The One Tonne Life project has ended and the content on this web page is static and is not updated any more. The project was unique and pioneering, making the conclusions and all information connected to the project just as interesting and up-to-date today as when it was run. Read more about the project and get inspired! (March 2017)

One Tonne Life

Tag: Climate

Christina Karlsson gives the family dietary advice

Christina Karlsson is one of the experts helping the Lindell family to eat right. She is a dietician and health expert at supermarket chain ICA, working together with chef Leif Grönlund to produce climate-smart yet healthy recipes. We had the chance of a chat just before she departed for Mora to distribute nuts and dried fruit to the exhausted cross-country Vasalopp skiers.

When the Lindell family were selected for One Tonne Life, you reviewed their diet so that the Chalmers University of Technology could calculate a base value for their food-related carbon emissions. How did you do that?
“I spent three days watching what the family ate, two weekdays and one Saturday. The data I acquired formed the baseline for the family’s carbon emissions. It turned out that they eat quite well, they do not need to make any major changes from the health viewpoint, although from the viewpoint of climate we’ll be teaching them a few things on the way. It’s all about small changes that are climate-smart but that also benefit them, for instance eating less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fat. I noticed, for instance, that they always eat cheese in their sandwiches. If they replace cheese with mackerel they’ll be eating both more healthily and more climate-smart.”

How healthily does the average Swede eat?
“The average Swede eats far too much meat, far too few vegetables, and far too little Swedish produce. Both as regards climate and health. Swedes eat a lot of meat, more than 80 kg per person and year. Fish consumption is much lower.”

You recently wrote about meat in one entry on One Tonne Life. How problematic is meat really, from the climate perspective?
“It is largely about shifting from high meat consumption to a more moderate level, at the same time as we increase the proportion of pulses and vegetables we eat, preferably seasonal. We do not advise people to stop eating meat, but rather to think about what meat they are choosing. Meat from animals that chew the cud is at the very top of the climate-impact index. If we choose meat from these animals, we should consider buying meat from animals that fulfil multiple roles, for instance Swedish cows that are also milk producers.”

How about free-range meat?
“With free-range meat we are talking primarily about open fields and biodiversity. If we want to preserve our open landscape then this is the meat we should buy.”

Is it climate-smart to eat sweets?
“Sugar-beet cultivation is not actually such a bad thing, so long as it takes place in Sweden. Having said that, we’re not really built for shovelling the large quantities of sugar into our bodies that we are in the habit of doing. We simply don’t need their fast energy, which speeds us up and perhaps causes us to make poor decisions. I have a feeling that in the long run, what isn’t good for our bodies also isn’t climate-smart.”

Do you have any special tips you’d like to share?
“Buy frozen vegetables in the winter! We’re used to being able to buy fresh vegetables all the year round. That’s not particularly good for the climate. A lot is thrown away because we don’t cook it in time, and a red or green pepper that has been transported from overseas will have lost some of its nutritional value. Frozen vegetables are more nutritional and they are frozen while they are at their very best.”

Webisode #4 “The Food”

Skiing holidays and the climate

Skiing is fun. Great fun. Here in Göteborg and elsewhere in Sweden, schoolchildren are enjoying the annual week’s break when they get the chance to go on skiing holidays with their parents.

How does their trip to the ski resorts impact the climate? Put simply, a short trip is better than a long one, and travelling by train is better than going by car, which in turn is better than flying. I’ve made my calculations using a few different examples, including a trip to the Alps (in this case Verbier) and two ski resorts in Sweden – Åre and Sälen.

The basic data for the project states that an aircraft emits 245 g of CO2/person km, a bus produces 40 g of CO2/person km, a Volvo V70 DRIVe 34.5 g of CO2/person km and a train in Sweden emits 1.5 g of CO2/person km. For the V70 we have assumed 4 people are in the car, and 500 g of CO2/l diesel during manufacture. The V70 DRIVe consumes 4.5 l/100 km and emits 119 g of CO2/km in mixed driving. The C30 Electric is not a viable alternative at present since the battery pack’s operating range is too much of a limitation. On the other hand, the V60 plug-in hybrid will handle a long trip perfectly.

