“I wanted to find out whether living alone in a detached house would be a complete eco-catastrophe.”

The Kuittinen family

Who: financial management professional Liina and her two cats
Where: Tirilä, about 3 km from the centre of Lappeenranta
Home: A small detached house first registered in 1932, wood/electric heating
The Kuittinen Family

The most important thing is to try – it doesn’t matter if you fail sometimes

A small detached house is definitely in tune with the zeitgeist. Small homes are growing in popularity. Liina has been living in her approximately 50-square-metre house near Kisapuisto for just over a year. Before moving into her detached home, she’d lived in both an apartment and a terraced house. Above all, she was hoping that the pilot would help her put a concrete figure on her carbon footprint.

“I wanted to find out whether living alone in a detached house would be a complete eco-catastrophe.”

Not, at least, according to the calculations.

“Before the pilot, my carbon footprint was about 6 tons of CO2 per year. It fell by about 50 per cent during the pilot. One important factor was that I decided to try a vegetarian diet. Whether living alone in a detached house is an eco-catastrophe or not really depends on your consumption habits.”

A wood-burning stove – the heart of the home

According to the initial calculation, Liina’s largest source of emissions was indeed her type of housing. Liina relies on electricity for her basic heating, and uses the wood-burning stove and fireplace as necessary to raise the temperature to about 20 degrees. She usually prepares her meals for the day at the same time.

“Having the radiators turned down low is a functional solution. When you heat up the stove, it should definitely be used: a variety of casseroles, stews and porridges are easy to prepare. The stove is quite an energy saver.”

Liina’s car was another large source of emissions, even though she doesn’t use it every day.

“I use the car about once a week to fetch large items from the store. However, it still shows up as a significant factor in the calculation, as the car’s manufacture has also generated waste and emissions. On the other hand, the same calculation shows the purchase of a new home appliance as lowering my carbon footprint, as it decreases energy consumption. But nowhere is the waste produced in the appliance’s manufacture taken into account,” says Liina.

The same goes for cycling: she cycles about four kilometres to work all year round, and cycling is also one of her hobbies. But in light of the calculations, cycling didn’t seem to be the most ecological option after all.

“You need a piece of equipment to cycle – the bike – and you ride it alone. I don’t know whether the use I make of my bike was calculated in proportion to the length of the journey.”

Walking to the shops via the recycling point

During the pilot, Liina took part in a cooking course organised by the Martha Organisation, and examined her everyday routines through a new lens. She also found out what getting solar panels would involve.

“Elektroway came over and gave me a free consultation. They analysed my current situation and found two things that I would have to take care of before I could order panels: the roof would need repainting and I would have to replace the distribution board. They gave me a cost estimate for the panels and I now know what it would take to have them installed. Once that’s done, it will have a major impact on my carbon footprint. At the same time, I could also do some rewiring and put lights in the woodshed in the garden.

On the Martha Organisation’s cooking course, I learnt about vegetarian food and I’ve mainly stayed vegetarian. I very rarely cook meat. One reason is that meat is packaged in portions that are too large for one person. It usually means that you’ll get several days food from one pack, and the rest of the meat can be given to the cats.

I walk to the shops with a backpack, taking the recycling with me on the way out – there’s a good sorting station nearby – and then filling the backpack with food for the return trip.

I also take reusable fruit-and-vegetable bags with me to the shops. Reusable bags have helped me reduce the number of small plastic bags that I use. There isn’t really that much waste left after you’ve sorted everything for recycling. Sometimes I have to buy a plastic bag for my rubbish, just so I can throw it away. Now that sure is the pinnacle of stupidity.”

Liina found the pilot to be a good experience, but she regretted missing out on one thing.

“I didn’t have time to get involved in Intersport’s e-bike trial, and that still bothers me. The trial was targeted at families taking part in the pilot,” she says.

“Bearing that in mind, the pilot could have lasted for two months instead. It would have given service providers the chance to get more people to try out their services, and it would have given the pilot families a chance to extend some of their experiments, such as trying out a vegetarian diet. Two months could also work without an interim check. A post-pilot follow-up would also be good: it would show whether any of the changes have become permanent habits.”

Aiming for zero waste – at least, during the pilot

During the pilot, every household drew up their own roadmap for achieving a target of 2.5 tons of CO2 per person per year by 2030. Although Liina was able to halve her carbon footprint, she will still have to keep chipping away at it over the course of the coming decade. It will be more challenging to find ways of making further reductions in the future.

“For example, I was already sorting all of my waste, so I wasn’t able to change that. I was offered a multi-compartment waste bin during the pilot, but I would have had to find someone to share it with, as the maximum interval for waste collection is eight weeks.

The alternatives that I could try have ended up being quite limited. However, I still have that target of 2.5 tons.

I dream that one day I could still try to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle – even for just two weeks. It would require some planning, and would be quite an extreme change. However, I wouldn’t need to succeed right away – trying is what’s important. I would therefore encourage everyone to try something related to the circular economy, such as buying something secondhand, sorting waste, or reusing the waste generated in your own home.”