Stories from Sweden: Pushing the sustainability agenda


Progress Namibia - Stories from Sweden: Pushing the sustainability agenda
28 August 2017

On my way out of Sweden today on the train to Copenhagen, passing the rolling forests and red painted wooden houses of the countryside. So naturally, I will decide to share a sustainability story from Sweden. It has been so great to be in the forest for the past few days, inhaling sweet, fresh, and clean forest air (no dust!). There is something about the air here. It instantly revives you. There are many studies that show certain types of lichen are a good indicator of air quality - and in the forests I was walking around near Uppsala, these are are bountiful.

Sweden is one of the most sustainable countries in the world. It has certainly not got everything figured out, but it is taking big leaps in the right direction. Five reasons why it is becoming a champion sustainable country:

  1. Sweden has a strategy to be the first fossil-free country (although Costa Rica might beat them to it, but remember, they live in below freezing temperatures for much of the year). Already, they have cut emissions and are at 52% renewable energy, which is leaps and bounds ahead of other countries. In addition, they have increased efficiency many times over, by using technologies such as district heating. They have a carbon tax, and have invested heavily in re-thinking their transport system (very bicycle friendly, great public transport, and guess what...people enjoy walking!).
  2. A growing number of citizens are buying food that has been made using the principles of agroecology. Forty percent of citizens do this. That might not seem like much, but that is vastly higher than the European average. They are pushing some great urban farming innovation, and they are protecting their pollinators (e.g. bees and butterflies).
  3. Vintage and small-scale fashion is trending. Citizens are preferring to buy from small, local providers, and second-hand clothing shops, than large mall-urchin chain stores. Generally, small business is much more aware and committed to looking after its neighbourhood than large chains.
  4. They are good at recycling (although in my observations, they still use a lot of one-use things, such as unnecessary packaging).
  5. They invest heavily in sustainability, resilience, and trans-disciplinary science. Many of the universities are doing some cutting-edge work. In fact, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, has led the work on the Planetary Boundaries, which has had a lot of momentum and is used globally in development planning.
There is much more, but I think I will stop there, and start enjoying the view of my last few hours travelling through Sweden. I think Sweden definitely has a lot to offer all of us as we work our way towards a more sustainable and resilient global society.

Photo Credit: David Wiggins