Swedes Assist Virginia "Climate Pilots"

Muppets Swedish ChefFavorite Swedish star? That would have to be The Muppets' Swedish Chef.

However the lovable, bumbling character is nothing like the serious, real-world Swedes working to reduce Sweden's greenhouse gas carbon emissions. Now, four northern Virginia households have just completed a Swedish-lead experiment called "Climate Pilots" to track household carbon emission, according to The Washington Post.

The results could provide a glimpse into a sustainability-focused housing future, covering details down to the kitchen.

Did you know, for instance, that European Union rules require disclosing a home's overall carbon output when it goes on the market?

One American couple selected to participate in the experiment, Nolan Stokes and Kathy Harman-Stokes, installed a geothermal heat pump to heat and cool their house. Geothermal systems draw heat from the Earth's core and, as prices fall, may provide a more mainstream home energy option.

This is just one recommended change implemented by households in the Swedish city of Kalmar, where 12 Climate Pilots households cut emissions by a third in one year and plan to be emission-free by 2030.

The Harman-Stokes household implemented a range of recommended lifestyle adjustments to reduce their carbon based on the Swedish coaching. These familiar changes include using compact flourescent lights to reducing meat consumption. But are these enough?

What the "Climate Pilot" experiment highlights is the cultural differences between American and European behavior when it comes to the impact individual homes and actions can have on reducing emissions. Will spoiled Americans cry foul if they are suddenly expected to change habits in a carbon-constrained world? Or would we rise to the challenge?

In the EU, a home's carbon emissions disclosure at sale is just the beginning. Swedes and other Europeans have been quicker to adopt smaller cars and implement alternative transportation ranging from public transportation and rail. The age of many city infrastructures naturally lend themselves to greater walkability and reduced car dependency. More critically, Europeans are actively seeking reduction-oriented habits.

Can Americans start at home and make the necessary lifestyle changes quickly enough to make a difference? Together with China we account for over 40 percent of worldwide carbon emissions, according to The Post.

New York City and Miami have recently made news for their respective building code changes aimed at greater sustainability. When will individual apartment and housing codes in the United States catch up?
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