We are the Parker Family from Zurich. My name is John, and this is my wife Emily and our lovely daughter Maggie.
I have studied sustainability at the University of Zurich and now work as a sustainability coordinator for a big company within the city. My wife is teacher at an elementary school in Wollishofen. Maggie is a 1st grade scholar and loves the nature and animals.
As a family we set a high value on being sustainable. So for our vacation last year – in summer 2050 – we looked around to find a destination that fits our needs. We found Savognin, a small place in the Grison Alps, with its special focus on sustainability, nature and educational aspects. Thankfully a lot has changed during the last decades.
I remember how my parents used to go on holidays with us. Their motto was: The further the better. Of course this could not go on forever with the growing population and emissions. In 2016 Switzerland used to consume the resources of three earths! Thanks to diverse environmental associations and politics we could reduce the footprint to two earths in 2035. The momentary research might even make it possible that in about five years from now – so in 2055 – the big goal of the only one earth-usage can be achieved. Later than we hoped for, but we are close to it! I remember well how we used to take the airplane at least once a year back in 2016. A short trip to London over the weekend for example was no shame. Today, fortunately, no one can imagine doing that anymore. Our mindset has undergone a major change.
Travelling by public transportation
In the 10s and 20s of this century a lot of households had one or two cars. In the 30s and 40s at the latest, there was a major change in mind. I remember my parents telling me, that sustainability was never an important topic during their schooldays nor studies. This has changed.
For twenty years now, education is a major pillar in making children aware of sustainability with all its aspects in economical, ecological and social fields. They learn it already starting in kindergarten. Maggie says, that they now have subjects like “organic gardening: growing ancient and seasonal vegetables and fruit”, “healthy living” and “producing your own energy” at school. The children are educated in sustainability, but can choose about which aspects they want to know and learn more.
My generation grew up with being taught to be frugal and only to use what is necessary in order to keep the used amount of resources very low. Maggie’s generation is taking it even one step further. I think this is why we are only a few steps away from our success of the one-earth-footprint in Switzerland. It would not have been possible if the environmental associations, politicians and especially the education system had not “pushed” the society in the right direction and made them clearly aware of the challenges we could be facing in the future.
Coming back to transportation. These days it is normal to use public transportation, people are rather astonished when one says he still owns a car. Maggie for example cannot believe that her grandparents used to have two cars! The benefits from the past in having a car, have almost vanished. The public transportation nowadays is very good. You have a connection every ten minutes minimum even in the smallest villages. It has also got quite fast – from one end of Switzerland to the other it only takes two hours. Also the comfort in the busses and trains is way higher. You can rent office spaces and equipment to work during your journey or just relax in your cabin.
Politics in the 2030s contributed a lot towards changing people’s mindsets and values, giving them incentives when using public transportation. Gas had been put on high taxes and buying a car got a burocratic nightmare if it was not for a public purpose. People also got incentives when using public transport like tax refunds or a free bus and train card for all children under 18.
Because of this change in mind, big industries spent more time and money in researching sustainable fuel and made big progress in the end of the 30s. The methods were adapted faster than expected and today approximately 98 per cent of the vehicles use fuel made of waste. Every household can bring their daily waste to a collecting point at the grocery store or supermarket where they store the waste. This waste will be collected at night and brought to the fuel producer to make gas for the public transport. This is a win-win situation for all because the households do not have to pay to dispose and the companies get their input/resources for free. This also benefits the users of the public transport because it gets cheaper.
So of course for our ride to Savognin we used the bus, which took us a comfortable 1.5 hours.
The Holiday Home
For our holidays in Savognin we decided to rent a holiday apartment. Mister Gian Candreia who was renting the apartment to us, were very welcoming. Since I am interested in buildings and architecture Mister Candreia was happy to tell me about the renovated building with the newest sustainable technologies.
Since 2025 every household is required to use renewable energy – for example either solar, wind or water energy. Because Savognin is a very sunny place, most of the households have decided to use solar energy. There are diverse techniques like the transparent solar energy producing windows or house facades, which areused predominantly. They are very popular because of their efficiency since they produce energy even when it’s cloudy and because they are not disturbingly esthetical. Fifty years ago solar energy was considered to be a niche technology. Who had imagined that by now 95 per cent of all households (except old houses under monument conversation or alpine huts) would use fully renewable energies? I think in 2000 nobody would have believed that!
Another major invention in the last decade, had a huge impact on the energy usage of the industry and society. Electric energy can now be stored directly. In the 2010s there already had been techniques to store energy, but it was economically more efficient to convert it into other energies and then required converting it back. As probably everybody can comprehend this was not very efficient – it cost extra time and money. A simple example of the benefits storing energy directly: Through the new technology a family going on vacation for a week can now store the produced solar energy during that time. It can easily be used after return two weeks later, when it is raining all week and not enough energy can be produced during this time to cover demand. When more energy is produced than used, it can also be sold to the municipality, which resells it to households not using this sustainable technique yet. Already 30 per cent of all buildings in Switzerland use this directly stored energy and are therefore self-supporters.
After my very interesting talk with Mister Candreia, we decided to take a walk through the village and buy some groceries at the local farmer’s store to prepare a delicious homemade dinner afterwards.
Buying groceries from the farm
When strolling through Savognin we came by Caminada’s farm. As we entered the store, farmer Giachen Caminada was filling up the shelves. While Emily and Maggie did the grocery shopping, I started talking to Giachen. He told me, that already his great grandfather was running the farm here in Savognin and that they were always producing organically.
Genetically alerted fruit and vegetables already were a reason for a big discussion over 30 years ago. Some scientists say that these procedures are not harmful in any way to the human body. That this technologies help the earth becoming more sustainable because less resources like land or water are used, while producing more food. The opponents argue that there have not been made any long-term studies. And that therefore it cannot be said, that there will not be done any harm to animals nor humans.
My family and I have long ago decided to grow our own plants. We cannot be self-supporters during the whole year, but about 60 per cent of our fruit and vegetables are homegrown. If we need to buy products, we are regulars at the farmer’s store ten minutes by foot from our flat in Zurich. We are happy to support him and he has become a good friend of ours. He only sells organically grown products and arranges a basket for us twice a week with seasonal and/or ancient fruit and vegetables.
After my intensive discussion with farmer Caminada and new insights, we walked back to our apartment and prepared our delicious regional dinner.
During dinner we picked up the interesting topic of shaping free time now and then. I remember how my and Emily’s generation grew up using technological gadgets. My generation had to face the big problem of finding the right balance between analog and digital. In school we had subjects like “reasonable internet usage” and “identifying cyber criminality”, but we were also confronted with a lot of kids not being used to the nature anymore. That’s why the teachers used to take us outside to do workshops in the woods. A lot of kids were unable to keep themselves busy with nature because from home they were only used to play with electronic games – this was a huge societal problem back in the old days as well as having health issues due to overweight.
A few years after we got out of school, cooking and moving healthy was a further subject being taught because there was a real demand for it. Since our generation was made aware of these topics already from a young age, our children now are more conscious about food, health and the digital world. I think that the educational system has done a good job here.
Therefore it was a great idea when Mister Candreia proposed to present the new mental model of sustainability to us after dinner. He even prepared a Quiz.
Our vacation in Savognin made us aware of how much has changed since Emily and I where toddlers. A lot has been handled really well and we hope that this positive development will go on in the future.
I hope you enjoyed the insight in the year of 2050 and wish you all the best.
John Parker and family