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Transport emissions drop over 90% from One Tonne Life project

The Volvo C30 electric car used in the One Tonne Life project

‘One Tonne Life’, a collaboration project between A-hus, Vattenfall, Volvo Cars and other partners, has shown that households could reduce their carbon output from 7.3 tonnes to a stable 2.5 tonnes per person.

With more extensive changes it’s possible to get this figure down to just 1.5 tonnes per person, a level that could help us become carbon neutral and avoid serious climate change according to ‘A One Tonne Future’.

In January 2011, Swedish family, the Lindells, embarked on this six month groundbreaking project to find out if they could reduce their carbon emissions to hit this important target. They were helped in a variety of ways, not least with a climate-smart house featuring solar cells on the roof that were used to recharge the electric car parked in the driveway.

The family – father Nils, mother Alicia and children Hannah and Jonathan – undertook this inspiring journey which involved moving to a new, climate smart house and examining each of their everyday habits to find out where they could reduce or, indeed, eliminate their carbon emissions.

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 harder 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. In total, carbon dioxide emissions from the family’s home were more than halved compared to their emissions level in their previous home.

The family also made immense progress through their eating habits. By meal planning and being more informed about the food we eat, varying the choice of meat and eating more vegetables, it is possible for people to 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 it is possible to get very close to one tonne, but it does involve a change in lifestyle and the information to make the right choices.

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, so 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.

Experts from the Chalmers University of Technology followed the family in order to ensure a reliable calculation of the family’s carbon dioxide emissions.