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There are times when travel is necessary for staff and students to perform activities related to their research, professional and educational goals. Necessary travel is travel which demonstrably and significantly enhances research, teaching, learning or engagement.  

Necessary activities support the mission of the University, and in kind, are supported by University policies, facilities, services and finance, where appropriate. This includes travel for research, conferences, fieldwork, meetings, recruitment, philanthropy, events and specified educational activities. It comprises all travel arrangements including transportation and accommodation. 

There are four key considerations when performing your university-related travel: 

  1. Choose to travel less by reducing your need to travel.

  2. Choose low carbon travel options by travelling without flying or flying when no alternative is available, and choose low emission itineraries.

  3. Choose accommodation wisely.

  4. Support travel sustainability efforts.

Choose to Travel Less

  • Avoid travel by considering whether you genuinely need to travel. Identify opportunities afforded by using online resources for the same activity.
  • Use digital technologies and online communication tools like Zoom or Zoom Events. Find out if you can join a meeting or event using digital platforms.
  • Combine multiple activities into one itinerary. Is there a city or region that you visit regularly? Schedule multiple activities or stops within one itinerary to make the most of that trip, reducing your trips per year.
  • Consider the number of people needed to travel. Reducing the number of people travelling to the same meeting or event will reduce emissions. Create opportunities for you or colleagues to knowledge share the event or meeting outcomes.
  • Collaborate with your local networks. Consider travelling shorter distances to collaborate with regional partners. Establish a regional hub or node for a larger national or international conference, where you can network with nearby colleagues on common interests and activities.

Choose low carbon travel options

  • Low carbon travel options can include rail or coach services, and single or multi-person vehicles. Take it a step further and use hybrid or electric transport.
  • When travelling in a group, choose car travel over air travel.
  • When flying is the only viable option, choose lower emissions itineraries. Select the most direct route and fly economy. You can also choose a provider and route that uses aircraft with more efficient fuel consumption.
  • Use public transportation when at your destination.
  • Account the emissions from your trip. Calculate your emissions associated with your trip through our footprint calculator pilot program.
  • Use low carbon travel at your destination:
    • Whenever possible, choose active travel.
    • When you cannot use active travel, choose public transportation over a private vehicle.
    • If you require a private vehicle, consider carpooling.
    • If you are renting a private vehicle, choose a low emissions vehicle.
    • Help facilitate active and public travel options.

Choose Accommodation Wisely

Accommodation has many direct and indirect impacts on the local environment, society and economy that need consideration when we are choosing a place to stay. Providing clean, safe and comfortable lodgings requires energy, clean water, food and other services that support local employment but can have negative impacts on the safety and health of that community and the local resources.

  • Research sustainable lodging options in the area. Some hotels and lodgings have certifications for sustainability or positive climate-related actions.
  • Enquire about sustainability commitments, strategies or policies.
  • Choose accommodation that reduces the need for travel.
  • Be a conscientious visitor. Turn off lights and air conditioning or heating in your room when you leave, consider taking your own toiletries, opting out of daily replacement of towels and sheets and unplug unused appliances. Be mindful of the culture and heritage of the place you are visiting and take time to learn about the local history and culture. Purchase local goods and services, and buy local produce.

Support Travel Sustainability Efforts

Be a leader in your area and spread the word on sustainable travel to help your colleagues and peers to make considerate choices. Lead by example when making your own itinerary.

Plan sustainable events that factor in travel considerations. Use our guide on hosting low carbon events at ANU [link] and consider the travel needs of those attending.

Resources and further readings

A special thanks to our colleagues at the Sustainability Office at the McGill University. Their Sustainable Travel and Mobility Guide was the inspiration for this guide. With their permission and enthusiasm for sharing sustainability action worldwide, much of the practical advice and actions contained within their guide has been shared here.