideal: bring homemade lunch in reusable container. Reality: I’m running out of the door after frantically packing and buying food to go. Still, eating plant based saves more emissions than meat in reusable container.
Woman on ferry. Photo.
Hej då Oslo! On overnight ferry from Oslo to Kiel, Germany. Planned a review paper with colleagues on flying less and well-being.
Obligatory selfie while biking in Paris with Eiffel Tower in the background.
Woman on train station. Photo.
Boarding the Eurostar from London heading back to Lund.

The text was first published in Kim’s newsletter, We Can Fix It, on facing the climate crisis with facts, feelings, and action. See the archives and subscribe.

The mobility to Paris was supported by the French Embassy in Sweden.

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FlyWell

Airport departure sign. Photo.

Written by:
Max Koch, Professor, School of Social Work

I took my last flight from Alicante to Copenhagen in February 2013 to teach on an EU Intensive Programme. I had taken the train to Alicante but felt not to have enough time for the journey back to Lund. Prior to this, and after a longer dialogue with my wife Eileen Laurie, I had added the environmental aspect to my previous research interest in capitalist development and its impact on welfare systems and the social structure. I came to feel that doing research on the environment and the climate emergency in an ethical way meant that I needed to carry out research with an as low ecological footprint as possible.

Just before my last flight I had published a book entitled Capitalism and Climate Change: Theoretical Discussion, Historical Development and Policy Solutions. This book included a short analysis of the academic field of the time. Flying for academic reasons had already then little to do with knowledge diffusion – this could and can be done with the help of communication technology – but, instead, with the accumulation of symbolic academic capital to use the terminology of the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu: the further one could convince his or her employer or funder to travel (usually by plane), the greater the perceived value of that researcher and, hence, the symbolic profit. Conversely, choosing and attending local conferences smacked of the parochial and provincial.

While the existence of this blog suggests that it became more legitimate in the meantime to carry out research without flying, it is also true that there are still many researchers (including sustainability researchers) who would argue that the importance of their research somewhat overcompensates their high-carbon mode of working.

I have not regretted my decision taken ten years ago to stop flying for business and private reasons (except for emergencies, which thankfully have not happened so far). If anything, it has made my life easier: I came to choose projects in Sweden or neighbouring countries that are easily reachable by train, bus or sometimes ferry. However, on occasions I travel further using night-trains – once as far as Lisbon.

But quite often, when I receive requests for talks etc. it has either to be local, online or my answer is “no”. I recognize that saying “no” to things is easier for a senior researcher and that early-career researchers may well not have the freedom to choose. At the same time, I believe that academic careers in the climate emergency should be planned and proceed in different ways than when I began my research career.

For this to happen, it is of course paramount to be in an academic environment that does not promote flying and individual competition with regard to symbolic academic capital, but instead encourages and supports academic productivity that has the lowest environmental cost.

(Sustainability) researchers have a role to play in helping to question and overcoming fossil infrastructures within and beyond the academic field. In a new research project entitled “FlyWell” (Flying less and well-being: Engaging Norwegians in reducing the flight intensity of social practices) PI Mònica Guillén-Royo, her colleagues from CICERO and I are going to meet representatives from public organisations including the Norwegian Football Association, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation as well as from the academic sector to collectively reflect on current fossil and alternative more sustainable communication and mobility patterns. These would need to include a drastic reduction of flying if meeting the Paris Climate targets are supposed to be more than a pipedream. Perhaps such a critical reflection on social practices and the initiation of corresponding change can be of value also for Swedish academia and society!

Project FlyWell: FlyWell: how to reduce air travel and at the same time maintain a high quality of life. — Lunds universitet

Portrait Max Koch. Photo.
Max Koch, Professor, School of Social Work

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Summer School in Wimereux

Group of people on the beach. Photo.

Written by:
Emma Enström, Doctoral student, Centre for Environmental and Climate Science

When my application to a summer school in Blue Carbon was approved in May, I realized that I would be going to France this summer!

