WHAT SWEDES DO DIFFERENT

Ivan Lobanov, travel blogger, tells about trash power, fika dads, and lagom lifestyle


They eat meatballs, shop at IKEA, drink a lot of coffee, pay huge taxes, and have the most beautiful copper roofs. That is what I thought about Sweden before to get there. While some of that true, Sweden is beyond that, with a lot of experimental green ideas that make it a great place to live and work. I guess, among 25 countries I have been to, Sweden is above all of them in terms of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Here is why.

photo credit: @Ivan_lobanov

TRASH POWER


The notion of the circular economy can be described by the three R’s: reducing materials and waste, reusing products, and recycling materials. In 2018, Sweden, the home of eco-activist Greta Thunberg, made the circular economy a key governing policy in order to be the first fossil-fuel-free country. In today's Sweden, trash heats homes, powers buses, and fuels taxi fleets. Although it involves a complicated sorting system, Swedes have managed to divert most of their waste either into recycling and compost efforts or into incinerators rather than landfills.


According to Avfall Sverige, the Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association, less than 1 percent (!!!) of household waste in this Scandinavian country finds its way to landfills. I couldn’t have believed in it until I had a cup of tea with my Swedish friends Noah and Wilma in their house, located in the posh Östermalm area of Stockholm. Once we finished our Scandinavian 'five o'clock' they carefully split up the used tea bag: organic residuals went to compost pit while metal staples and paper tags were prepared for recycling.


At grocery stores, you may get the same green experience. In Stockholm, for instance, every single supermarket has a receptacle unit where the customers deposit bottles and cans and get a store credit. If that model were copied everywhere, homeless people would have a reasonable reward for picking up bottles and cans to redeem for food.


NOT TOO LITTLE. NOT TOO MUCH


Although the average net salary in Sweden is very high, the Swedes do not accept profusion and consider their way of living as modest. It is fine to wear secondhand clothes and not to have top-class cars and luxe flats. As they say, live lagom. It is a massive part of the culture in Sweden. It means “Not too little. Not too much. Just right.”

photo credit: @Ivan_lobanov

For Swedes, a lagom lifestyle is about taking charge and finding a balance to live a healthier, more sustainable, and cost-savvy life. The concept encourages an overarching balance across our lives, everything in moderation - in what we eat, what we wear, how we live, how we work.


FIKA DADS


Some areas of Stockholm are rife with 'latte dads,' or ‘fika dads’ — typically youngish, bearded men carrying their babies in slings or hanging out with their toddlers or meeting up at a coffee shop for fika (it’s like a coffee break). Even at the airport, there are restrooms for dads with babies.


The 'latte dads' is a direct result of Sweden's parental-leave policy, one of the most progressive in the world. The Swedish government says that parents of both sexes are entitled to 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave at about 80% of their salary (with a cap), plus bonus days for twins, and they must share — Swedish dads must take at least some of those 16 months. The days don't expire until the child is eight years old.


Of course, Sweden is not perfect in everything. Its citizens do pay a high tax rate to subsidize generous policies like this one, but it's a pretty conscious and sustainable example for the rest of the world to follow. Not too little. Not too much.


The Stockholm Subway is a gigantic art gallery that houses amazing artworks created from the 1950s through the 2000s.