Sustainable Research and Business Travel

Travelling outside St Andrews

Net Zero by 2035, an environmental strategy launched in 2021 by the University, aims to deliver on our commitment to reduce the University’s environmental impact.

We recognise that some travel is necessary to carry out research and our wider institutional work. In line with the vision of our environmental strategy and requirements of research funders, we want people to look for every opportunity to do things differently, so that travel only happens when it’s essential and it has the lowest carbon impact.

Support for taking a sustainable decision

Travel is responsible for about 10% of the University’s carbon footprint and to reach net zero by 2035 we need to reduce our footprint from travel by at least a third. We will still travel – but we will travel less, make more use of digital technologies to connect, and factor sustainability into the mode of travel we select.

Evidence suggests that up to a distance of around 500 miles, rail travel compares very favourably in terms of travel time with travelling by plane and has a considerably lower carbon footprint.  We therefore encourage staff to make use of rail for travel in the UK.

The University will pay for first class rail tickets or sleeper train journeys. Especially if you are travelling for research purposes, you may want to check that your choice complies with the conditions of any external funding.

International Conference Travel

Air travel is responsible for around 2.4% of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use, helping propel global warming.

It can be challenging for research or professional staff to balance international network building opportunities with the requirement for air travel. The university sector is testing a decision-making tool kit purposed to help people reflect on their decision to fly to a conference. The kit also offers advice on alternatives.

Download the EAUC Air Travel Justification Tool Kit (PDF)

You can find out more about sustainable travel and about reducing your emissions from commuting as well on the University Sustainability webpages.

Calculating the carbon footprint of your travel

Several research funders now ask that you calculate the carbon footprint of travel activities in funding applications.

Carbon Footprint is a free and reliable travel carbon footprint calculator which we recommend.

Tools such as Routerank can help you evaluate different travel options regarding time, price and sustainability, and we encourage you to give it a try.

Off-setting the carbon from your travel

Hard-to-decarbonise emissions can be compensated for, ‘offset’, by using greenhouse gas removal schemes, such as those that manage woodland or develop technologies to absorb carbon dioxide. Some research funders including Wellcome and the RSE, require that costs for offsetting are factored into funding applications.

External organisations provide offset funds, though due diligence on their credibility is required. The fund run by Climate Care is well recognised in the sector, and their website helps you both calculate the carbon from your journey and purchase an offset.