“This approach brings all kinds of benefits, and everyone can find their own.”

The Korhonen family

Who: Pentecostal pastor Helena and pensioner Mauri
Where: Pontus, about 8.5 km from the centre of Lappeenranta
Home: A detached house built in the eighties, wood/electric heating
The Korhonen family

Changes that fit naturally into daily life

The Korhonen family consists of Helena and Mauri, an active couple who enjoy outdoor pursuits and have lived in Lappeenranta for eight years. They’re so familiar with the hiking trails and lean-tos of South Karelia that they’ve even acted as guides and taken locals on excursions. Their respect for nature is also evident in their daily lives: the wood for heating their home is a byproduct of forest management and comes from friends’ forests; their composter runs all year round in the backyard; and they meticulously recycle all of their other waste.

Before the pilot, the couple’s carbon footprint was about 7 tons of CO2 per person per year. This figure fell by about two per cent during the pilot. At the start, more than half of their carbon footprint was generated by travel, holidays and leisure-time activities.

“Long journeys increased our carbon footprint by an unfortunate amount. We visit our children’s families in the capital city region, and our summer home is in a place that can’t be sensibly reached by public transport. But our daily life is quite low-emission,” says Helena.

Mauri says the pilot also helped him to see the impact of transport more clearly.

“Transport turned out to be surprisingly expensive in the calculation. It also highlighted that maintaining our household involves far fewer overheads than maintaining our car. Our current car costs us a total of about EUR 5,000 per year. We sold our other car about a year ago. Cars consume a great deal of energy.”

Small yet significant changes

During the sustainable daily life pilot, they tried to make changes that fitted naturally into their daily lives.

“We ordered a multi-compartment waste bin from South Karelia’s waste management service to make sure that we recycle properly. It’s been really good. And we also have the composter. Although, as there’s only two of us, we sometimes find that we don’t produce enough waste to compost.

We’ve also woken up to textile recycling. The clothing chain H&M, for example, recycles old clothes. We now use more natural detergents for cleaning and laundry. For example, baking soda is great for many large cleaning jobs and vinegar is excellent for laundry. We’ve also reduced the amount of detergent we use – about half of the recommended dose is usually enough.

And we’ve significantly increased our number of vegetarian days. My diet has always been more plant-based, but it was a bigger change for Mauri. We currently have 3–4 vegetarian days per week. That knocked a lot off our carbon footprint in terms of food.

And we’ve also learned to live with only having one car. During the pilot, we tried taking the bus together, and I took the bus to work a few times. My working hours are quite varied, and my work also involves making a lot of home visits to families. The bus from here goes once an hour, and if the timetables don’t match up, I have to walk to another stop. My commute takes 12 minutes by car and 45 minutes by bus. So using public transport is a bit challenging,” says Helena.

Minimising energy consumption

During the pilot, the Korhonens invested in an air-source heat pump. Mauri has also made clear plans for further reducing their energy consumption.

“We’d been planning to buy an air-source heat pump for a long time, but have only just managed to get it ordered. After placing the order, we decided to upgrade to a slightly larger one, which held up the delivery somewhat – and it still hasn’t been installed yet. The pump is more efficient when it isn’t running at full speed all the time.

We’ll also be upgrading our home’s ventilation system by installing a heat recovery machine. We’ve had good experiences with heat recovery in our previous home. Thanks to heat recovery, we turned the central heating on about one to one-and-a-half months later than we used to. We managed to buy all of the components and pipes during the pilot, and now it only needs installing.

I’ve read that about 40 per cent of a detached house’s heat escapes through the ventilation system. Wasted energy is expensive.

I also intend to buy solar panels for the walls. We already have quite a large hot water tank that can be heated with solar power instead of electricity during the summer.”

“Even before the pilot, we used to keep our home quite cool when we were away on a trip. We set the temperature to be about 15 degrees when we get back home. The temperature balances out very quickly when you heat up the oven and warm the sauna,” says Helena.

Focus on the positives

The couple found the pilot to be a good all-round experience, although its concrete results will only be seen over the longer term.

“This pilot was definitely jam packed. During that month, we managed to make plenty of decisions for the future, but their impact isn’t really visible yet. I’m waiting for the heat pump to be installed, to see what effect that has,” says Mauri.

“Information about sustainable lifestyles is usually too holistic – it needs to be more naturally linked to everyday life. Such exaggerated talk might scare people off, so that many people won’t even dare to give it a go. You need to focus on the positives. It’s not about sacrifice – it brings all kinds of benefits, and everyone can find their own.”