In Finland, rewards for eco-citizens

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In order to encourage the reduction of carbon emissions, the city of Lahti, in Finland, offers its inhabitants transport tickets and foodstuffs as rewards, under the title of “eco-citizens”.

Called “CitiCap”, the initiative, funded by the European Union, offers residents the opportunity to track their carbon emissions while traveling, thanks to an application that detects whether they are traveling by car, public transport, on foot or by bike.

Each week, volunteer citizens are credited with a “carbon quota” which, if not exhausted at the end of the day, turns into “virtual euros”, redeemable for pool tickets, bus tickets. or, for the greediest, a piece of cake in a city establishment.

“Lahti is still a very car-dependent city, our goal is that by 2030, more than 50% of all trips will be made via sustainable modes of transport,” explains project manager Anna Huttunen.

Currently, 44% of trips in the city are considered “sustainable”.

The long-term objective of the project is to develop a new method to encourage greener behavior, in particular by using a system of “personal carbon emission rights” that other cities can reproduce, explain its founders. .

The concept is inspired by the European Carbon Emissions Trading System, where companies and governments are allocated carbon credits. If they exceed that quota, they pay, but if they emit less than agreed, they can sell any excess.

“CitiCap has generated a lot of interest around the world, not only in Europe, but also in the United States and Canada,” explains Ms. Huttunen.

21 kg of CO equivalent2 per week

The CitiCap app gives each participant a weekly carbon “budget” based on their personal situation.

On average, an inhabitant of Lahti, a city of 120,000 inhabitants, “emits 21 kilos of CO equivalent.2 per week ”, according to Ville Uusitalo, research manager for the project.

The app challenges users to reduce their emissions by a quarter – replacing an average of 20 km of driving by car with the equivalent on public transport or cycling.

It remains to be seen whether larger rewards would encourage more citizens to abandon their cars.

“It’s possible to earn up to two euros (per week) if your travel emissions are really low,” says Uusitalo.

“But this fall, we intend to increase the price tenfold,” he continues.

European green capital

If the semi-confinement imposed in Finland has led to a drastic drop in car journeys, the creators of the project have not yet managed to assess the effects of their application in the city.

But, they assure, they will continue to collect data next year, while Lahti will become for one year “European Green Capital”.

So far 2,000 residents have downloaded the app, with up to 200 users simultaneously active.

“People find it very interesting to see their own shows,” said the project manager.

Mirkka Ruohonen, municipal worker in Lahti, has been using the app for seven months now. What immediately surprised her was seeing the effects of her own movements on the environment.

Lately, she says, “I went for a weekend hiking, we hiked 15 km, but had to drive 100 km” to get to the trail.

“After that I checked the app and thought, ‘Was that a good thing?’ Maybe for me, but not for the environment! ”She exclaims.

The Finn says she is not bothered by the consequences on the privacy of such an application which records the slightest movements.

“I think all the applications I use collect information,” she said.

According to Anna Huttunen, if the application complies with European regulations on personal data, third-party organizations will not be able to analyze the data.

The creators of CitiCap hope in the future that they can also help people manage their consumption-related emissions.

“Mobility is only part of our carbon footprint,” says Uusitalo.

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