My last flight was to Bangkok in 2019, where I did an internship at Sida, working with climate and environment in Asia and the Oceania. The internship left me with so much climate anxiety, I decided to take the train back to Stockholm. Since that month of travelling back to Sweden, less than 24 hours on the train feel like a blast. Since Lund University have been testing a new booking agency for train travel, I felt even more eager to go by train and not have to spend too much of my time as a PhD diving into the train schedule of Europe.

The train journey took less than 22 hours, going from Malmö at 11pm, arriving in Calais 9pm the next day. I had time to see the landscape of Germany and the Cologne Cathedral, have a snack in Brussels, and read the last articles I planned to read before the summer, before arriving in the beautiful town of Wimereux on the Opal Coast. I then had a week of lectures and bonding with PhD:s from all over Europe while taking morning swims, evening walks and wine tasting during school lunch.  

Going back home after two weeks vacation in Paris, Bourgogne and the Alps was not as hyped as the travel down. However, just as simple with only two changes in Karlsruhe and Hamburg. The travel down from Malmö to Hamburg was extremely well planned, going to bed at 11pm in Malmö, and waking up 9am in Hamburg. However, the travel back is mostly planned for the people arriving in Stockholm at 9am. This means that the people of Malmö only get six hours sleep, getting off at 4am at the station. This time, our train was late, with expected arrival changing at least twice. A fatal mistake was then made when our slightly late train stopped at a platform 4.15. The stop, a night with less sleep than usual and the fear of accidentally going to Lund instead of Malmö made me jump off…

At Kastrup. So close.

Luckily the Öresundstrain saved me half an hour later!

Person walking along the coast. Photo.
One of many walks looking at the view.
Small town by the coast. Photo
The windy town Wimereux.

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Reflections from travelling from Malmö to Paris by train

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Written by:
Michelle Ochsner, Doctoral student, Transport and Roads, LTH

As someone whose research is focused on not only railway transportation but the impacts of weather and climate change on rail infrastructure itself, I admit that I have flown an embarrassing number of times over the last few years. My biggest shame is even flying to Dublin to attend the European Climate Change Conference. And even though some joke that by flying I am ensuring my future job security I feel the effects of ‘Flygskam’ or flight shame more and more. Growing up in Canada train travel isn’t really any option or at least no one I know has ever even tried. I spent most summers visiting my grandparents in Switzerland mesmerised by the perfect, punctual, seamless rail network (rest of Europe please take notes). It wasn’t until a colleague asked me why do you always fly to Switzerland from Copenhagen? and catching up with a fellow rail researcher from KTH at the World Congress of Railway Research in Birmingham last June 2022 who took the train from Stockholm to Birmingham that I slowly began to more seriously consider the possibility of taking more long distance train travel in Europe. More and more friends of me have started doing the same as well. Going from Copenhagen to Budapest or Valencia to visit friends or family or doing more summer Interrail trips. So, I thought this really is the time to change my habits.

I always had the rule that I would not fly within Sweden or Denmark but at the beginning of this year I decided that I would not fly expect to Canada; which I am ashamed to say did not work. However, a slightly shifted goal landed me on a rule to not fly to any destination where I could take the train within 1-2 days. An invitation to a workshop at French rail company SNCF on June 29th, 2023, seemed like the perfect opportunity to put this adjusted goal into action. I always enjoyed travelling by train as a kid and I thought to myself I have to work anyways so why not from a train rather than my office and really see my research in action! I was able to book a 4-day Interrail pass which gives so much flexibility for choosing the route that works best for you. In this case it also was almost the same cost as flying. So double win. If you are a pessimist like me this flexibility also means scheduling long change over times between trains. I spend most of my working days in an office with people who research all sorts of reasons for trains being late, from maintenance scheduling to infrastructure failures, to passenger behaviour, and spending a lot of time outside work in my free time listening to people complain about trains being so unreliable, so you can’t blame me.

Computer and coffee
A nice office.

