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1.5-degree lifestyle case study: an animal-loving couple from Lahti

– We both love to travel and have travelled a lot. We know that air travel is bad for the environment. That is why we have wanted to do something good for the local communities in the places where we have stayed even if it does not affect emissions directly, says Niina Olenius. Niina and Harri Olenius would like to give up their second car and can see themselves moving to a smaller house than the one in which they now live in the future.
Niina Olenius

Baseline in 2021

The Olenius family consists of 42-year-old Niina, her husband Harri and a dog. Niina is a midwife and nurse by profession, and Harri works in the tourism industry. They live in the Laune neighbourhood of Lahti, in an electrically heated detached house. The couple’s carbon footprint is 7.2 tonnes per person in 2021. Their biggest source of emissions is car use, which causes approximately 40 percent of their carbon footprint.

I have been vegan for around seven years. My interest in a vegan diet started with animal rights. I read a lot of articles and textbooks about the ethical and ecological issues associated with animal production back then. The exploitation of animals in industrial livestock production is against my values, and I wanted to make a difference by my choices. I have recently started to pay particular attention to the environmental impact of food and also other aspects of lifestyle.

I am careful not to waste food. I buy reduced items and always smell and taste food before throwing anything away even if the food is past its best-before date. Our dog, Hertta, is also happy to eat leftovers. She especially likes buns, doughnuts and other sweets.

Harri and I have been living in our current home for 16 years. It is easy to have a dog here, as I can just let her out into the garden in the mornings. I can see us downsizing in the future, but we are not quite ready yet to let go of the memories that we have made here. Maybe by 2030 we will be prepared to have less space, as long as we still have a garden where we can grow fruit and berries.

Although Harri likes his engines and motorbikes, we have chosen bicycles for our everyday needs. I myself often cycle to work and we spend our free time walking our dog. I got studded tyres for my bike last winter and continued to cycle to work on some winter days as well. We have two cars because we sometimes both need to drive at the same time. We also need a car to visit our second home. We do not drive enough to warrant having a second car just sitting there, however.

Giving up our second car would be easier if car sharing, for example, was more common around where we live. I could then borrow a car when I need one. I think we could also replace our remaining car by a rechargeable hybrid. We would just need to install a charging point outside the house.

We both love to travel and have travelled a lot. I know that air travel is bad for the environment. That is why I have wanted to do something good for the local communities in the places where we have stayed even if it does not affect emissions directly. We have, for example, cleaned beaches and helped local animal welfare organisations on our holidays. Those are feel-good activities for me. Helping others always leaves me feeling happier within myself, too.

In the future, I want to take fewer long-haul holidays and spend a longer time in each destination. We bought a second home by a beautiful, pristine lake in Kuhmoinen a few years ago, and we now no longer need to leave Finland as often. Being by the lake and seeing the changes in the surrounding nature also deepens my relationship with nature and my respect for the environment. I would nevertheless love to take a longer volunteer holiday somewhere, travelling by land. My hope is that more rail links will be built and train tickets become cheaper in Europe and further afield.

Emission cuts from 2021 to 2030

These are the most effective ways for Niina to reduce her carbon footprint:

  • Travelling less often and spending more time in each destination -2,800 kg
  • Giving up the family’s second car -470 kg
  • Moving to a smaller house -400 kg

Niina and Harri can reduce their carbon footprint by 4.1 tonnes per person by making changes to their lifestyle. This would make their carbon footprint 3.1 tonnes, which would be a lot closer to the level required to hit the 1.5-degree climate target.