Users of carbon footprint calculator were interested in the health impacts of physical activity

A study done in Tampere examined whether people could be encouraged to choose walking or cycling instead of driving by appealing to the health benefits of physical activity.

Some users of the Tampere.Finland carbon footprint calculator were displayed a new view with an activity calculator. They were also sent messages about the physical activity observed during the week and how it impacted their health. No changes in mobility behaviour were found during the trial period, although users were interested in the content.

The Keli project used a mobility carbon footprint calculator in the Tampere.Finland application to see whether it would be possible to motivate people to choose walking and cycling instead of driving by appealing to the health impacts of physical activity. Messages about the health benefits of everyday physical activity were sent to certain users. The results were compared to a control group of calculator users who were not targeted with health messages. The health content made people use the application more, but no potential changes in mobility habits were found during the test period.  

For the study, the users of the carbon footprint calculator were placed into two groups at random. The test group got access to an activity calculator measuring everyday physical activity in addition to the carbon footprint calculator. They also received weekly reminders about the health benefits of choosing a physically active way of getting around. The control group continued to use the calculator in the same way as before. The test was carried out between September and November in 2022.

The messages sent to the test group summarised how much the user had been physically active during the past week and compared the number with the recommendations of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The amount of physical activity was also compared with other users of the application, and the test group received a health impact comparison to zero physical activity.  

No observed changes in mobility behaviour

Members of the test group were interested in the health impacts of physical activity, as the test group used the application clearly more than the control group. Based on the final survey, the test group had also internalised the health information sent in the messages. However, any changes in mobility behaviour were so small that they were not statistically significant.  

–  Even though the health messages did not seem to have an impact on physical activity in itself, the project produced valuable information, and this is a good place for going forward, says Project Manager Anna Vilhula from the City of Tampere.

Cooperation between researchers and the city makes it possible to create different kinds of test settings and analyse them statistically.

– This gives us a better idea of how to reduce climate emissions. This was an excellent pilot of a new kind of cooperation, emphasises Assistant Professor Lassi Ahlvik from the University of Helsinki.  

Cities have data for research

Cities have a wide range of data that can be shared with companies and research institutes.

- The Keli project produced rare and unique data for research purposes. We rarely get the chance to observe people’s everyday physical activity in such a precise and long-term way, says Senior Researcher Anna Sahari from the VATT Institute for Economic Research.

The City of Tampere intends to continue using the mobility carbon footprint calculator for research. There is a pilot planned for the autumn to collect data on how residents are getting around. The calculator serves as a data collection tool, which makes participation in the study easier.

Activity calculator published for all users  

The mobility carbon footprint calculator was published in the Tampere.Finland application in the summer of 2021. The activity calculator for walking and cycling has been part of the mobility carbon footprint calculator since March 2023. The calculator has had about 1,500 users per month. The calculator gives users information about their mobility and the climate impacts of their choices.

The Keli project was carried out between 1 January 2022 and 31 May 2023. Research partners included the University of Helsinki and the VATT Institute for Economic Research. The Keli project is co-financed by the Ministry of the Environment, and it is a part of the five-year Sustainable City programme aimed to accelerate municipalities’ wide-ranging sustainable development.

Further information

Lassi Ahlvik
Assistant Professor
+358 40 617 6877
Anna Sahari
Senior Researcher
+358 295 519 511
Anna Vilhula
Project Manager
+358 40 352 3423
Text: Maiju Juntunen and Essi Lehtinen
Photos: Visit Tampere / Laura Vanzo
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