Sustainable living in Sweden

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Maybe you have already heard (many times?) about how Sweden is the paradise for sustainability. The country commonly is at the top when it comes to sustainable practices and goals, and this was indeed one of the reasons why I decided to study here. Nevertheless, in my perception, our current global economic system is based on maintaining a lifestyle that could’t be more unsustainable: overconsumption is driving to the complete depletion of natural resources. In many aspects, while living in Sweden, I could really see its ambitions towards a more sustainable society, for example a lot of investments in developing new and green technologies, as well as better habits and incentives for societal transformation. Most of the waste produced here is recycled or used to produced energy. To do so, the system is extremely efficient and well stablished. When you live here it is way harder not to recicle then to recicle: everything is already in place for you to just follow the rules. In countries like mine it is the complete opposite, one really needs to go after of having a more sustainable living.

In Linköping you will separate all you trash: organic waste is put on this green bags.

Besides waste handling, other aspects of sustainable consumption can be diet choices and buying habits. Concerning diet, and more specifically meat consumption (once the production of meat is one of the main drivers of environmental damage), in Sweden you can find a no number of vegetarian/vegan options in the supermarket, it is really impressive all the substitutes they have made available here. Sweden is really trying in this way, I have been to many events where the only food options are vegetarian. Why not give people a hand in transitioning to less meat, right? Also, one thing I have noticed about eating vegetarian in Linköping for more than a year is that even if vegetables  are usually more expensive than in other countries, it is always cheaper than eating animal products. Always.

Some of the endless vegan options you will find here

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, I have found that buying habits in Sweden are maybe its biggest weakness. Here consumption in high, either clothes or furniture, swedes are amongst the biggest consumers in the world. However, at the same time, Sweden also has great options to escape this culture, such as buying second hand. Buying second hand is a big thing in this country, and I love it: it is more sustainable and you can find really great deals. I guess all societies have its contradictions and ways in which it could do better. Nevertheless, in Sweden sustainable living is really at the center of many discussions and you will find more opportunities than never to engage and experience it.

 

Images: google images.
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The courses of my second and third semester

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Last year I wrote a post about my first semester as a master student in the science for sustainable development programme at LiU, speaking a little about the courses I had and my impressions about them. Today I decided to do the same with the courses I had in my second and beginning of third semester, once this hasn’t been over yet. my general impressions about these two periods are very positive, I felt the topics addressed in those courses became more complex and elaborated, also demanding more from us students. At the same time, the mixture between social and natural sciences were sometimes confusing and overwhelming once we had to conduct both types of approaches in parallel. Nevertheless, I see the outcomes as very rewarding specially given the broad spectrum of content we have covered. Here are some commentaries about the three courses I had during this period:

Analytical Frameworks in Sustainability Studies

I really enjoyed this course because we had the opportunity of going deeper into social sciences analytical frameworks such as political ecology, resilience theory, global chain analysis, life-cycle analysis and degrowth, theoretical perspectives I had not so much structured knowledge about, but that are essential for a critical view over sustainable development. The classes usually consisted of a literature list, which gave a good basis about main concepts and ideas, followed by seminars and group discussions. Besides this part of the course, we had lab activities regarding analysis of soil contamination, which involved group work for the elaboration of a report. There was also secondary assignments involving GIS and life-cycle analysis. The final evaluation was an essay on a chosen topic that could be related to any of those discussed during the course.

Sustainable Resources Management

This course was for me sort of a continuation of one of the courses we had in the first semester, this time going deeper in some issues. We discussed water, soil, food and the nexus between such elements, usually following the same format of seminars and group discussions. There was also laboratory experiments related to biogas production, GIS assignments and field trips, which were very interesting since we visit the Swedish forestry and an organic farm near Linköping. The examination was based on two assignments related one to biogas and one to water, and a final paper that should address topics concerning resources management. I, for example, wrote about the aspects many related to organic agriculture. An interesting thing was we had to do a Pecha Kucha presentation about our paper (I had no ideia what it was before this course) which consists of five slides in five minutes, pretty challenge right?

                               

Designing Environmental Studies in Sustainable Development

The autumn semester started with a short yet very relevant course about methods concerning research design in environmental sciences. During approximately one month we covered topics such as interviews, focus groups, statistics and text analysis, including assignments related to such methodologies. The final examination included designing a research proposal, indicating the field of study, its relevance and how the research would be approached and conducted. I took this chance to already develop my thesis idea, and possibly it will serve as the basis for my studies in the final semester next year.

The rest of the third semester I am spending in an internship (which I will talk more about in another post) and developing research skills liked to qualitative methods I hope to apply for my thesis.

Now you guys can have sort of a complete overview of the masters in science for sustainable development. Hope I can help someone out there in their decision of pursuing a masters in this field. If you have any doubts just reach me out in the commentaries.

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All saint’s day in Sweden

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In Sweden, the all saint’s day is a national holiday, called Allhelgonahelgen. This day is celebrated worldwide in different forms., and maybe in your country there is a specific way of remembering this holy day with its roots in the catholic tradition. In Brazil it is also a national holiday, but i have to say, i don’t feel we celebrate that much, at least there is not a general consensus on how to do it, neither a national tradition in relation to this day. Well, in Sweden it does. During Allhelgonahelgen, that typically happens on the 1st of November in many places around the world, most Swedes take the day off to meet with their family, eat together and go to the cemetery to light candles and remember the loved ones that have been gone from this world.

