Only around 70 years ago, in different areas of the globe, women would walk down the river, early in the morning, to wash their clothes with the ashes of the fireplace from the night before. A practice that slowly began to fade away as new technologies came into our lives.
The advent of home appliances has changed our daily lives drastically. Only around 70 years ago, in various parts of the globe, women would walk down the river, early in the morning, to wash their clothes with the ashes of the fireplace from the night before. A practice that slowly began to fade away as new technologies came into our lives. From the dishwasher to the fridge or the washing machine, new home appliances are designed to alleviate the burden of fatigue while saving us time, energy and water. But what will the appliances of the future be like? Undoubtedly, “sustainable,” according to APPLiA Director General Paolo Falcioni, who was invited to address the question at the 2050: Appliances of the Future Conference, hosted by AMDEA, in London.
Sustainability is the key driver of better lifestyles across Europe.
Better lifestyles means respecting the environment. Overall, Europe is responsible for 8.7% of the global CO2 emissions and residential buildings are responsible for about 10% of those emissions. This is to say that residential buildings are responsible for about 1% of those emissions. If we flip the numbers however, “this corresponds to 100% of the possibilities the industry can undertake to foster the transition,” stated Falcioni. Since 1992, the introduction of the energy label has helped mitigate soaring energy consumption levels and drive consumers towards the most sustainable choice. Even more, “it could offset almost entirely the growth in appliance ownership that came with the population increase over the last years,” continued APPLiA’s DG. That's a remarkable achievement.
Better lifestyles means reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Compared to 1990 levels, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Europe have fallen by 24%, while the EU economy has registered a 60% growth rate, in the same period. The decoupling of Europe’s rising economic growth from a progressively lowering rate of emissions gives a clear indication of the progress that is being made towards enabling the net zero transition and driving the basis of legislation to come. GDP growth does not have to be compromised for environmental reasons. The looming global climate crisis is accompanied by an ever-increasing sentiment to improve European lifestyles. This calls for “a solution which equally tackles the challenge of increasing EU GDP whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions, explained Falcioni.
With this in mind, the EU has raised its climate targets committing to cutting emissions by at least 55%, by 2030. To fill the gap from today’s 24% achieved progress to the ultimate 55% target, the European Commission is revising climate legislation under its flagship Fit for 55 package. Key to this will be addressing core CO2 emitters, laying the foundations to follow on the pathway towards climate neutrality. This entails a continued commitment for the industry to advance the sustainability of products and thus resource efficiency, in the continued efforts to pave the way for a future policy landscape that fosters circular appliances.
Finally, better lifestyles means offering better products to families. Over the past 20 years, the energy consumption of home appliances has dropped by 50%. On average, a fridge today consumes ¼ of previous energy levels. Great advances were also made in water consumption patterns. A dishwasher uses 1/10 of the water needed to wash tableware by hand. And this is only another example highlighting “the potential for home appliances to truly reshape the way we view sustainability today.”
In recent years, making sustainable products the norm has escalated the EU political agenda, becoming a key policy driver in the green transition. “Sustainability is the goal and innovation is how we plan to get there,” stated Falcioni. “Innovation is what powers the future generations of appliances,” he continued, “and it does not emit one gram of CO2.”
There is no Planet B. Minimising our footprint, and continuing to improve European consumers' lifestyles, are the key battles of our generation. This is where legislation needs to come into play, setting the goals, and leaving manufacturers the flexibility to reach them. This is where legislation needs to come into play to set the necessary conditions for the sector to explore 100% of the options available to address its 1% footprint.