Low carbon travel: all universities in action?
In this blog series, we explored how Dutch Universities approach low-carbon travel. In this final instalment, we focus on the remaining six universities: the University of Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Groningen University, Leiden University, Erasmus University and Neyenrode University.
University of Amsterdam
Like many universities, the University of Amsterdam aims to lower its yearly CO2 emissions. UvA calculated its current CO2 emissions and its sources and found that nearly 6 percent of its CO2 emissions (almost 4,000 tonnes) result from official travel abroad. For 2026, their aim is to ” have reduced the CO2 emissions caused by official travel by 25% compared to 2019 levels”
UvA has adopted a time-based approach. Staff can no longer fly to destinations which can be reached by train within six hours; for locations between six and eight hours, the train is the preferred mode of travel. To support their employees in this decision-making process, they created a train travel map.
If flying is the only option for travel, the UvA advises its employees to reconsider travelling, travel per direct flights (without layovers), or consider the bus or carpooling with colleagues.
Train travel map of the UvA
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Similar to the UvA, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam asks its employees to consider whether travelling is necessary. The university, for example, suggests holding meetings online instead. The Interactive decision tree helps employees in deciding whether travel is necessary. The university generally uses the following rules of thumb: (1) no travelling to meetings of less than three hours and (2) no employee is allowed to make more than one intercontinental flight every two years.
Apart from this, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has time-based public transport travel advice. This means that a journey should be made by public transport if the journey time is within eight (or six, depending on the intranet website you visit) hours of travel or at most two hours longer than by plane. Supervisors have room to differ from these measures, although a comply-or-explain strategy is followed.
Groningen University uses both a Decision tree and a Travel map to support its employees in travelling sustainably. This travel map and connected travel advice are based on both time and distance: destinations within 800 km and/or 9 hours of train travel should be reached by train. This is a large improvement: in earlier policies, train travel was advised for destinations within 500 km and/or 6 hours of travel. In general, however, Groningen University encourages its employees to reconsider travelling: is it necessary, or would a (video) call suffice?
Decision Tree of the Groningen University
Leiden has opted for a similar travel policy as Groningen University. Any international business trip within 500 km or a travelling time of 6 hours or less should be taken by train. In 2020, the University decided to compensate for the CO2 emissions by air from 2018 to 2020 with green certificates. It is unclear whether the trips in 2021 and 2022 were also compensated.
On its website, Erasmus University states that mobility accounts for more than 80 per cent of the University’s CO2 emissions. This encompasses both commuting and business travel by. As of 1 January 2022, the Executive Board of Erasmus University adopted a new travel policy. In this, the standard mode of travel is based on time and distance.
The train is the standard mode of business travel for destinations closer than 700 km and 8 hours from Rotterdam Central station. Beyond this, train is preferred but not mandatory. If the trip is made by plane, the University advises to opt for direct flights, unless the ticket price is 1.5 times the ticket price of non-direct flights. Compensation of CO2 emissions should always be chosen.
Unfortunately, Neyenrode University has no information available regarding sustainable travel for its employees. This is quite unique: only the TU/e also has no published advice for its staff regarding sustainable travel.