As controversy continues over the UK’s ambitious plans to reduce carbon emissions, could one Swedish family’s experience lead the way in showing individuals how to tackle climate change?
Stockholm, Sweden; Monday, 13th June 2011: A groundbreaking project led by a group of businesses in Sweden has demonstrated that, with a combination of technology and human behaviour, it may be possible to reach these reduction targets.
In January 2011, one Swedish family undertook to take part in a six month groundbreaking project to find out if they could reduce their carbon emissions from the national average of 7.3 tonnes per person, per year, to just one tonne. Six months later the Lindell family have proven that, through their own actions and the latest technological advances, it has been possible to reduce their carbon emissions to 1.5 tonnes per person, per year. This represents a reduction level of 80% – the same as set out by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne as a target for the UK by 2050.
The family – father Nils, mother Alicia and children Hannah and Jonathan – undertook an inspiring journey which involved moving to a new, climate smart house, driving an electric car and examining each of their everyday habits to find out where they could save or, indeed, eliminate their carbon emissions.
On Monday, 13th June, Sweden’s Environmental Affairs Minister Andreas Carlgren will officially announce the family’s results. The Swedish Government has a target emission reduction rate of 40% by 2020 and the Government has been watching this project with interest.
The journey to 1.5 tonnes has not necessarily been an easy one. The family report that, with their energy smart house, appliances, energy meter and electric vehicle, reducing their emissions to 2.5 tonnes did not require any major compromise in their everyday lifestyles. After that, however, things got tougher and living at the 1.5 tonne level was a tough compromise.
The family made most progress in transport and electricity consumption. Emissions from transport dropped by more than 90%, mainly due to the family’s Volvo C30 Electric being recharged with electricity from hydro-power. The family’s house, built by A-hus, produces its own electricity and, with supplementary renewable electricity from hydro-power, carbon dioxide emissions from purchased electricity reduced to almost zero. All told, carbon dioxide emissions from the family’s home were more than halved.
The family also made immense progress through their eating habits. By not throwing away food and by choosing wisely, varying the choice of meat and eating more vegetables, anyone can reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Towards the end of the trial period, the Lindells ate only vegetarian dishes, and dairy produce was replaced with soya and oat-based alternatives.
In order to reduce their emissions still further, in the final 1.5-tonne week the family reduced the size of their home by closing off one room. They went without TV, shopping and eating out. However, their “rucksack” of 900 kilograms stopped them from reaching the one tonne target. This “rucksack” consists of the CO² emissions that take place when various products are manufactured, such as the house, solar panels, car, furniture and clothes. However, they demonstrated that, with the right know-how and motivation, it’s possible to get very close to one tonne.
Key features of the One Tonne house
The wooden “One Tonne Life” house has triple-layer walls with exceptional insulation, minimal air leakage and low-energy windows and doors. Through its solar photovoltaic system the house is a net producer of energy. All electricity not consumed by the family was fed into the national grid or used to recharge the electric car. The family’s Volvo C30 Electric emits no carbon dioxide at all when recharged with renewable electricity.
Household appliances account for up to half of a normal household’s total energy consumption, the house is equipped with the latest energy saving appliances from Siemens. To help track progress the Family had an ‘Energy Watch’ system that registers the power usage and compiles data for analysis. This allows consumption to be followed in real time or over a selected time period and learn how their personal habits influence electricity consumption.
(1) Department of Energy and Climate Change ‘UK Proposes Fourth Carbon Budget’ http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn11_41/pn11_41.aspx
(2) Telegraph Online, ‘The Inconvenient Truth Is That They’re Wrong’ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/8517479/The-inconvenient-truth-is-that-theyre-wrong.html