Published 2018-06-26

This post is also available in Swedish

New web tool for climate-savvy holiday travels

If two people fly from Stockholm to Berlin and spend seven nights in a hotel, three square metres of Arctic ice melt away. Users of the new Swedish digital tool are given this unpalatable information. The tool is being launched as a way to make us reconsider our holiday choices.

‘You need an assortment of policy instruments that can change our behaviour in the long run. With the climate calculator, we also offer alternative, climate-smarter holidays,’ says Fredrik Warberg, project manager of the Klimatsmarta semestrar (‘Climate-smart Holidays’) network.

Holiday flights make a heavy contribution to emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Swedes are among the worst offenders, flying seven times as much as the average world citizen. Since 2010, Swedes’ private air travel has grown steadily by 4 per cent a year.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law are seeking to make us more aware of this situation, and preferably change it. At the end of May, the digital platform was launched, for the Swedish-speaking public but also the tourism industry. The tool is intended as an alarm clock and a source of inspiration, as well as for use by tourist companies and hotels to calculate the climate cost of their customers and guests.

‘It’s possible to calculate a hotel’s climate cost per guest night. They get a template for how to calculate it; then we give our approval and they can embed the calculator on their website,’ Warberg says.

Individuals entering can easily calculate what, for example, a week in Berlin for two people costs in terms of, first, GHG emissions from the transport itself and, second, the climate costs of different accommodation categories. There, too, the holiday can be compared with how other activities in life, such as one year’s food consumption, affect the climate.

‘We don’t include holiday shopping and eating habits in the calculator. But we tend to live more hedonistically and less climate-smartly on holiday,’ Warberg says.

The ‘Climate-smart Holidays’ network, which invented the holiday calculator, consists of a motley collection of public stakeholders. These include academies, public-sector organisations and trade associations of the tourism industry in West Sweden. Two Mistra programmes were actively involved in working on the calculator: Mistra Urban Futures, which has its hub in Gothenburg, and the newly launched Mistra Sustainable Consumption. One of the latter’s goals is to find more sustainable holiday options for us. The researchers in Mistra Sustainable Consumption provided support for the methodological work behind the tool.

Jörgen Larsson, Assistant Professor and researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, is responsible for underlying calculations.

‘Those who want to travel in environmentally sounder ways should stay on the ground. Nordic train holidays are, broadly, always a good tip and the same usually applies to European rail travel. Buses are another good option, as is motoring if you fill the car with passengers, and especially if it doesn’t run on fossil fuel. However, ferries cause high emissions — high-speed ones have the highest emissions and can actually cause more emissions than aircraft.’

The researchers behind now want to press ahead with the project and have applied for funding to make a corresponding calculator for business travel. The launch is scheduled for next spring.