I started my journey on the night train from Malmö to Hamburg, which I must say I was so pleased to see packed with people and fully booked. I hear often how unreliable trains are and how much more expensive they are compared to flying which I admit is often the main reasons for me choosing to fly over the train. Once you are in Hamburg there are so many options to travel around Europe. You can go to Munich and then catch a night train to Rome or Zagreb. Head over towards London or even go directly to Budapest. I can highly recommend using the Deutsche Bahn website for checking connections and possibilities to travel by train around Europe or the Rail Planner app from Interrail. Once I reached Hamburg it was an easy hop over to Cologne, and then a direct Cologne to Paris connection. Or so I thought. The Cologne to Paris connection was cancelled due to an unannounced strike, which actually never even happened. This really stressed me out but luckily due to my Interrail there was flexibility to hop on other trains. One thing to be mindful of is seat reservations, which some routes require you to book, such Eurostar trains and of course the Thayls train between Cologne and Paris. It seemed the rest of the trains to Paris were fully booked for the rest of the day and I was unsure of how to continue. I decided to continue on to Brussels and see what happened from there. The Flixbus was still an option to carry on in the worst case however I just decided to ask the station manager of the next Brussels to Paris train if there really weren’t any seats left. Luckily, he let myself and two other Interrailers on who were in the same position as me. So, hurray, it was off to Paris. On the way home it was a rather smooth journey, starting the day at 7:30 and getting home just after midnight.

I’ll admit it’s not always easy (cue spending an unexpected night in Hamburg on my way back to Malmö from Switzerland last Christmas and this trip’s cancelled journey between Cologne and Paris) but if you stay open minded and go with the flow it’s always an adventure, and hey it is always an interesting conversation starter at your meeting or conference. I plan to continue to choose rail for more future business and personal travel. And hope to work up to my ultimate goal to travel by surface travel back home to Vancouver, Canada from Malmö only via surface modes of transport, and encourage more people to choose trains over planes along the way. Finally, to honour an ongoing rivalry in my division, trains are also always better than busses 😊

Church towers, Kölner Dom.
Some time in Cologne to admire the Kölner Dom.
Train at train station.
Frankfurt train station.

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A year without academic travel

David Larsson Heidenblad in front of a book shelf. Photo: Gisela Lindberg, Lund University
David decided that the academic year 2022-2023 would be a year completely free from work trips and evening events.

Written by:
David Larsson Heidenblad, Associate Professor, Department of History

Last summer, I re-read computer scientist Radhika Nagpal’s classic article “The Awesomest 7-year Postdoc or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure Track Faculty Line” (Scientific American, 2013). It is a personal and inspiring – but above all practical – text on how to concretely combine a demanding family life with an academic career at an elite American university. At the time of writing, Nagpal was working at Harvard and she is now a professor at Princeton. She has neither the same gender nor the same cultural background as most of her colleagues. So what is the secret?

Part of her solution was to set limits on how often she could do certain things. For example, she decided on the maximum number of committees she could sit on in a year, the number of review missions she could do and the number of times she could travel for work. Once she had reached one of her various quotas, she could not take on any more work of that kind, no matter how tempting.

With this system in place, she managed to become extremely restrictive. If you have five professional trips a year, you can’t accept every external invitation that comes your way. Most workshops and conferences are out of bounds. You just have to embrace the ‘joy of missing out’ (JOMO).

For me, the travel quota was an eye-opener. By the time I returned to Nagpal’s text, I had booked five trips in August-September alone. This was the same period as my wife began her final year of training as a judge and our middle child, who has autism and an intellectual disability, would start special school. Two things I knew would put pressure on us as a family. What had I been thinking? My gut feeling was not good. I decided that the academic year 2022-2023 should be a year completely free from work trips and evening events. I started writing emails. Canceling, dropping out, asking if things could be done via Zoom instead.

How did it go?

Once I had made the decision, it seemed natural. There were no negative reactions from colleagues either. Quite the opposite. To be honest, it felt quite liberating.

I can count on one hand the number of exceptions to my self-induced travel policy. It was not always easy to follow the plan. But it always felt right. Because at home I could really feel how much easier life was when good margins were in place. And as the saying goes: “If things don’t work at home, things don´t anywhere else either”.