We can begin with the Alps and their marvellous ski slopes. From Stockholm the distance is about 1800 km as the crow flies and 1900 km by road. It is possible to fly to the Alps, supplementing the last stretch with a transfer service, and it is also possible to get there by bus or in your own car. I have discounted the train as an alternative quite simply because it is far too complicated owing to the many changes necessary. By air, total CO2 emissions including transfer will be about 900 kg of CO2 per person for the return trip. By bus the figure is 155 kg of CO2 and by car it is 174 kg of CO2 there and back. The car and bus are thus quite close to each other in terms of CO2 emissions. For the car I have based my calculations on 30% higher fuel consumption since the car will be heavily loaded and speed will be relatively high through Germany. If instead the car and its occupants take the overnight ferry from Göteborg to Kiel in order to cut down on driving, CO2 emissions actually go up by 43 kg to 217 kg of CO2/person.

The distance to the Swedish ski slopes is shorter. Stockholm to Åre is about 660 kilometres. With an overnight train from Stockholm, total CO2 emissions for the trip are about 2 kg and by car the figure is 46 kg of CO2. Travelling to Sälen by railway means changing trains several times just as in the case of the Alps, making the train an impractical alternative. On the other hand, there are several direct bus services from Stockholm. Sälen is just over 400 km from Stockholm. The bus ride from Stockholm to Sälen results in 34 kg of CO2 per person. For the same trip in a V70 DRIVe emissions of CO2 will total 28 kg. So the result is somewhat lower emissions of CO2 for a family travelling by car to the Swedish ski slopes compared to taking the bus.

That was a whole lot of statistics, so here is a simplified table showing the results.

To the Alps kg of CO2 return trip per person
Air 893
Bus 155
Car 174
Car + ferry 217

To the Swedish slopes

Åre by car 46
Åre by train 2
Sälen by bus 34
Sälen by car 28

As I said initially, it can be clearly seen that shorter trips are better than longer ones, and the train is better than the car, which in turn is better than flying. However, it is not always that the bus is a better choice than the car. These two transport modes are roughly equal if there are four occupants in the car.

Have a really great time on the slopes! If you are in Sälen, take the opportunity to try out Volvo’s skid-pan with a bit of that really exciting “Ice Racing” feel. It’s both fun and educational.

You can find out more about Volvo’s various offers in Sälen at

David Weiner, Volvo

Climate targets and 1 tonne

One might well ask how the One Tonne Life project came to the conclusion that it is OK to release one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents per person and year. After all, the project could have picked a different figure. The answer lies in the fact that there are three main considerations determining the extent of emissions we could have here in Sweden without “destroying” the climate.

The first consideration is just what extent of climate change we feel is acceptable. Many of the world’s nations have backed the 2-degree target, that is to say that the global average temperature may not increase by more than 2 degrees over pre-industrial levels. This means the time before mankind started burning fossil fuels, around 1750. To date the global average temperature has already increased by about 0.7 degrees from that base-line. However, the 2-degree target is not a scientific limit, it is actually a political decision. There are experts who suggest we should impose a 1.5-degree limit instead, and others who say that a higher temperature increase would not cause major problems.

The second consideration is how the climate will respond to a higher concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This is a scientific issue, but science does not yet have a clear answer. The climate system is highly complex and it has been a couple of million years since the last time Earth experienced the high levels of greenhouse gases we are seeing today. For this reason we do not really know what is likely to happen. Climate sensitivity is a measure we use to estimate how responsive the planet’s climate is to certain factors. It is expressed as the temperature increase that we will have in the long term if the carbon dioxide concentration of Earth’s atmosphere is doubled over pre-industrial levels. Scientific literature indicates that climate sensitivity is probably between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees.

The third consideration is how many people will be living on Earth and how our emissions are distributed. We believe that the planet’s population will stabilise at about 10 billion around the year 2050, but will everyone be producing the same amount of emissions? At present, the average American produces about 20 times the emissions of the average Indian. Does this mean that the American will be allowed to emit more than the Indian in 2050 too, or that by then it will be India’s time to release more per head of population than the USA? Once again a question that science cannot answer but that is instead a political issue.

