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Digging Deeper – Ellie’s story

By Ellie Hayter

I always believe we should strive to make the best decision where possible. After studying sustainability for three years at Warwick University, I have realised the need to make more sustainable decisions in other parts of life. I always thought sustainability decisions were clear cut – when taking it at face value, one thing always appears more sustainable than the other.  

When reflecting on the choices I make on a daily basis, one action I take to be more environmentally friendly is to use the train. I believed it was a more climate-friendly mode of getting around – public transport uses 100g less CO2 per km than taking a car. On a more personal level, it was also a more convenient way to see my friends and travel the country during COVID as I don’t have access to a car (luckily, I live right by a station).  

However, during my time working with Contented, we have dived deep into the rail supply chain and it has made me realise how many components go into making trains run: from clearing lands to building track to installing ticketing and WIFI systems. Many of these are also done using non-renewable resources and unsustainable practices. 

It has been eye-opening to see the industry as a whole system rather than just the sum of it’s parts. I had never even considered how the installation of the speaker systems and the toilets may affect the planet. This makes my decision-making process even harder!  

A transportation method I once thought was good for the planet now appears to be a combination of unsustainable suppliers that all contribute to the planet detrimentally in their own way. Instead of being an easy clear cut option, the complex, unsustainable supply chains makes it an infinitely harder decision to weigh up when choosing an environmentally-friendly mode of transport (it must be noted that the same complex supply chains apply to all modes of transport, not just trains). 

It made me think about all the decisions I make and whether we truly know what we are choosing. There are so many moving parts in every industry, product and service, it can be hard to know which is the best option. If every supply chain remains as complex then we as consumers will never have time and resources to make the best decision for the eco-system. 

Going into the future, I am going to start thinking of the things I buy, the services I use and the activities I do as a system of components rather than taking them at face value. I will not necessarily stop using trains – they still emit less carbon and can be a really convenient travel option, but now when I travel I will go into it with more awareness.  

I am excited to see the future of rail and how the industry lower carbon emissions in their supply chain. Will hydrogen and electric rail prevail? How will sustainable materials come into play? After working at Contented I will definitely be following these developments and see how it changes my experience as a passenger. 

Until then, to make a difference we all need to start learning more about the world around us and the true impact of the decisions we make.  No one decision will ever be the most sustainable, we just have to focus on the small steps. This goes for both people and businesses: we all have to work together to help build a better future.  



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