Each year, the Swiss drive the equivalent of 150 times to the moon!

Read more...

Switzerland is a small country, which has enabled it to develop a dense railway and public transport network. The distances are so short that you can cross the entire country from east to west in six hours and from north to south in less than four hours! The Swiss transport system is quite extensive and very efficient, a tribute to Switzerland’s reputation for punctuality. Switzerland has 3,170 miles of railway track and 44,430 miles of roads.[1] Switzerland’s railways are therefore 1.3 times longer than the Mississippi River and its roads are about eleven times longer than the Amazon River.

A Swiss car travels over 6,200 miles per year, which corresponds to a trip from Geneva to Singapore, or from Oregon to Rio de Janeiro! If you consider that there are 5,7 million of these vehicles on Swiss roads, the combined total is like travelling to the moon (or vice versa) 150 times a year.

[1] Swiss Federal Statistical Office, ‘Mobilité et Transports’ (Mobility and Transport), 2013, www.bfs.admin.ch

 

Switzerland is the world’s leader when it comes to sorting and recycling garbage!

Read more...

In Switzerland, garbage is increasingly sorted and recycled. Since 2005, the recycling rate exceeded 50%. Therefore, although Switzerland produces 6 million US short tons of household waste, roughly the weight of the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt, about 3.1 million US short tons of that waste is re-used thanks to the sorting of garbage. The other half of the waste is incinerated, which has the added advantage of generating thermal energy for heating.[1] Switzerland’s reputation as the most efficient country in the area of waste management is well deserved.

That said, there is still progress to be made because one-fifth of the content of garbage bags in Switzerland could be recycled with existing waste sorting and recycling facilities. Even if more facilities were built, there would still be materials that cannot be recycled. For the moment, recycling is limited to relatively simple materials such as glass, PET plastic and paper. More complex products, which are composed of different materials, are only rarely sorted and recycled. This is because of the excessive amount of time and energy required to re-use them.

[1] Federal Office for the Environment, ‘Élimination des déchets: Illustration en Suisse’ (‘Switzerland’s Waste Management System’), 2016, www.bafu.admin.ch

 

Each day, a Swiss inhabitant uses the same amount of water needed to produce an 8.8 oz. box of chocolat!

Read more...

A typical household in Switzerland uses an average of 42 gallons of water per day.[1] This is the same amount of water needed to produce one-third of an ounce of chocolate, which, while not enough to make a batch of brownies, requires a tremendous quantity of water to grow cocoa beans and transform them into chocolate bars. The NeighborHub addresses this problem by introducing dry toilets as well as a water meter in the shower to help save this vital and limited resource.

Based on a virtual calculation of water consumption, the average Swiss inhabitant eating an 8.8-ounce box of chocolate on any given day actually uses the equivalent of over one thousand gallons of water,[2] way more water than the one-third of an ounce mentioned earlier. However, only 18% of this virtual water actually comes from Switzerland.[3] This is because cocoa beans, obviously, don’t grow in Switzerland!

[1] Household Water Consumption in the Local Community of Gachnang, N.D., www.gachnang.ch

[2] WWF, Over One Thousand Gallons of Water Per Day, 2012, www.wwf.ch

[3] Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), ‘Swiss Water Footprint Report: A Global Picture of Swiss Water Dependence’, 2012, www.eda.admin.ch

Switzerland’s national water management system has as many holes as Emmental cheese!

Read more...

As in most countries, Switzerland’s drainage system mixes wastewater with rainwater. This is unfortunate because clean rainwater becomes polluted by wastewater. The NeighborHub, however, collects clean water directly from the sky and uses it for day-to-day needs of the household. It is (once again) unfortunate that such a system, which offers only benefits, has not yet become the norm.

Before being dumped into the environment, drainage water is ‘outsourced’ to water treatment plants whose purpose is to eliminate grime and pollutants. But how effective are these water treatment plants in reality? They consume an enormous amount of energy to purify water and often lack the capacity to handle all of the water flowing into them (after a major storm, for example).

Contrary to popular belief, when rainfall becomes too intense, this wastewater does not cause the water treatment plant to burst at the seams. Like the holes in Emmental cheese (Gruyeres chees does not have any holes), the excess wastewater simply flows directly into the environment, polluting the surrounding lakes and rivers. Then the animals drink this toxic sludge and run the risk of turning into Godzilla. This is why you should never pour chemicals down the drain when the weather is bad!

The whole of Switzerland transformed into a huge water theme park!

Read more...

Switzerland has been blessed with an abundance of glaciers, lakes, rivers and plenty of rainwater to maintain them. Even so, Switzerland has carefully kept its cards close to its chest because its real water resources are actually below ground, hidden from view.

Switzerland has so much water that even if its glaciers completely melted, its lakes and rivers would all flow into a vast 15-ft. deep lake spanning the entire country. And then our fabulous mountain landscape could become a perfect water theme park with giant toboggans and diving platforms from the mountain tops!

