Engaging citizens in co-creating healthier cities. The balance between culture and health in Norwegian wood-burning practices.

Household heating contribution to air pollution is also a concern in Norway, where wood-burning practices contribute to a large amount of small particles (PM2.5) in the air during winter months. Wood burning is crucial to Norwegian culture, but poor air quality is a major environmental and socio-economic concern that poses important risks on our health.

NILU, the Norwegian partner in VAPE, is involved also in the NordicPATH project, which has involved citizens and the municipality of Kristiansand in the touchy topic of reducing emissions from wood burning. We have citizen science activities were citizens are engaged in air quality monitoring in their yards using low-cost sensors. A total of 25 low-cost sensors monitoring PM2.5 have been distributed in key areas in Kristiansand. The citizens can see in real-time their own and their neighbours contribution to air pollution.

In winter, we could see a rise in pollution levels coinciding with starting the fireplaces.

We also get the insights from citizens using an online survey on wood-burning practices and sustainable household heating. All the data from the citizens was presented in an open webinar where we invited experts in health and air pollution, NGOs and the municipality together with citizens to start the discussion and start co-imagining solutions on how to reduce the PM2.5 levels during wintertime without banning wood burning.

The participants acknowledged the importance of wood-burning and agreed it has to be kept balanced between cultural habits and detrimental health effects. The next step is a co-creation workshop where representatives from the municipality, from the private sector, and other actors (e.g., wood stove producers, retailers of firewood, fire brigade, etc) will discuss how they can work together to reduce emissions from woodburning in Kristiansand.