Climate Action

Why I stopped taking the lift

People crowd the escalator at a shopping mall during the holiday season in Bangkok, Thailand December 28, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun - RC1857641350

Curbing the use of lifts and escalators could help make buildings more energy efficient. Image: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Guerric Radiere
Global Commercial Director, Sandoz
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This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit

I may be a bit claustrophobic but the main reason is environmental. Lifts consume 5 to 10% of buildings’ energy, which itself represents a third of global energy consumption and is responsible for more than a third of CO2 emissions worldwide.

While improving energy efficiency of buildings is the main solution to reduce their footprint, cutting down our use of lifts is an easy small step for the climate. And this can be a large step in improving people’s health, as taking the stairs whenever you can is a simple fitness exercise.


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Five years ago, I registered in a fitness club next to my flat, located on the 7th floor. As absurd as it may sound, many of the members – including me – would take the lift to go to the gym. Go up the stairs to warm up before a gym class? No way! We would all wait some minutes for the small lift to come and rush into it to make sure we did not have to walk or wait for the next one.

I am not a patient person and what got me thinking first was the lost time I spent waiting for the lift. Add to this the fact that avoiding the exercise associated with stairs to go sweating was a bit paradoxical. Why not take the stairs, gaining time and warming up at the same time? That is how it started for me.

The first time I arrived at the gym short of breath but happy and ahead of my fellows who took the lift. Realising it was a very good warm up, I started to think about the energy needed to go up – and down. I also observed that most of the times the lift opened up, empty, a synonym for me of inefficiency.

I once went home and by curiosity looked at my rental bills, which listed lift costs. These represented a big chunk of my incidental expenses, a highly inefficient use of money as I lived on the first floor.

Considering how many lifts and even escalators you now find in new buildings, it became clear to me that this was a huge energy and cost-saving potential. I started to do some research on energy consumption of lifts, mostly running empty, light always on, heavy weight to carry up and down.

During my research I also found several articles from physicians recommending taking the stairs for health reasons. Just one fact as an example: climbing stairs several minutes per day can halve the risk of heart attack over 10 years and reduce the risk of early mortality by 33%. To sum it up: lifts are useful and needed but, if you can, taking the stairs is better for your health and the planet.

After all these findings, I stopped taking lifts and escalators and continued to observe the members waiting for the lift each time I went to the gym. As time passed, I got fitter and even enjoyed this easy exercise. I started motivating the people around me to remain active and to take the stairs.

I now live on the fourth floor and converted my girlfriend to my routine. Five years later, I only take the lift when I have to go more than ten floors or carry more than 20kg.

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Climate ActionEnergy TransitionUrban TransformationForum Institutional
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