Rolls on Rails: Lowering our Footprint from Freight

a beautiful image of a railway track in green countryside

At Naked Sprout we like to say that sustainability drives everything we do. 

But what actually drives everything we do? How do our raw materials get from one place to another? Well it’s our logistics network, the boats, trucks, and courier vans that bring our raw materials to our factory, and bring our rolls to your home. 

In the race between planes, trains, and automobiles (or lorries) trains are the most energy-efficient, and from March 2024 they’re a key part of our network. 

So in this post we’re getting into some light train-spotting. What’s so good about railway transport, and why is it a great choice for sustainable freight? 

All aboard!

A black and white historical photograph of a steam engine

The Evolution of the Railway

The railway has played an integral role in the development of modern industry. The advent of steam-powered locomotives in the early 19th century revolutionised transportation, connecting distant towns, cities, and countries, and facilitating the movement of goods on an unprecedented scale. 

But this game-changing technology came at a huge cost to the environment. Steam trains were powered by coal, and the growth of the British railway network through the 1800s led to a huge rise in demand for this fossil fuel. To get a sense of the scale of Victorian appetite for coal; in 1700 the UK mined just 2.5 million tonnes of coal, by 1900, the figure had grown nearly to 224 million tonnes. The burning of coal to power the Victorian railway network and the industry the network supported had a terrible impact on air quality, leading to the thick smogs and respiratory diseases that plagued many cities during that era. 

Fortunately, trains have evolved since those early years, transitioning from steam to diesel, and now to electric power. As a result they have become faster, safer, and far cleaner. In fact, shipping goods by electric rail today is now one of the most environmentally-friendly options around, second only to shipping by sea! 

So what makes modern trains so sustainable? 

An image of a modern train moving quickly through a station

A few different factors combine to make modern railway networks one of the most sustainable methods for moving goods long distances. 

Rail Resistance: Once you have a railway network set up, the energy that it takes to move a train along a track is much lower than the energy to move vehicles on a road. Steel wheels running on steel tracks encounter less friction than rubber tyres on tarmac roads, so the same amount of energy will carry you further by rail.

Electrified Rails: Trains are converting from fossil fuels to electrical energy much faster than their counterparts on the road. Modern railway tracks are electrified, so train carriages and containers are moved along the track by the energy in the rails themselves, and don't have to be pulled from the front by a diesel engine. This is how our rolls will be travelling at Naked Sprout! 

Less Congestion: Using trains to transport freight helps to alleviate congestion by taking goods off motorways and onto rail lines. This not only reduces traffic but also lowers the wear and tear on road infrastructure, leading to fewer maintenance requirements and costs. Network Rail estimates that every freight train takes up to 76 heavy goods vehicles off the roads, greatly reducing congestion and air pollution. 

One of the containers that transports Naked Sprout by rail

Naked Sprout on Rails

There’s some great reasons to switch to trains for freight wherever possible, and we are incredibly proud to be able to bring them into our logistics network. 

Naked Sprout tissue products are made in a B Corp tissue factory, in Northern Spain, coming from there to our warehouse in the UK for delivery by courier. Starting from 2024 the European leg of the journey, all the way from Northern Spain to Northern France, will be made by electrified rail. 

As a team, we’re thrilled. We love a long train journey almost as much as we love finding new processes that will bring down our climate footprint.

And there’s something in the story of trains that really appeals to us. The journey they’ve taken, from belching soot across the countryside to becoming one of the most sustainable ways to transport goods, is testament to how things can change. With technological advancement and the will to improve we can refine processes that once seemed set in stone and do better for our environment. 

The tissue mill that makes Naked Sprout


The railway has been part of the story of modern manufacturing for two hundred years, and improvements to fuel sources and efficiency make trains a fantastic choice for sustainable freight today. 

We hope this whistle-stop tour of one aspect of our logistics makes you look again at the products you purchase every day and how they reach you. A company that trades on its green credentials should be able to tell you the details of their transport, and the reasoning behind the logistics network they have in place. 

We couldn’t be happier that our unbleached tissue products will be rolling on rails to you. For now, that’s the end of the history lesson! All change please, all change! 

Want to meet our tissue products at the end of their journey? 

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