Monday 11 April 2011

a green travel fling: part one

Tonight I find myself typing about my latest green fling from an unlikely place - the overnight train from Sydney to Byron Bay (well, technically to somewhere called Casino, the Beef Capital of NSW, where we'll change to a coach for a two hour ride to Byron).
My hubby chilling in our spacious cabin

I LOVE to travel - next to fashion and my husband it's my longest love affair.  Sometimes it seems all the hubby and I do is hop from travel adventure to travel adventure, always in planning mode for the next big adventure.  But Mother Earth doesn't love my travel as much as I do. And as yet another aspect of my lifestyle comes under investigation by environmentalism, I'm forced to ask myself:
What is my travel costing the earth?
According to The Green Travel Guide transport accounts for about a fifth of global energy consumption and a quarter of key pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, and holiday travel accounts for around fifty per cent of those pollutants.  So, as my feet started itching a couple months ago, not long after returning from three weeks in Hawaii, I thought, 'Let's have a green holiday and take the train!'  After all, train travel emits only a quarter to a third the amount of carbon as flying.  Of course I could just offset my flights, but there is debate amongst some environmentalists over the efficacy of offsetting, and at any rate, I think it's really important for me to reconsider how I travel if I want to keep trotting around the globe at my current rate.

In Australia, as America, train travel isn't exactly embraced, and my conversations with people around my train getaway have all followed the same general trajectory:
Me: We're headed to Byron for a long weekend!
Them: Oooh, I'm jealous, I love Byron!
Me: I know, I'm excited to check it out.  We're taking the train up Friday night.
Quizzical expression on face . . . 
Them: The train?  How long will that take?!
Me: 13 hours - I think it will be a fun adventure!  Plus, my hubby works for RailCorp so we get free train travel.
Them: Oh, that makes sense.  I guess it's about the same amount of time as driving, isn't it?
It's just when I mention the travel is free that people accept we're training up to Byron - why else would you take the train for 13 hours when you can fly up in an hour for roughly the same amount of money? (Which really frustrates this greenie - it should be cheaper to train than fly!)

So, here we are. It's been about two hours, and the scenery has been really lovely heading north out of Sydney, crossing the Hawkesbury and other inlets and bays.  At one stage the train was hugging an inlet filled with oyster farms and small rowboats and sailboats, and I felt so privileged, you would never be able to see this corner of the world from a car.

It's 6.30pm and since daylight savings recently ended it's pretty dark outside - not sure how long I'll be able to stay awake!  The gentle vibrating hum of the train is very relaxing, and I'm very cozy in our little loveshack of a sleeper cabin, especially now that I'm sipping on the organic wine I smuggled on the train.  An early bedtime wouldn't be a bad idea, actually, since we'll be woken up around 3am to have breakfast (our choice of coffee, tea or hot chocolate with toast and cereal) - an early start, but what's travel without a little inconvenience?

Service has been phenomenal, actually.  Upon arrival we were guided to our room, stocked with fresh towels and an overnight kit (in case you wanted to brave the train shower - I think I'll give it a miss this time around), as well as a pack of snacks including veggie crisps, grissini sticks and dips, and some sweet biscuits - the snacks barely lasted the first hour!  Our car hostess showed us how to convert the couch into our bunks, and was really funny and lovely and made us feel right at home.  Forget flying! This is so much better!

The contents of my first-class overnight kit.  I put everything back in the bag and returned it, as far as I'm concerned the last thing I need is travel-sized anything, such a waste of plastic and other materials!  Though, if you had forgotten your toothbrush, it's nice to know they've got you covered.

I have to admit, since we're in a 'fancy cabin' my footprint isn't quite as low as if we were in the seats, but I imagine still smaller than flying and I'm thoroughly enjoying stage one of my green travel fling. Here's hoping the journey home next week during daylight hours is as smooth sailing as this evening has been - I'll keep you posted!
Our breakfast box complete with environmental message - a bit ironic when it's filled with mini plastic food containers, but I appreciate the sentiment.

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