      

      

I must confess I already have a especial attraction to cemeteries, nothing creepy, just like the quietness (obvious) and peaceful landscape, besides the sense of being in a place with a lot of history: imagine all the lives resting under your feet (maybe that ended up a little creepy, sorry). Nevertheless, I was kinda excited to go to the cemetery at night, and it was truly a beautiful experience. There was almost nothing but candles light all around. The complete darkness, although is was only 17 pm (cough, cough..it’s Sweden in November), among the trees and graves, made me feel like something special was happening in there. I enjoyed so much this day and how such ritual made me think and contemplate the dead, while watching swedes offering kinda of a memorial to those past lives. I felt here the cemetery is less of a taboo maybe, and definitely a experience worth to take.

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Fika, more than a word, a culture

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Fika is one of those things I have no idea how I managed to live most of my life without. if you have never been in Sweden and/or haven’t looked up anything about the country you probably also still live in the darkness of a world fikaless (I have just made this up). But truly, in Sweden fika is almost a entity and I bet it will be one of the first things you will go through once here. When I arrived in Linköping, someone spoke about the importance of fika and I didn’t quite understood, <<what is this fuzz everyone keeps talking about?>> I didn’t think it was that much big of a deal. Little I knew.

      

       

Straightforwardly, a simple definition of fika can be “a time in the day to stop what you are doing and have a conversation over some coffee and a sweet food”. But this is too simple. In my country we have this traditional break in the afternoon for coffee and bread, but it’s not the same. The point is that fika is a culture in itself, it’s a feeling, a concept, a state of mind, and maybe one will only fully understand it once experience it. What I like the most about fika is how it is a respected ritual, meaning everyone understands its importance and really engage in it, being kind of a moment which everyone is allowed (and even demanded) to enjoy. It is a break without excuses. A pause in everything you are doing, just to enjoy the simple and good things in life: people, food and, of course, coffee.

So if you are in Sweden, you will have fika. All. The. Time.

Usually it envolves the traditional cinnamon bun, but really it doesn’t matter much what is the food, fika is about time. Giving time to layback and enjoy the present moment. I feel like nothing matters when it’s time for fika, just to be there.

Excited for fika already? You should.

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Buying a bike: some tips to help you into this journey

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If you don’t know already, let me tell you: to have a bike (and to know how to ride it) is a absolutely must in Linköping. Not only you can mostly bike to all important places in the city, but this is the most important type of transportation chosen by students, I believe. Soon in your first weeks, if you don’t own I bike, you’ll start to feel as an outsider, someone on the margins of society. I am obviously exaggerating, but the truth is new students can get a little anxious in their search for a bike, so here are some tips i can give you for this that might be one of the first challenges you’ll face in your new town and way of life:

1.Don’t get anxious

As I said, axially can start to rise if you see the days goes by and you having to walk to the university while everyone cuts you off on their bike, it can look like you are the only one without wheels. That type of feeling can drive you to buy the first thing you find, so hold you feelings, it is best if do it with time and wisdom. Yes, it is good to have a bike and you definitely need it to have you stuff done around the city, but you will see a week or two won’t make that much of a difference once you got yours, what will make a difference is the quality of your choice. Here i can give you another tip, after the two first weeks when everyone who was desperate to buy a bike has bought one, I felt offers were better and more abundant. So take your time.

2.Give preference to second hand bikes

You will see you have many options where to buy a bike, including from new ones to used ones. Second hand bikes offers a better deal price-wise and are less prone to be stolen, and yes, bikes are stolen all the time in Linköping. If you will be in the city for just a year it can be even more interesting to not invest in an expensive bike. it is possible to buy a second hand bike directly from students or in second hand shops. The price for a used bike usually ranges between 500 to 1500kr, depending on the characteristics and conditions of the bike. Here are some shops you can look for one:

Hanaa Valla Cykelservice, Ulvåsavägen 10, tel. 013-13 06 40

Vide cykelservice, Videgatan 1, mob. 0707-72 92 96

Cykelmästaren, Götgatan 17,   tel. 013- 14 22 60

Amir Cykelaffär, Hertig Karlsgatan 14B, tel. 013- 12 81 12

Andreas Nyckel- och cykelservice, St. Larsgatan 15, mob.: 0707678144

Ryds Sko- och Nyckelservice, Ryds Centrum, tel. 013 – 17 66 90

Nellborgs Cykel, Stationsgatan 18, tel. 013 – 14 10 03

Besides those, you can use the facebook group of the student association ESN Linköping or ISA Linköping, there was where i got mine and i think usually is where it is possible to find the best deals.

3.Set your needs beforehand

You will need some basic and essential things in your bike, such as front and back lights (they are mandatory) and a functioning bell. Besides that, you have to chose if you want gears or not, if you need a basket, and which type of locker you will use. For what a learn, three gears are the minimal and ideal for Linköping, many don’t have gears, but I think it can help you a lot in your riding. The locker is also a important aspect, since you need to protect you new property, so it might be useful to invest in a good one, sometimes students selling their bikes already include this items and if you buy in a second hand store you might try to negotiate, just be smart.

My much loved bike

4.Try before you buy and be aware of scams

Always ask to see and try the bike out before you commit to buy. On the facebook group it is very common you arrange some time to meet the buyer to look at the bike and see if it fits your needs and check it condition, sometimes pictures can be misleading of the real situation of the bike. So try the bike out having some rounds around the block, it is not because it’s a good bike that it is good for you. Also, just know that scams happens, someone might try to sell a stolen bike to you or something that does not matches the asked price.

One last advice I could give is to buy a helmet, most students don’t use one, what doesn’t mean biking (especially in winter time) is not dangerous. You should also get winter tires around November, although they clean the bike lanes everyday, I discovered ice can sets itself pretty fast.

Just know you will make it in the end and soon will be biking everywhere. This is one of my favorite things about Linköping, I hope you will enjoy as well.

 

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