Sweden is awesome! Part One

So, for the record, I’m in Sweden for a few days, so frankly I have better things to do than blog! However, in the name of consistency, I will do my best…

I think environmental folk in the U.S. tend to paint Sweden in a very rosy light when it comes to sustainability, and I certainly am somewhat guilty of doing that. We go to IKEA and while we’re walking around a big box store, we’re still thinking about how impressive are the energy-saving lamps! And of course we also think Sweden = IKEA.

Sweden is not IKEA. It’s much cooler, actually. But like all places, there are issues and controversies. It is not a land of jolly do-gooders. Earlier this morning I was listening to a radio program in which people could call in and say basically whatever they wanted for half an hour. I don’t speak Swedish, so I had no idea what they were talking about, but my lovely hostess filled me in, and people were not calling in just to compliment emissions taxes.

Most buildings in the Swedish countryside are this red color because the stain is a mining by-product--plentiful and cheap. And now traditional, as well!

Most buildings in the Swedish countryside are this red color because the stain is a mining by-product–plentiful and cheap. And now traditional, as well!

However, that leads me to Thing #1 that is interesting/cool about Sweden. Yesterday we drove from Ludvika to Södertälje, which took about three hours. On the way, the topic of fuel efficiency came up, and my friend casually mentioned that her car has both a gas mileage rating and emissions rating. So when you buy a car in Sweden, you have two pieces of information about fuel/emissions/etc. In the U.S., you only have the theoretical gas mileage of a car, and that is often not a big factor.

One of the reasons this other number–emissions–matters is that Sweden gives some benefit to cars with lower emissions ratings. I think you can find these emissions ratings for cars sold in the States, but the difference is in the availability and display of information.

If that “one cool thing” about Sweden was too nerdy for you, then how about this: there is also an unofficial (but longstanding) law that says basically anyone can go anywhere, so it is okay to walk around (or camp in) forests and land even if you don’t own it! It seems that although there are occasionally problems with renegade berry picking immigrants (seriously), this is generally a respectful practice that most Swedish people wouldn’t want to see ended.

Check back for more on Wednesday!

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