One year in Sweden has made me more sustainable
So last week my friend informed me about a sample sale of Happy Socks in Stockholm. I was super excited because I always wanted to have one of those cute colorful socks. When I was coming back from the sale, I realized that these socks were the first brand new piece of clothing that I had bought in about a year.
(not too colorful but I look like a panda!)
The first time I ever thought about buying new clothes was in one of our classes when our teacher brought up this fact that an average America buys 63 garments a year. That was just insane to me. That’s more than one garment a week. This consumer behavior has impacts, of course. Things are cheap only because we do not pay people who make it or value the resources that contribute to making it. The simple shirt needs cotton, water, dyes, some one to stitch it, and ships and trucks to transport it across the world. We impact the environment and people’s lives with every consumer decision we make.
John Oliver has also covered this topic on Last Week Tonight:
It’s not like someone in Sweden came and taught me this, I just never thought about these things back in India. But here, there are many people who think about and discuss sustainability. Not everyone of course, but it is something you find everywhere. It is difficult to imagine life without it.
As I highlighted earlier, I haven’t bought any new clothes the last 14 months or so. I have bought some second hand clothes and a friend also gave me some old clothes. The best part about second hand stuff is that because many many people in Sweden use it, there is a market for it and it is not taboo or looked as ‘poor’. I feel, most people respect a person who is sustainable by buying second hand clothes. The second hand clothes are in great condition too. I bought this second hand Ocsar Jacobson shirt for €15 while the new shirt costs something like €150, and it looks and feels amaazing! Another reason for this is that I feel comfortable wearing them, you know, it doesn’t hurt my conscience. I really feel uncomfortable these days using things that effect other people’s lives adversely, or ruin some kids education. My friend showed me this webpage where one can research a lil bit about sustainability of brands.
Most of the electricity is Sweden comes from nuclear and hydro power. Sweden uses very little fossil fuels. In fact, there is a large debate currently going on about reducing nuclear power as well. One can also hear murmurs that hydro-power is also not great for the rivers and people making a livelihood from fishing. Sweden is way ahead of other countries in this regard, and what I love is that many Swedes want to push further and become even more sustainable.
I am doing a masters in the middle of the biggest city in Sweden. When I left India, I thought most of my classmates would be travelling to university by car and the rich kids would try to be all cool driving around in cars. I dunno why, but that’s what I had mind. I don’t think even one student in the entire university travels by car. Having a car in Stockholm is expensive. Anyway, most people use public transport or bicycle which is waay cooler 🙂
I have also started thinking about flying around in planes. This year I have already traveled to Lund, India and Germany. I am then going to Madrid and New York and San Francisco and Luleå. So I’ll contribute to 5-10 tons of CO2 emissions just with these travels. I dunno, some trips are required and some trips I can avoid or maybe travel by train. I am starting to think about these things and how I could make it less harmful for the environment.
8-10% of all food bought in groceries are organic. I don’t buy organic because it is too expensive for me right now. This market, though, is booming and there is significant growth. Most people, I have noticed, buy plastic bags at groceries stores. These can cost anywhere from 1 SEK to 5 SEK. I usually carry two cloth bags which I use to shop. Again, these are things I never thought about in India. I started doing using cloth bags here because it was too expensive, but now its become a habit. Also friends do not look at it as ‘cheap’ but more as sustainable.
You might have heard that 99% of all household garbage is recycled in Sweden. When I left India, I was thinking, arrgh this is going to be such a pain, sorting and throwing garbage in the right box every time. Actually, it wasn’t that hard and I picked up the habit quite fast. It’s nice cause I feel like every time I am throwing the cardboard box in the right bin, I am actually making my small contribution to saving the world. So that extra effort makes me feel good!
All in all, this is an important issue that we should be thinking more about. Stockholm School of Economics recently announced that it is redesigning its flagship bachelor’s program to integrate sustainability and to make it one of the pillars of the program.
Sweden has such a strong focus on clean air, clean water and having a close bond with nature. In Sweden, sustainability is a way of life.
Featured Image source: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se
Edit: Sweden has just announced that it plans to go completely fossil fuel free! Read more here.