“We took part to get more information and ideas about what else we could do.”

The Sandell family

Who: retired healthcare lecturer Kirsti, occupational healthcare physician Jussi, and their two dogs
Where: Kimpinen, about 1 km from the centre of Lappeenranta
Home: A detached house built in the sixties, district heating
The Sandell family

Deeper thought and increased motivation

The candle outside the doorway brings some light to the dim morning. The door is opened by Kirsti, and her husband Jussi also comes into the hallway to greet me. Two Lagottos, Sofi and Efi, soon scurry around the corner to say hi as well. We sit down around the kitchen table to chat about the couple’s experiences during the pilot.

“We’ve always been interested in ecological thinking, and we took part to get more information and ideas about what else we could do,” says Kirsti.

“All the things we tried slotted neatly into our daily lives and are here to stay,” says Jussi.

Aiming to reduce their carbon footprint by a fifth

Before the pilot, the family’s carbon footprint was 6.6 tons of CO2 per person per year. This figure fell by 14 per cent during the pilot. By 2030, the family aims to reduce their carbon footprint by 20 per cent.

According to the initial calculation, the family’s largest sources of emissions were housing (2.8 tons), food (1.9 tons), leisure-time and holidays (1.0 tons) and daily transport (0.7 tons). Over the longer term, Jussi would like to change their housing emissions in particular.

“Heating is a big energy leech. We need to get some kind of hybrid system and improve the energy efficiency of the house. Those are already bigger and more difficult changes. The house was renovated in 2000, and the ventilation was also renewed then. The efficiency of the old recovery unit was in the range of about 60 per cent, while the current unit is much more efficient.

We used to have oil heating, which we later changed to district heating. If you want to add solar panels to a house that uses district heating, you first need to get a hot-water tank. And that would be a big investment,” says Jussi.

Changes that slot easily into daily life

The Sandell family’s daily life became more sustainable by making small changes – mainly the kind of thing that doesn’t require the injection of extra cash.

“I took a cooking course organised by the Martha Organisation, and they introduced us to some vegetarian recipes. At the same time, I exchanged ideas with other families that took part in the pilot. Nowadays, we try to have vegetarian days on a regular basis.

I still do gig work and am now taking the bus to work. I used to drive. We also tried out an electric car. We borrowed it from Autotalo Ripatti for a day, and I used it to visit a colleague in Imatra.

We lowered the temperature in the house by a few degrees, and paid more attention to our water consumption. We purposefully spend a little less time in the shower.

We’ve always looked for the best deal for our electricity, but this time we paid attention to how the electricity was produced. Thanks to the pilot, we partially switched to wind energy.

At the moment, we’re also renovating an outbuilding at our summer cottage: we’re making everything ready for solar panels and an electric charging station for the car. Our summer cottage is currently heated by electric heaters that are powered by an air-source heat pump,” says Kirsti, showing us a list of all the things that the couple have tried and their impact on their carbon footprint.

The things that had the most impact on emissions were using public transport, switching to wind energy, and buying secondhand goods. According to the calculation made by the experts at D-mat Oy, these changes reduced the couple’s emissions by 0.5–1.5 tons of CO2e per person per year.

The Sandells’ list also includes many everyday choices that will reduce their carbon footprint yet haven’t been taken into account in the calculation.

“There were a lot of things such as only running the washing machine with a full load. When shopping, we buy products that are nearing their use-by dates, and also damaged fruit and vegetables if they’re available. I usually have reusable bags with when I go shopping, including a net bag for fruit,” says Kirsti.

The couple didn’t feel that they needed some of the services offered by the companies participating in the project, such as a multi-compartment waste bin, even though they’re avid recyclers.

“We’ve already been composting household waste for almost thirty years, and have been recycling other types of waste for a long time as well. We started recycling plastic the moment it was possible,” says Jussi.

“We currently recycle metal, plastic, glass, paper and cardboard, and take them with us when we go shopping. The recycling point is so close that we don’t need the multi-compartment waste bin. It would be a different story if we lived further out of town,” says Kirsti.

Good tools for your own sustainable daily life toolkit

According to the Sandells, the table that they had to fill out for the initial calculation was challenging. However, with hindsight, it did increase their awareness and reveal things that have remained part of their sustainable daily life toolkit. Kirsti says that’s exactly what they wanted from the pilot.

“During the pilot, we considered things more deeply and started to think more about the consequences of our own actions. Our motivation also increased. We gained small insights, for example, that the more people use the bus, the smaller your own carbon footprint will be – that if more people use a particular service, the smaller each person’s carbon footprint will be.”