A travel journal with a difference

As academic reports go, "what I did on my summer holiday" is a rather unexpected title. But for UEA scientist Keith Tovey, the work to find innovative ways to tackle climate change never stops - not even when on a recent romantic cruise to celebrate 40 years of marriage.

As academic reports go, “what I did on my summer holiday” is a rather unexpected title.

But for UEA scientist Keith Tovey, the work to find innovative ways to tackle climate change never stops - not even when on a recent romantic cruise to celebrate 40 years of marriage.

While fellow passengers flew to meet the ship in the vibrant city of Basle in north-west Switzerland, Dr Tovey and his wife Judy decided on a greener route and travelled by train from Norwich.

And while there Dr Tovey kept a travel journal with a difference - noting everything they did from the route the tour bus took on excursions, the odd meal off ship and even the ice-cream he had in Norwich's twin city of Koblenz - so he could calculate the holiday's carbon footprint.

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What he found was, not only did he cut emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide when compared to his fellow Britsih holiday-makers, but he also saved time and money - proving that being greener does not necessarily mean radical life-

style changes or taking a hit in the budget.

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“It was a fully inclusive cruise and like a floating three or four star hotel,” said Dr Tovey, HSBC director of low carbon innovation and the CRed carbon reduction campaign's energy science director.

“We travelled by Loreley and saw the guest house where we stayed on our honeymoon.”

The seven-day Rhine cruise from Basle to Amsterdam began on August 19 with a train ride from Norwich to London, followed by Eurostar to Brussels and then another train.

Although part of the train journey was organised by the travel company Mr Tovey thinks he could have saved even more time, money and carbon if he sorted the route himself.

“I found the train quite relaxing because I saw more of the countryside and it was also a good opportunity to read a book,” he said.

“Another of the plus points was that at Heathrow we would have had to check in two hours before whereas with Eurostar it is just 30 minutes. Also, when they got to the other side those flying from Britain had to wait at the airport for other flights with passengers on to arrive whereas we, the only people to take the train option, were whisked straight to the ship.”

Once onboard, Dr Tovey took into account things such as the five-course meals, heating and hot water.

“The total consumption of fuel was very close to 10,000litres of diesel for both propulsion and energy use. The cruise was downstream and the current was strong so we were only using 10pc power for steering,” he said.

Emissions for things such as tours of the wine route in Alsace and a canal trip in Strasbourg together with chilled drinks in Speyer

and a speciality brandy coffee

in Rudesheim were calculated separately.

On-hand to help compute the figures was 17-year-old Clare Lawry, one of a group of high flying students awarded a Nuffield Scholarship this year, which gives them an early opportunity to take part in scientific research.

Clare, a Langley School pupil, said: “I am something of a carbon sinner as I live in the Middle East but come backwards and forwards every six weeks or so for school.

“This project has really made me think about things and while I originally wanted to go into geology, I am now thinking of a more environmental route.”

When all the numbers were crunched, they discovered the whole trip caused 281kg of carbon emissions, including 219.7kg which came from the cruise and 43kg on getting to and from the ship.

However, they found using the train meant a cut of 165kg of carbon - a 79pc saving compared to other passengers from Britain who flew - or the equivalent of 16,500 party sized balloons.

“218kg would equate to 28,100

party size balloons. If I had gone

the way the other three British couples had done then the emission would have been 447 kg,” said Dr Tovey.

“Another way to look at it is that a return flight from Norwich to Sydney would cause emissions of 3,770 kg per person or 13.5 times my whole actual holiday for everything.”

And if you wonder what Dr Tovey's wife, a professional pianist, thinks of him taking his work on the cruise, he says she is used to it.

“I have a computer set up in the airing cupboard to monitor our solar panel. But Judy is very good, she won't use the tumble dryer unless absolutely necessary and never leaves things on standby,” he said.

Clare will do a presentation on the carbon emissions from Dr Tovey's holiday today at UEA to bring an end to the four week scholarship.

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