Published: 15-09-2017 14:18 | Updated: 04-07-2018 14:30

Shervin Shahnavaz travels by train to international conferences

Shervin Shahnavaz. Foto: privat

This September, KI researcher Shervin Shahnavaz will be participating in two scientific conferences in Ljubljana and Vienna. In order to reduce his and KI’s negative environmental impact, he´s taking the train instead of flying for his official business travels, something he consider to be the responsibility of every KI co-worker who has the opportunity to choose.

Anyone who believe in a scientific attitude also has a responsibility to take research findings seriously and use the knowledge that is developed, according to Shervin Shahnavaz, researcher at the Department of Dental Medicine, who chooses to travel climate-smart for both his private and his business travels.
“In the research community we need to practise what we preach and by our actions show that we take results of climate research seriously. If we don’t change our travel habits for the better, we undermine research and its importance in general,” says Shervin Shahnavaz.

The inspiration to travel by train on his upcoming trips came during March for Science last spring, a manifestation to underline the importance of science and research-based knowledge in society with an emphasis on climate research. But he has had an ambition to reduce his climate footprint in both his private and his business travels for a long time.

“I’ve travelled by train to southern Europe with my family on holiday and discovered that it’s both pleasant and doable. At work, thanks to our head’s and the staff’s openness and interest in environmental issues, we have for several years had an ongoing dialogue about environmentally adapted travel, and when the section was to make a study visit to Denmark we chose to travel by train.”

Means of transport is important but also to plan ahead

Shervin Shahnavaz tries to make all his domestic trips by train and as he says himself, hopefully also many trips in Europe. He is however aware that some international trips cannot be made by train and then advocates being restrictive and where possible cut down on unnecessary business travels.
“Online conferences should be much more common than they are today. I also try to combine several activities during the same trip. In addition to attending the two congresses, this time I’ll also be networking, holding a seminar on children’s and young people’s healthcare together with colleagues from a sister section, and making study visits to colleagues.

The trips to Ljubljana and Vienna will take two weeks, of which about two days will be spent travelling.

Wouldn’t it have been more time-efficient to fly?

“That depends on how we define ‘time-efficient’. Of course it would be faster to fly to southern Europe but that does not automatically mean that you get more out of the trip or that you use your working time more effectively. I’ll spend the night on the train and during the day I’ll be writing a scientific article and preparing my presentations. On my way home I’ll have my colleague Jonas Rafi with me and we’ll be able to have thorough discussions about how we can apply what we’ve learned during the congresses. And then of course I’m going to take the opportunity to look out of the window at the parts of Europe I pass through.”

So what about the price? Shervin Shahnavaz says that on these particular trips, to fly is the more expensive choice.

“The price is important but it’s also important to reduce one’s climate impact. KI’s business trips make up the university’s largest climate impact, with long-distance flights accounting for most of it. It´s therefore important that we as employees and our organisation raise awareness and take action on this issue, it affects us all,” says Shervin Shahnavaz.

Environmental issues given greater prominence in KI’s travel guidelines

International journeys by air are a prerequisite for KI’s activities and operations, but with its updated travel rules KI is encouraging employees to use more environment-friendly means of transport for short journeys, and to arrange travel-free meetings.

The university’s action plan for the environment and sustainable development 2016-2018 also defines a goal of reducing the negative climate impact from KI’s business travel by three percent from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2018. It is to be achieved by, among other things, educating employees in digital technology for travel-free meetings, favouring eco-labelled hotels and choosing means of transport with the least possible environmental impact.

“In our new rules and instructions for business travels, that came into effect in May, we have taken a holistic approach to our travelling that includes all means of transport. Wherever possible KI’s negative environmental impact is to be reduced, for example by travelling by public transport instead of by taxi or taking the train instead of flying,” says KI’s Travel Manager Kjell-Ove Lindgren.

He also says that we should always ask ourselves what the outcome of a meeting will be if we use modern technology such as video conferencing or webinars instead of travelling.

“If the outcome is the same, choose a travel-free meeting. There are extremely good technical solutions today for holding meetings at a distance so some business trips are totally unnecessary.”

KI´s needs are still the deciding factor

It should however be made clear that KI will not introduce measures that are not appropriate for its operations and activities, Kjell-Ove Lindgren emphasises.

“It is not a question of avoiding all travelling. Physical meetings are needed and cannot always be replaced. The focus is first and foremost on trips that are made across half the country for shorter meetings, and where a video conference might be a better alternative.”

“Not needing to travel also makes our day easier; we don’t need to book transport, check with the family, stay at a hotel and so on. We can work efficiently, leave work on time and have our free time be just that,” Kjell-Ove Lindgren goes on.

To learn from each other, universities in Sweden have started a network group consisting of the Royal Institute of Technology, Umeå University, Lund University, Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Stockholm University and Linköping University.

“We meet twice a year and exchange experience and discuss how we together can develop the best solutions for our colleagues regarding traveling and environmental impact,” says Kjell-Ove Lindgren.

KI’s policy on business travel and the environment/sustainability

KI’s travel rules state that university employees are to:
• Always consider ways to hold a travel-free meeting
• Take the train instead of flying to Gothenburg and for other short domestic trips
• Choose eco-taxi
• Rent an eco-car
• Use the KI bus to travel between KI campuses
• Use public transport
• Choose hotels that are eco-labelled, eco-certified or that can in some other way prove that they work actively with environmental issues

1 flight = 74,000 travels by train

A person who flies between Stockholm and Gothenburg contribute to the emission of as much carbon dioxide as 74,000 travels by train for the same route would result in.
Source: SJ

Text: Selma Wolofsky