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Thursday 5/30/13
Issue #6
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Learning from others: The Swedes


By Jacquelyn Schneller - 5/30/2013

Ecology - Conceptual
  Photo Credit: majeczka / Shutterstock.com

With the United States as a top exporter of environmental damage, I think it's safe to say that we could afford to learn a little bit from our neighbors. We know Swedish design, in all its grand simplicity and order. But, what can we learn from the Swedes? It's simple. Simply Sustainable:

  • Walking. Right, Left, Right Left. One foot in front of the other. What could be simpler? Around 60 percent of Swedes walk, bike or use mass transit to get to where they're going. Burning calories instead of fuel. It's easy on the ears, too. A city of 100,000 in Sweden feels like a village of 3,000, by replacing SUVs with happy walkers-rain, snow or shine, which brings me to...
  • No excuses. In my travels and former life in Sweden, I've watched in awe, seniors, gray and slight, biking through a foot snow and cursingly frigid winds. Because they could.
  • Smaller trash cans. You've heard that a goldfish grows according to the size of its tank? This partial-truth can best be extended to garbage and the size of its trash can, in the sense of goals. Swedish households have, to an American from a large family, comically small trash cans compared to the American sort. Not so comical, is the amount of trash filling the latter. The small refuge for refuse motivated me, while in Sweden, to find other outlets for my trash (traditional recycling, arts and crafts, etc.) or to avoid heavily packaged products all together.
  • Bring your own bag. To this, some Americans and businesses have already caught on. But in Sweden, rather than bags as a default, cashiers simply scoot your items to the end of the counter and let you deal with rest, assuming you've brought your own vessel and morals. In the US, I politely alert the cashier I've brought my own bag, only to receive my items double plastic bagged, nonetheless.
  • Anti-bulk shopping. In a country with very limited store hours and locations, bulk should tempt the Swedes. It is quite the opposite. Many Swedes shop per week, day or even meal. It is not often you find Family Size or Jumbo Pack of even the most sensible of products. Less bulk, if only encouraging a simple, meaningful existence instead of a life of super sized excess, also eliminates the chance for spoiled food waste while encouraging frequent, healthy walks to the store.

Now, of course there are grand and weighty political, cultural, social, population and geographical differences between Sweden and the United States. I'm not implying we magically become Swedish. I simply suggest we watch, listen, learn and perhaps nourish a little Swedish inspiration into our own lives.


 








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