Sustainable UCL


Low Carbon Travel

When travel is unavoidable, you can still plan it in a way to minimise the climate impacts.

Minimising the number of trips

When travel is necessary, it may still be possible to reduce emissions by cutting the total number of journeys taken. For example you may be able to:

  • Bundle up meetings – try to schedule multiple meetings into one journey to maximise your trip. Consider staying overnight if all meetings cannot happen on the same day.

  • Check if any colleagues are attending events in the same country and could represent your interests.

A conventional visit from an academic entails a single talk. A smaller number of speakers could be paid more and asked to do more while they are at UCL. For example they could convene workshops for students, meet with classes or read book or grant proposals.

Choosing the lowest carbon form of travel

It is UCL’s Travel Expenses Policy to “select the most carbon-efficient way of reaching your destination, even if this may not necessarily be the cheapest”.

Selecting sustainable travel options does not necessarily have to involve more time, hassle or money. The Travel Hierarchy gives an overview of the carbon efficiency of different modes of transport, and can be applied to your choice making:

  • If the meeting is local; walk or cycle. You can claim expenses for journeys made by bike through UCL iExpenses Claims.

  • If walking or cycling is not feasible, consider public transport.

  • For longer journeys take the train, see resources here. 

  • When driving is the only practical option, consider car sharing.   Note colleagues postcodes and travel times, and quickly plot on Google My Maps to identify where sharing may be possible.

  • Flying is the least preferred option. If there is no other way of making your journey, try to fly direct or minimise connections, and choose economy class over business class. UCL Travel Policy states:

    • Flights of five hours or less - staff should book economy.

    • Flights lasting five hours or longer - staff may travel premium economy.

    • International flights immediately followed by a presentation/meeting - staff may travel by business class. (This must be pre-approved by the Dean / PS Director, Faculty Manager or School/PS Finance Director).

It is important to consider your needs and the choice of travel and class. As the graph below shows, choices can have significant carbon implications:

Carbon intensity of travel graph

Source: Shrink That FootPrint

Comparing Carbon on the Key Travel booking portal

The Key Travel portal allows bookers to see the carbon footprint of any flight and Eurostar train journey:

  • Search results can be sorted to show the lowest carbon option first, by selecting “sort by greenest option”.

  • You can view the carbon footprint of any journey, by clicking on the “details” button.

  • The basket can be used to compare different routes side by side , including carbon footprints


Switching up the way you commute, to active or public transport, can significantly reduce carbon emissions. It may even be cheaper, quicker and better for you. Visit our Wild Bloomsbury Page for resources on how to commute sustainably.