Per Bjorn Brandsaeter is a good friend of Luther College and also a native of Lillehammer. He has kept an eye out for many-a-Luther student that have spent the semester on the Lillehammer program. His family spent two years in Decorah when his wife taught Norwegian at Luther. Though he assured us he is not an expert in sustainability, Per was able to share with us a few of the things his family does to lessen their impact on the Earth.
Per started off by showing us two different Norwegian newspapers that contained good examples of how mainstream media is talking about sustainability in Europe. One was the lifestyle section of the weekend paper and it was arguing that Norwegians aren’t living very sustainably compared to people in Berlin. Interesting. The other piece he showed us was a campaign ad urging people to take shorter showers. Special showerheads were being advertised for their ability to save water.
In Norway, 20% of all energy in the house is used to heat warm water. In a large family with 2-3 kids, it can take up to 30%. Per shared with us that in his home they typically use 23,000 kwh/year. In 2009 his family used 23,000 kwh and was charged .43 Kroner/kwh, which amounted to about 10,000 Norwegian Kroner. In 2010 his family used 25,00h kwh and was charged .65 Kroner/kwh (a significant increase). Their total bill was 16,000 Norweign Kroner. His point was to show us that Norwegians pay quite a bit for electricity.
Heat exchangers are installed on the outside of most homes, which makes the energy system more efficient. These exchangers cost about $2,000 so it’s not that expensive and it saves lots of money over time.
People need to accept that in the Winter they need to use warm sweaters and slippers so Per has always encouraged his children to do this. He says they didn’t ever really listen until they moved out and started paying their own bills.
Many people reduce electricity bills by cutting their own firewood. This activity provides exercise and heat and is just a good thing to do. People used to pay farmers to be able to take out firewood, but now they don’t have to because the farmers want the wood to be taken out as the forests are getting too thick.
Wood burning stoves are very common in this country. Nowadays they are modern, clean burning stoves. New stoves use 30% less and produce much less participate matter.
Per’s family tries to eat food that is local (short-traveled food as he calls it). Example: instead of buying beef from Brazil, they buy moose that was killed up in the woods. This year they bought half a moose on the kitchen counter. He was a little surprised when he came home from work one day and his wife had bought half a moose! They had to make it into parts and pack it. This amounted to about 175 kilos of meat and lots of frozen broth that was made with the bones.
Instead of buying scampi from Southeast Asia, they buy scampi from Norway.
Just like in the US, fresh berries are available in the winter in Norway, meaning that they need to travel quite a long ways. Per thinks this is ridiculous and that people should just pick them when they are in season and freeze them for later use.
Per’s family tries to harvest many things in the Fall that they can put up for the winter. They have a garden with black cherries, apples and currents. They preserve these fruits and use them in the winter. It’s easier for people who live in the country to do things like this, but young people are not used to foraging because they are used to finding things in the grocery store and can afford to buy whatever they want now that the country enjoys relative wealth.
His family tries to make as much of their own food as possible. Lefse, flatbread and most dinners they eat are made from scratch. Contrary to many families, Per’s family makes dinner every day, never buy semi-prepared food and rarely go to a restaurant. It’s cheaper to do things this way and most times healthier as well.
Norwegians get new furniture and new kitchen appliances more often than any other country in the world. Per doesn’t throw things away until they are well used.
Instead of throwing things away Per’s family uses them again and repairs them.
Per is lucky to be able to work and live in the same place. If you live close enough to where you work it is important to walk, bike and avoid using a car. The community makes it easy for people to walk by making sidewalks, make distances shorter with a pedestrian sidewalk. Many people use studded bike tires in the winter when roads and sidewalks are snow-covered.
Lillehammer has had recycling and separation of waste for about 20 years, but the system is constantly developing and getting better and better. It started as a cooperation between Lillehammer and neighboring townships.
Norway has added a deposit fee to the purchase of all electronics, which means that consumers are paying for disposal upon purchase. Norway recycles as much from electronic devices as possible and does not just dump it on Africa like most other developed countries do.
There is also a deposit tax on automobiles. The $200 deposit fee to help deal with the waste.
Per has a compost pile that is six feet by six feet. Puts everything in there (ash, food, lawn waste). Takes the top off and uses the bottom part that has already been made into compost and uses it in the gardens.