Although ice and snowfall levels have indeed been falling steadily under the effects of climate change, water levels in Switzerland should remain stable at least until the next century. However, this ice and snow melt is likely to result in more flash floods and more severe storms in the future. Goodbye snow and hello rain! Our giant pool project is already underway!

Only a quarter of Swiss energy is renewable!

Read more...

Switzerland consumes but also produces its own energy from a variety of different sources. Solar, wind and hydropower, geothermal energy and deep sleep are all examples of renewable energy sources. For the moment, only 26% of Swiss energy is renewable.[1] This is mainly hydropower, which is very popular in Switzerland since we have lots of water.

The remaining 74% comes from nuclear power and fossil fuels. Swiss energy is generated by five national nuclear power plants and we import energy from other countries to cover what we are unable to produce locally. Oil, which is used mainly for transport, constitutes the largest share of energy consumption in Switzerland.[2] The NeighborHub and its built-in car, are an entirely different animal, powered exclusively by the Sun.

[1] Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), Overall Energy Statistics 2016, www.bfe.admin.ch

[2] Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Energy: Panorama, 2016, www.bfs.admin.ch

One person in Switzerland consumes the equivalent of 520 laptops of electricity in a single year!

Read more...

Switzerland is a small country that consumes lots of cheese and energy. In any given year, a person living in Switzerland eats over 20 kg cheese fondue and uses an average of 37,500 kWh of energy. This is the amount of electricity needed to recharge nearly 520 laptops for an entire year.

On the North American continent, a person living in the United States uses an average of 80,000 kWh per year, which is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 230 refrigerators.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the Swiss Confederation decided to gradually phase out its use of nuclear energy.[1] In 2017, Swiss voters finally embraced Netflix and voted in favor of the 2050 Energy Strategy. Of course, the causal relationship between these two events has yet to be proven conclusively. This strategy encourages energy efficiency (consume less = produce less). The NeighborHub was designed specifically with the aim of reducing energy consumption. The Swiss team that built it, however, has no intention of giving up fondue!

[1] Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), Energy Strategy 2050, 2017, 2017, www.bfe.admin.ch

Switzerland produces nine elephants of garbage per minute!

Read more...

Switzerland currently produces around 26.45 million US short tons of garbage per year, which is roughly the equivalent weight of 30 Golden Gate Bridges! That amounts to about 49.6 US short tons of garbage per minute, [1] or the weight of nine elephants. At the individual level, a Swiss inhabitant produces 1,600 lbs. of garbage per year. [2] This corresponds to the average weight of one cow in the Canton of Fribourg. What a mess it would be if we had to manage so many animals in real life!

If each person on Earth consumed as much as a Swiss citizen, then we’d need the equivalent of three planets to satisfy everyone’s needs.

[1] Federal Office for the Environment, Élimination des déchets: Illustration en Suisse (‘Switzerland’s Waste Management System’), 2016, www.bafu.admin.ch

[2] OECD, Municipal waste, in kilograms per capita, 2000-2015 https://data.oecd.org

The Swiss move around a lot, but are using their cars less and less!

Read more...

Driving to work by car instead of taking the bus uses up ten times more CO2. The Swiss full-fare travelcard provides unlimited use of the country’s entire railway and public transport system. The annual subscription for this travelcard is lower than car maintenance costs. In other words, with the money saved from not having a car, a person can eat out almost every day of the week for a whole year or drink 4,000 more bottles of beer per year. The trend is fewer personal vehicles as more and more people shift to public transport. [1]

Swiss citizens are very mobile: on average, nine out of ten people travel at least once per day away from where they live. [2] Every day, Swiss inhabitants commute an average of 22 miles, which amounts to about an hour and a half of travel time each and every day. This is like strolling down Hollywood’s Walk of Fame ten times for the duration of a soccer match.

In 2015, every Swiss citizen travelled about 15,500 miles and nearly half of this distance was to other countries. The Swiss specimen likes to travel. For this reason, nearly half of all of the trips made by the Swiss are devoted to leisure activities. [3]

[1] Swiss Federal Statistical Office, ‘Comportement de la population en matière de transports’ (‘Transport Habits of the Swiss Population’), 2015, www.bfs.admin.ch

[2] Swiss Federal Statistical Office, ‘Mobilité et Transports’ (‘Mobility and Transport’), 2013. www.bfs.admin.ch

[3] Swiss Federal Statistical Office, ‘Comportement de la population en matière de transports’ (‘Transport Habits of the Swiss Population’), 2015. www.bfs.admin.ch

Switzerland uses more sand than gold or silver!

Read more...

Apart from water, wood, stone and cheese, Switzerland does not have enormous quantities of raw materials at its disposal. This is why it imports materials from other countries. Sand and gravel account for nearly half of the construction materials imported into Switzerland [1]: 68.34 million US short tons of sand and gravel each year, or roughly 200 times the weight of the Empire State Building!

