Little streams make great rivers - fostering energy consumption reduction in Hungarian households

IMG_1559_záró 2021 jun6 csoportkép
Fig.1. EnergyNeighbourhoods award ceremony (GDI ©)

EU 1.5° Lifestyles Hungarian partner, GreenDependent Institute (GDI) has a solid experience in communicating and engaging citizens in different pro-environmental activities. Throughout the last couple of months, in order to mainstream the concept of 1.5° lifestyles, the Institute held a series of online workshops called “1.5° lifestyles at home".

The events were well attended, GDI experts talked about the reasons why we need 1.5° lifestyles, the importance of change at the individual level, the necessity of structural changes, and provided useful tools to start the change in our households focusing on the most impactful lifestyle domains which are household energy consumption, food, mobility and leisure. These are the main areas where we can save significant amounts of energy and carbon emissions in our own daily lives.

household energy.png
Fig.2. On the workshop we talked about the distribution of energy consumption within households. The first figure shows the distribution of energy use in an average EU household, the second in an average Hungarian household (source: Eurostat)

The first domain - household energy consumption - is in the focus of the Institute’s flagship project, the EnergyNeighbourhoods programme. It helps citizens take action against climate change without any investment, only by changing their behaviour, practices and habits. Communities across Hungary have shown that by making simple lifestyle changes, citizens can achieve average energy savings between 7-10% and in some cases up to 25-30%. Representing one third of the country’s final energy use, Hungarian households have a significant role to play in reducing the country’s carbon footprint and contributing to the climate goals.

energy masters
Fig.3. Volunteers at the energy masters training of the EnergyNeighbourhoods programme (GDI ©)

In the current, 10th season of EnergyNeighbourhoods 93 households have participated. The season has just come to an end, and those households who have conscientiously followed their energy consumption achieved an averaged saving of 6.12% compared to their consumption in the previous ear. The winner energyneighbourhood (group of 8 households) saved about four times more than this, 27.83%.

In addition to the emphasis on behavioural change and the power of community support, the programme also highlights the importance to practise social responsibility. At the end of each season, the carbon footprint of the programme is carefully calculated and compensated by planting native fruit trees in the participating communities.  

Fig.4. The fruit rees will draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere troughout their life-cycle (GDI ©)

The conclusion is that it makes sense to also make changes at the individual level, because many individual steps will eventually lead to significant changes at the global level, and in doing so we will also contribute to changing societal norms and systems. At the same time, small groups and communities support individuals in this change, help question current norms, and also help individuals realise that individual changes add up.

Last year, the EnergyNeighbourhoods programme won the European Sustainable Energy Award (EUSEW) in the category of Engagement. To watch a short summary video of the programme, please click here.

Anna Farady, GreenDependent Institute

Source of images: