When it comes to Sweden (aka the early adopters of sustainability), while it is a completely different climate compared to here in Britain, when it comes to the environment the Swedish mind-set is very inspiring.
The way they live, the way they build, the way they work and the way they enjoy their surroundings is a philosophy that I think deserves some exploration… and guess what, it’s not revolutionary, it’s all just common sense!
So what are the Swedish sentiments that I think we should all look at adopting into our lives?
In a busy world where we all live chaotic lives, taking a break is extremely important. The benefits of taking a break include allowing your brain to process the day’s events and reassess what is still to come, to realign your focus, take a moment to think creatively and prevent any physical strains like eye strain or back ache.
If you work in a physical environment as an installer for example, taking a break is especially important for you when it comes to reducing accidents. Resting your body has proven to reduce injury, so put the tools down, take 5 minutes out and enjoy a moment of Fika – or just a bog standard coffee break if you prefer that term!
Either way, Fika is also a huge part of ‘wellbeing’ which is a term many businesses are latching onto at the minute due to the high number of reports concluding that addressing wellbeing will have a good effect on employee health.
Closely related to Fika is the other Swedish concept of Lagom which is the balance between too little and too much. The concept is applied to everything from working hours to food portions. Essentially it’s everything in moderation and fits perfectly with the Swedish ‘sustainability’ lifestyle as it encourages everyone to strive for balance when it comes to their footprint on the planet.
If you are interested to learn more, follow this link.
2. A sustainable mind-set
Leading on from Fika and Lagom, did you know that Sweden ranks first in the EU in consumption of organic foods? They also lead the way in recycling and achieve the highest share of energy from renewables. This is because ultimately the Swedish mind-set is sustainability focused and future-thinking.
In fact this mind-set even dictates how they build, plan and power the buildings and infrastructures in their cities. By 2040 Sweden is aiming to achieve the status as the first country to run on entirely renewable energy; so alignment from businesses in the built environment is very import
This sustainable mind-set therefore leads to some very innovative thinking and creative approaches, especially when it comes to heating and cooling large spaces which as we know can account for high levels of carbon emissions.
For example, in 2011 a real estate company in Stockholm found a way to channel the excess heat produced by commuters at Stockholm Central Station to heat a nearby building. The system worked by using heat exchangers in the station’s ventilation system to covert wasted body heat into hot water, this then pumped to the heating system in the nearby office building to keep it warm. The system was a success and lowered energy costs by around 25%.
Essentially the system was a success due to the process following the traditional design of a heat pump, the only differences were that instead of the heat being harvested from the outdoor air (or a water or ground source), it was harvested from a densely populated space with high levels of excess body heat. Also there was no use of refrigerant; but either way both solutions are renewable and majorly significant when it comes to a carbon-free future.
These principles are also used in the domestic sector where passive houses are becoming more common and regular homes are opting to use air source heat pump technology to produce highly energy efficient heating and hot water.
The sustainable mind-set can also be noted in Sweden’s attempts to be at the forefront of climate change action. For example they were the first country to establish an Environmental Protection Agency in 1967 and in 1972 they hosted the first UN conference on the environment, leading to the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme.
Furthermore, they were one of first nations to sign and ratify the Kyoto Protocol and the Stockholm Convention of 2001 set out a global treaty aimed at phasing out organic pollutants.
Much like in the UK, Sweden also has a roadmap to achieve by 2050 which includes lowering carbon emissions.
3. The great outdoors
Tying up Fika, Lagom and a sustainable mind-set is the Swedish concept of living close to nature. There is a word that encompasses this ideal but it’s actually Norwegian even though it is heavily adopted by many of the Scandinavian countries. The word is friluftsliv and translates to ‘free air life’.
Having been to 3 of the main Scandinavian capitals including Olso, Copenhagen and of course Stockholm, my understanding of how they embrace this lifestyle is to balance urban and country living. For example many of my Norwegian acquaintances have cabins in the country and according to Sweden.se more that 50% of the Swedish population have access to a rural summer home through friends or family.
In the city itself there is often a visible balance between urban and green space, in fact 40% of Stockholm is public open space and the average pre-schooler in Stockholm spends 6 hours outside each day in good weather.
Of course in Britain, the option to have a summer home/cabin is reserved for the lucky few, but exploring nature is something that is growing in popularity. It was even reported in a government survey from 2015 that between March 2013 and February 2014, 2.93 billion visits were made by the English adult population to natural environments; the highest number for 5 years.
Back to Sweden however, this means that an emphasis on air quality is very important. In fact, did you know people in the UK are 64 times more likely to die of air pollution as those in Sweden according to the World Health Organisation?
Regardless of that worrying statistic (which we have explored in many Hub articles), Sweden does also struggled with its air pollution issues due to urban traffic congestion; this has led to a series of air pollution strategies being enforced such as a Congestion Tax in Stockholm.
A common understanding is that we should all learn from the past, whether it be valuable lessons, past mistakes or past triumphs. But the same should be said of learning from countries and cultures around us; past, present and future. From Government strategies, to the mind-set of the everyday person, there is much to be learned, understood and adopted; Fika, Lagom, a sustainable mind-set and friluftsliv are just one country’s examples of that… and I can’t wait to embrace them!