Has this had a negative impact on my career? Well, it’s hard to say. I think conferences and travel are mainly about building and maintaining relationships. And that can be done in other ways. This year I have been more proactive in meeting people in the Lund-Malmö area. There have been many nice lunches! I’ve also made sure to organize things and invite people I want to meet to come. I also take the opportunity to meet people when they happen to be around.  

Also, Zoom meetings, email exchanges and a blog are pretty good ways to keep social things going. So no, at this stage of my life and career, I wouldn’t say that a year without academic travel has been much of a sacrifice.

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54 hours one way to join a job meeting on Mallorca

A woman with a rucksack in front of a train. Photo.
Emma Kritzberg travelled for five days return to participate at a job meeting on Mallorca. Photo: Johan Persson

Emma Kritzberg, professor at the Department of Biology, took the train to a meeting on Mallorca. A journey that took 54 hours and cost double what it would have to fly a couple of hours to the Mediterranean island. Yet, flying was never an option. She has not flown once for work or privately in the last six years, a conscious decision she took to reduce her carbon footprint.

Interview with Emma and more details about her journey – staff.lu.se

A train station in Paris. Photo.
The most beautiful train station on the journey – Gare de l’Est in Paris. Photo: Emma Kritzberg
The ocean and land in the distance. Photo.
The view from the ferry overlooking Palma de Mallorca. Photo: Emma Kritzberg
A woman eating an ice cream. Photo.
Springtime calls for an ice cream. Photo: Emma Kritzberg

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From Höör to Dublin

Written by:
Lina Herbertsson, Researcher, Biology

With a mobility grant from Formas, I had planned to perform parts of my four-year project at UC Dublin. I have a family and wouldn’t go without them, but luckily Formas mobility grant supports the increased travel and living costs, including school fees, for bringing the family.

The first time we took the train to Dublin was in July 2019 when the project started. By this time, we only had one child. When we returned in October 2021, we had two kids and were in the middle of a pandemic. We wouldn’t let these conditions force us to fly, but crossing Europe by train with a baby and a seven-year-old, during an ongoing pandemic, certainly required some preparations. We carried valid PCR results, a bunch of face masks and Passenger Locator Forms for several countries, and we struggled to stay updated with the covid restrictions of each country.

We had no reason to worry. When we – two days later – arrived in Dublin, we had enjoyed live swing music and dancing in Copenhagen, sushi with good old friends in London, coffees, juices, and cakes at stations along the way, two movie nights on the train, and Frozen II on the ferry between Wales and Ireland. And the only time our oldest child had asked if we weren’t there yet was before we reached Malmö.

How to make travelling with kids fun

When I decided to stop flying, I also decided to make our train journeys a more exciting alternative. We usually try not to hurry, but to have time for an extra ice cream or some fun in the cities along the way. On the train, we draw, read stories, and play games. As the evenings can be challenging when travelling with children, we make each evening a proper movie night, with a good movie and surprise snacks.

The most beautiful way to Dublin

We have taken the train to Dublin twice and we hope to do it soon again. With the new night train to Hamburg, it is possible to leave Skåne in the evening and arrive in London – or Paris, if the schedule allows a little detour – the next evening. The highspeed trains connecting London with the mainland arrive at St Pancras station, an impressive Victorian Gothic building from the 19th century. Within walking distance, you’ll find Camden Town where loads of people enjoy street food and a couple of beers along Regent’s canal. From London the trip continues to Chester and along the Welsh coast with an astonishing view over lush green hills, old castles and the sea. The train takes you all the way to the isle of Anglesey where the entire coastline has been classified Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The train’s end station is Holyhead, from where the ferry takes you the last bit across the Irish sea to Dublin.

Parents and a child at train station in Höör. Photo: Lina Herbertsson.
View over Hamburg train station. Photo.
St Pancras Station, London. Photo: Lina Herbertsson.
Camden, London. Photo: Lina Herbertsson.
Family at a restaurant. Photo: Lina Herbertsson.
River and mountains. Photo: Lina Herbertsson.

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