Many consumers in Sweden want to make climate-smart choices but say that they lack the knowledge and support to do so. The Climate Right project in Uppsala, Sweden, set out to change that, by making it possible for people to measure and reduce their climate impact.
Using a free app developed for the project, participants were able to track their climate impact through their choice of food, mode of transport and way of living, encouraging them to live in a climate friendly way. The app collects a user’s consumption data, estimates their climate footprint in all consumption areas, and presents the information on the user’s screen. The Climate Right project was launched in 2015 by Sweden’s largest grocery retailer, ICA, and one of the largest housing companies, Uppsalahem.
The project proves that increased awareness about day-to-day choices has a significant effect on individual carbon footprints and can inspire people to live more sustainably.
- Participants cut their home, food, and transportation emissions by 31%, on average.
- Each participant in the Climate Right project reduced their CO2 emissions by 1.6 tonnes. If all Swedes were to do the same, it would equal approximately 16 million tonnes of CO2 –which is more than half of the half of the 30 million tonnes of emission reductions Sweden is targeting for 2020.
- Transportation was where participants were able to make the biggest impact – decreasing their collective emissions 58%.
- 53% of the participants report that they have made changes to reduce their climate footprints that have led to cost savings.
Breaking old habits and changing ingrained behavior is difficult. In order to lessen our impact on the environment and address climate change, we all need to change how we produce and consume products and services. Many Swedes say they want to learn more about what they can do to help stop climate change but they don’t know where to begin. Many people don’t know how to cut their emissions since they don’t know how high they are or what causes them.
In March 2015, the residents of one of Uppsalahem’s apartment buildings were invited to test the Climate Right app for six months, receive a variety of climate-friendly services and offers, and learn how to limit their climate impact.
The free app enabled them to track their climate footprint on a daily or weekly basis and get recommendations on how to further reduce their impact. ICA offers inspiration for climate-friendly food and cooking. Uppsalahem offers the Nordic-Ecolabel-certified energy-efficient building where the participants live. The IT-company Energimolnet collects information about the participants’ power usage and built the Climate Right app. Uppsala Länstrafik, Uppsala County public transit, encourages the participants to use public transit, and Sunfleet car-share service has a hybrid electric car in their pool of vehicles in the Frodeparken garage available for rent by the participants.
Participants who have their own cars can subscribe to Automile to keep track of miles driven, gas mileage, and carbon dioxide emissions.
When participants use their ICA credit cards, ICA Banken provides climate footprint estimates for purchases, no matter where, or for what, the cards are used. For instance, if a cardholder uses the credit card to pay for air travel, the plane ticket is converted to carbon emissions and shows up in the transportation category in the Climate Right app. This means that the climate footprint of a service or product is included even if purchased from a vendor who is not part of the project.
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg monitor the validity of the calculations and are also in charge of project assessment. WWF provides information, mainly in the food category, and the city of Uppsala provides the project’s city-related components.
Each commercial partner has developed climate footprint data for its products and services. These data are used to automatically compute the climate footprint of each purchase and of on-going expenses like rent and power bills. For the home, the calculation is based on the size of the residence and from data that the participating businesses already have.
The calculations are collected in a database linked to the app. Participants sign up for accounts and approve the use of the information that uses the receipts for their purchases and other payments (already available), download and install the app, and link the businesses from which they want climate data. The more companies they include, the more complete the estimate of their climate footprints. In order to get feedback on their climate footprints, they have to use the products and services provided by the businesses they link to via the app.
Helping the planet
If all Swedes would make the same decrease in CO2 emissions as the Climate Right participants did during the six-month project period, it would equal half of the emission reductions Sweden is targeting for 2020.
The participants in the Climate Right project are a group of Uppsala residents who all live in the same apartment building, Frodeparken, right next to the city’s transit center, a hub for regional and local train and bus lines.
All of the 70 households in the building were invited to join the project, and 32 people signed up, about 25% of the residents. An initial survey asked participants about their consumption habits. Based on their responses, Chalmers Technical University estimated their baseline climate footprint, prior to the start of the project. The average was 7.9 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person per year, which is roughly the same as the Swedish average of 7.3 tonnes per person per year.
Among the 32 who signed up, about 20 ended up being active participants. Most of these reported being fairly or very interested in the environment, and for many of them, this engagement grew over the course of the project.
As a result of the project, participants cut their home emissions by 32%, food emissions by 10% and transport emissions by 58%. Some of the ways they were able to make these reductions include: turning off lights when not in use; using public transit and a car-sharing service; choosing vegetarian food more often; and throwing away less food.
Many of the participants reported that their new habits have had positive impacts on their health. Several report that they feel better because of the switch to more vegetarian food and cutting back on red meat. One person also said it was easier not to gain weight. Increased travel by bike has also provided participants with more exercise on a daily basis.
Because the participants have learned more about how various choices and decisions affect the climate, they sometimes have a bad conscience, or a good conscience depending on what choices they have made. That is, they have developed a climate conscience. This climate conscience has become a strong driver for more climate friendly living.
The project team is moving ahead to determine whether Climate Right can be scaled up further. It is exploring the possibility of including addition categories and stakeholders. And it is looking at whether the project can be implemented in a city district or an entire city. The project is run on commercial grounds; this means that services/efforts/activities are to be developed from a commercial and scale-up perspective.
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