Using the Chalmers Climate Calculator (CCC) it is possible to see what emission reductions are going to be needed in order to meet various climate targets. Go to CCC and under Emission Scenario enter the year 2010. After that, at Rate of Reduction write 2. Now press the Generate Scenario button. The graph on the left will show that emissions towards the end of the century will be about 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, so if we have a world population of 10 billion people that means emissions of roughly 1 tonne of carbon dioxide per person and year. The graphic on the far left shows that the global average temperature will have increased by less than 2 degrees. This is a rough explanation of how the target figure in One Tonne Life was decided.

However, if you now key in that Climate Sensitivity is instead 4.5 degrees, and press the Generate Scenario button once more, you will see that the temperature will rise by more than 2 degrees. Use this tool to test by how much emissions will now have to be reduced to meet the 2-degree target.

Fredrik Hedenus, Chalmers University of Technology

Hi there, Alicja Lindell!

Alicja Lindell, 51 years old, is the mother in the Lindell family and she is positive about the future. She feels that with more knowledge, we will all be able to contribute to a solution of the climate issue. And if that contribution is packaged attractively in the form of a well-designed, eco-smart house, Alicja is even happier.

Why did you apply for One Tonne Life?
“It was Hannah who found the advert in the local paper. We thought it sounded exciting, the family decided almost immediately and we felt it could be a fun task for us to tackle together. We like challenges and adventures.”

What are your expectations?
“I think it’s going to be fairly tough because it’s a gigantic challenge for the family – and for me because I’m neither capable nor interested when it comes to technical matters. I mentally switch off when the conversation turns to technical matters. I’ve decided that since we’re taking on this lifestyle I’m going to set myself a target and learn more. This is something we’ll only ever get to experience once together as a family. It’s important for our children, they’ll get to learn so much that they can take forward with them in their lives. I’m also a bit nervous, of course. But truth to tell, it feels like we’ve won the top prize in the lottery because we have the privilege of learning so much while also receiving such a lot of support along the way.”

Your ‘old’ house is very well-planned and well-designed. What does good housing mean for you?
“Good housing is functional. The best result is when design and function work together. Smart design and good support in the form of technology and useful functions in the house – that’s when I’m really satisfied. I like design and I read a lot of interior decoration magazines. It’s not that I’m hysterical about interior design, but it is important to me.”

Do you think you’ll be happy in the new house?
“I’m sure I will. The plans for the house were drawn by a renowned Swedish architect. Its design is very attractive. It’s similar in some respects to the house we live in today, we like its style. And the technology integrated within its walls is a fantastic support for green living.”

Do you live a climate-smart lifestyle today?
“I think more than I act. There’s a gap between thinking and acting. If I were to place our family on a scale from one to ten, we’d probably score about eight for eco-impact … we make a few efforts but do far too little.”

The human being has been shown to have a well-documented gap between action and attitude. What is the reason for this discrepancy?
“I believe it is largely about knowledge. If you know about how things tie in together, you find it easier to make informed choices. In the home, for instance, the choice of washing machine or refrigerator is really all about knowledge, it’s about knowing why you should buy certain items rather than others. I’m convinced that if people gain knowledge, they will behave entirely differently.”

What role can One Tonne Life play in society?
“I feel it’s immensely important, it could set a new trend. This may turn out to be the norm in the coming years, the new standard for everyday living.”

Who do you think will keep a watchful eye on the project?
“I hope it will be followed by as many people as possible, every single Smith or Jones – hopefully everyone will see and be influenced.”

How do you feel about all that has been written about the climate problem?
“I’ve been influenced but I’ve pushed it out of sight. I guess I thought ‘this won’t happen to me, it’s other people who are affected’. I’m pretty sure that’s a common defence mechanism among many people, we tend not to make the connection. But it feels now as though more and more people are getting involved in the climate issue, we’re well on the way towards change. I’d like to contribute to the solution, in whatever little way I can. I feel that if every single individual did his or her little bit, we’ll move in the right direction.”

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