Destinations

How a Swedish holiday island cut its emissions by 78 per cent

With small changes in energy production, heating, fuel and food, the Swedish island of Lidö became carbon-neutral in less than 12 months – without skimping on the experience it offers visitors.

To explore how far currently available technologies could help in reaching the world’s emissions reduction targets, renewable fuels company Neste turned a Swedish holiday island into a real-life experiment on climate neutrality.

With solutions ranging from renewable fuels and green energy production to alternative approaches to fine dining, the island reached an emission cut of 78 per cent and carbon neutrality within just one year.

The ‘Zero Island’ experiment was a collaboration between several organisations.

Neste and fellow energy company Fortum provided renewable fuels, solar panels and green electricity based on solar, wind and hydropower.

Solar panels are aplenty on Zero Island

The island’s tourism entrepreneurs applied a total of 18 sustainable solutions on the island, while The Archipelago Foundation oversaw the preservation of the island’s cultural and environmental values.

Installations and transportation were coordinated by energy consultants from Aktea, who acted as a technical advisor in the project group, while climate consultancy Tricorona calculated the emission reductions and the project’s results.

Now, after the summer’s visitor season and a little over a year after the experiment began, Olle Tejle and Hugo Olofsson, the tourism entrepreneurs on Lidö, are happy with the project’s results.

“This year, a lot of our visitors were familiar with the Zero Island initiative and drawn to the idea of climate-friendly travel,” Tejle said.

Olle Tejle and Hugo Olofsson (photo by Fanny Haga)

“Families especially have been excited to tour the island and learn about the different ways we’ve reduced emissions, which is great, as many of them are solutions they can try at home.

Olofsson added: “These things are talked about a lot, but on Zero Island, we can show how it’s done in practice.”

Small solutions for big results

Apart from the sustainable Nolla Cabin and a small solar park, nothing new was built on the island. Small tweaks and additions were made to the way existing facilities and equipment are used on the historic island, whose oldest buildings date back to the 18th century.

At the beginning of the project, the island’s emissions were charted. The starting point for emissions in 2018 was 180 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

The biggest contributors turned out to be food, facilities and transport, which is also the case with households’ emissions.

Zero Island

Over the course of the experiment, the emissions were reduced to just 40 tonnes CO2e, which were compensated through a gold-standard emissions reduction initiative.

The houses and cabins on the island were fitted with a number of energy-saving solutions, from climate curtains that help regulate indoor temperatures, to different types of heat pumps that replace traditional heating and air conditioning solutions, cutting emissions from heating by 99 per cent.

All facilities also switched to LED lighting and fossil-free electricity, around 25 per cent of which is produced by the island’s newly installed solar park.

Inside Nolla Cabin (photo by Fanny Haga)

On Zero Island, ferries and road transport began using Neste MY Renewable Diesel. Made 100 per cent out of renewable waste and residues, it’s fossil-free and its emissions can be up to 90 per cent lower when compared with regular diesel.

Fuelling the ferries and vehicles resulted in a 70 per cent reduction in CO2e emissions from transport.

As a part of the Zero Island experiment, the island’s restaurant began offering a special three-course menu that had been designed to be low-emission.

Through locally sourced fish and vegetables and resourceful use of ingredients, the menu was produced with 74 per cent lower emissions when compared to previous alternatives.

One of the island’s sustainable dishes (photo by Fanny Haga)

The gas stoves were also fitted with bio-LPG, which halved the emissions from the previous year.

Of the 18 solutions implemented on the island, nine directly contributed to lowering its CO2e emissions, while others improved waste management, educated visitors or extended the travel experience in a sustainable way.

“As a renewable fuel producer, we often look at the big picture in sustainability,” said Sirpa Tuomi, marketing director at Neste.

“We were surprised that these seemingly small, everyday solutions could have such a huge impact on the island’s emissions when combined.

“There’s so much we can do for the climate now – it’s just a matter of will. We’ve shown that on ‘Zero Island’.”

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