As for water and coal, each country generates a carbon footprint on the basis of the quantity of materials that it uses or exports. Minerals make up one-third of the materials used in Switzerland, and metals constitute another third. Among these metals, gold and silver occupy an important place in the production of our famous watches.

While Switzerland has indeed increased its consumption of raw materials, it uses these materials more efficiently thanks to recycling and technological advances.

[1] Newspaper article from ‘Le Temps’ (‘The Times’), La Suisse consomme deux fois plus de matières premières que ses voisins (‘Switzerland consumes twice the amount of raw materials as its neighbours’), 2016, www.letemps.ch

The forests are coming: everybody run for cover!

Read more...

With all of its forestland and quarries, Switzerland has always used wood and stone for its housing needs. These materials also come to mind when we think of the famous Swiss chalets. However, chalets are mostly made of wood. And in Switzerland, there is plenty of wood all over! One-third of total Swiss territory is covered by forest and these forests are gaining ground: every three seconds 35 cubic feet of fresh forest appears. [1]

Faced with this profusion, the Swiss have fought back with axes and saws. The counter-offensive against the adversary is planned and strategic, targeting full-grown trees and sparing the young saplings to ensure that the forests can replenish themselves. Likewise, some of the older centenary trees are preserved out of respect for their age.

That said, Switzerland only cuts down the wood that it needs. In the past five years, Switzerland has used 370 million cubic feet of wood, [2] enough to fill 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The forest invasion cannot be halted, only slowed down. All of the forests in Switzerland are managed in a natural and sustainable manner. This is because the Swiss Forest Act is one of the most stringent in the world. [3]

[1] Swiss statistics on the origin of wood in Switzerland, taken from the report entitled, ‘Unser Wald’ (‘Our Forest’), 2017, www.bois-holz-legno.ch

[2] Federal Office for the Environment, ‘Utilisation du bois’ (‘Use of wood’), 2017, www.bafu.admin.ch

[3] Swiss Federal Council, Forest Act, 2017, www.admin.ch

Is there a correlation between a country’s chocolate consumption and the intelligence of its inhabitants?

Read more...

From a culinary viewpoint, Switzerland is known for its exquisite cheeses and … its delicious chocolate! In 2016, Switzerland sold 204,631 US short tons of chocolate. On average, Swiss inhabitants consumed a total of 24 lbs. per person, which is the equivalent of eating six truffles of chocolate per day for a year. [1]

At the same time, Switzerland has the world’s highest density of Nobel Prize laureates within its population. Is there a correlation between a country’s chocolate consumption and the intelligence of its inhabitants? In 2012, The New England Journal of Medicine published a research paper drawing a link between chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel Prize laureates in each country. Switzerland came out on top of the list on both counts! [2]

One hypothesis is that flavonoids, powerful antioxidants found in abundant quantities in cocoa beans, improves cognitive function.

[1] Association of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers (Chocosuisse), press release, 2016, www.chocosuisse.ch

[2] The New England Journal of Medicine, Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates, 2012, www.nejm.org

 

Who has never heard the story of Little Red Riding Hood or The three little pigs?

Read more...

Some animals, like sharks, are particularly frightening. However, the chances of being bitten by a shark are probably as slim as running into a man from Mars. There are no sharks in Switzerland because we have no sea, only freshwater lakes. However, there are plenty of forests and the ferocious beast that torments the Swiss psyche is not a little green man from Mars but rather…the big bad wolf! Who has never heard the story of Little Red Riding Hood or Beauty and the Beast? A scourge to cattle, wolves were slowly eradicated by farmers and hunters until the last beast was hunted down and killed in Switzerland in 1871. However, without wolves, herbivores multiply and eat up all of the vegetation, which affects the ecosystem. Since 1988, the wolf has been a protected species in Switzerland, because this predator is essential for the preservation of biodiversity. As a result, the wolf finally made its comeback in 1995! [1]

[1] WWF, Portail des espèces: Loup, N.D., www.wwf.ch

 

Rösti is a culinary specialty made with potatoes that is mostly found in the German-speaking region of Switzerland …

Read more...

Living together in Switzerland is an interesting challenge: officially, four different languages are spoken and over 25% of the population are foreigners [1]. In Switzerland, there is a linguistic divide that symbolically separates the French-speaking and German-speaking citizens of Switzerland. By German, we actually mean both ‘Swiss German’ and ‘High German’, the latter being the official language of Switzerland and the former regional dialects spoken by the locals. The Rösti Divide is a cultural and linguistic one referred to in French as the ‘Barrière de Rösti’ and in German as the ‘Röstigrabe’.

Rösti is a culinary specialty made with potatoes. While it is mostly found in the German-speaking region of Switzerland, it is actually also highly regarded by those living in the French- and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland. So much fuss and so many jokes about a potato pie supposedly symbolizing a divide between peoples!

[1] Swiss Federal Statistical Office (SFSO): www.bfs.admin.ch