Eco-life in Sweden. River rafting, a recycling challenge and 10 kilos of organic meat.

Nature, needless to say, is a reason for many people to visit Sweden. Getting a first-hand experience of stunning landscapes is one of the main attractions of going to Sweden and local entrepreneurs have been quick to realize this. There is now a plethora of trip organizers profiting from this latest trend in eco-tourism, not only giving you a chance to see nature itself but also the creatures inhabiting it – lobsters, wolves, bears and so on. Thanks to a portal, there is now a single place where you can plan and book your nature trip – all over Sweden!

The ecological environment, as has been shown on Explore West Sweden before, is very important to Swedes. Says Daria, 29, from California:

Going river rafting was an excellent way of getting to see the calm, almost meditative, nature of Sweden while at the same time being active. Another very good reason to go is that it gets you closer to understanding Swedes: they actually sleep outdoors a lot, go trekking and fish their own lobster and realizing how deeply rooted these experiences are in the population’s mind was useful in the more urban part of my trip as well.

One thing about the omnipresent nature and the produce coming out of it, is that Swedes are being taught from an early age to be responsible and take good care of the “treasures” surrounding them. Household trash cans are normally equipped with at least three different sections: organic waste, paper/cardboard and miscellaneous trash. Every apartment block is supposed to have an additional recycling station where you can leave glass, electronics and bigger items. This is the lowest recycling standard, but lately regional authorities have decided to step it up a notch. In an ambitious project called Leva Livet (“Live Life”), the City of Gothenburg has challenged three local celebrities and eight families to change their recycling and consumption habits over one year, while at the same time encouraging others to join in the competition. Divided into seven different challenges, the participants are incentivized to change their patterns. The test is available in English here.

If you spend some time in West Sweden, you’re bound to discover another peculiar thing about the consumption habits; a lot of the grocery shopping is done outside of the actual grocery store. There’s a plethora of farms, suppliers and stores delivering food to your door, each with their own marketing approach. Linas matkasse  and Middagsfrid, at the more commercial end of the spectrum, are directing their marketing towards busy big-city people as part of a global trend of facilitating for people leading a hectic urban life. Why spend hours a week waiting in line when you can just get the stuff delivered? This concept, however well rooted in the American society, is fairly new to Swedes. There are however other, more small-scale actors using this convenience trend to promote and expand the sale of organic food. Smaller producers and farms that previously exclusively had to go through one of Sweden’s big retail chains, can now deliver straight to the consumer’s door, thanks to an eco-trend and the virtues of the Internet.

When visiting Sweden, EWS has realized, on a couple of occasions, that friends and acquaintances for example have a lot of interesting animal parts in their fridges and freezers. When opening a fridge outside of Gothenburg:

–       Hey David, what’s this?

–       That? Oh, just my lamb shoulder for tomorrow’s lunch.

–       And what’s this plastic bag on the bottom shelf?

–       Hrmpf, the marrow bones for the stock of course. Do you think I buy premade stock cubes like some kind of clown?

The reason for the meat lying around in West Swedes’ fridges, is the peak of the region’s slow food movement: organic meat delivered straight from the farm. For between 1,000 – 1,700 SEK (about $150-250), the very popular Gröna Gårdar (literally Green Farms) will send you an entire box of meat guaranteed to come from local animals, fed and bred in a slow and friendly manner. A box can feed an entire family for weeks and every animal has a pedigree, meaning that you can basically track its life cycle and find out where and how it lived.

Of course meat is not the only ecological produce available: Ekolådan are specialized in delivering whatever fruit and vegetable you can find and many suppliers can get you organic everything: Hedenborgs have for instance been delivering everything from soap to glögg to West Swedish households for decades.

This trend to buy organic food is nothing exclusive to foodies; a movement towards a more authentic lifestyle has been dominating Swedish society over the last decade, and the way you consume your food is a very useful signaling tool to show others how enlightened you are when it comes to environmental matters; perhaps even more so than your recycling habits. This applies not only to an elite clique of early adopters, but to people from all social groups, incomes and geographical areas. As shown by the boom in eco-tourism, Swedish nature is rich and generous and people want to live as close to it as possible. The locavore movement, regarded in the US as something progressive, is in Sweden so commonly accepted that it’s barely talked about. This does of course also mean that communities come together and grow their own food in an almost-commercial scale, as opposed to only ordering from bigger farms. In and around Gothenburg, there are many groups such as Tillsammansodlingen combining their harvesting efforts and selling the surplus vegetables in local markets.

Accordingly, in Sweden everything is supposed to be slow, organic and authentic. Real men bake sour dough bread that takes a month to complete and real women make rowanberry jam with berries from their neighborhood.

When in Sweden make sure that food products have a “KRAV”-tag . This brand has been around since the birth of the organic movement and certifies what can be called “ecological” in Sweden.

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  1. Pingback: Bedtime Reading- November 2011 ~Xmas Special~ | Little House In Town

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