10:10 inspires and supports people and organisations to cut their carbon emissions by 10% in a year.

Any individual, family, business or organisation can make the cuts - and by working together we can make a real difference.

posted by

British
Council opt for trains not planes

 Through a combination of video-conferencing and incentivized train travel, the British Council in Switzerland, have managed to slash their travel emissions by over 20% at no extra cost, and enjoy those unavoidable journeys in style and comfort.

  “It’s important to get things in perspective and know what the big ticket activities are”, explains Simon Brimblecombe, the British Council's Deputy Director in Switzerland, “Otherwise you end up wasting time concentrating on cuts which only scratch the surface.  There’s a lot of talk about unplugging your mobile phones, for example, but leaving your phone charger plugged in for a whole year uses energy equivalent to just one hot bath!”

For the Swiss office - the first in a flurry of British Councils to sign up to 10:10 - it was obvious from the start that their biggest carbon culprit was air travel, accounting for around 60% of their total carbon footprint. The solution was simple:

“When people come to visit, for a meeting or a presentation, we encourage them to do a least one leg of the journey by train instead of plane, by only offering to reimburse travel if at least one journey is taken by train.” explains Simon.  “That applies to any journey under 2000km in Europe, for our own staff too.  On the surface it might look like the cost is greater for long distances, but because you can sleep and shower in comfort on the train, and so save on hotel costs, we’ve found in practice that overground travel works out around the same price.  I travelled by train to Berlin for a meeting recently, leaving Basel around 10pm and getting in at 8am.  I was able to get a good night's sleep en route and work much more effectively.”

Cabins come with their own shower and toilet, plenty of leg room and plug points for laptops.  And the perks to train travel don’t stop there:  “Train travel has the added bonus of being very civilised: a guy meets and greets you on the platform and brings you a nice breakfast.  It’s all very romantic and film-like.  And there are usually some mysterious fellow-travellers that you can imagine to be a) spies or b) eloping couples.  Though they’re probably sales people.”

Simon’s office, which runs projects aimed at raising climate change awareness and building cultural relations, also has a policy of prioritizing local speakers, or using video-link ups wherever possible.   “For us it’s a no brainer.  Instead of people travelling for an entire day in order to do a 2 hour presentation, we just use Skype.  So far it’s worked fine.” 

Other carbon-conscious measures introduced in response to the 10:10 agenda include purchasing electricity from a renewable supplier, buying locally sourced produce for office events, and, where possible, paying for staff to stay in climate neutral hotels such as Sunstar. Their next big challenge is ensuring that British Council staff in other countries come to visit by train.  And there’s space for improvement with their video conferencing and events’ emissions.

Simon, whose profession makes him familiar with long term risk issues related to climate change and natural resource shortages, says he’s found the 10:10 campaign a useful engagement tool:  “It’s important to try and keep finding different angles to engage people, and to provoke companies and big organizations to get on board.  The point is that we have to change – both as a response to climate change and the end of cheap energy -  and doing 10:10 is a positive way to manage that change.”

Like many other organizations, the British Council heard about 10:10 through the Age of Stupid. Simon organized a public screening in Geneva at the World Meteorological Organization in February, which Lizzie addressed via a live video link-up.   "The 10:10 campaign was a concrete and dynamic response to the question “What can I do?” which the film prompted in all of our minds,” Simon concludes, “And it feels really empowering to be part of.”