5 easy things you can do today to be more sustainable

Moving to another country often changes the way we see things. If you're living in Sweden with its omnipresent recycling bins, you might have realised that the stereotype of the environmentally-friendly Swede isn’t actually just a stereotype. And this might have convinced you to change your daily habits.

5 easy things you can do today to be more sustainable
Photo: KateNovikova/Depositphotos

After all, the UN has warned that we now have only 12 years to prevent climate change catastrophe from happening. So, better pick up some new sustainable habits sooner rather than later. Swedes prove it every day: leading a more conscious lifestyle doesn’t have to be cumbersome, it just takes a little practice.

Here are five simple things you can do today to make a change for a sustainable future.

Get a reusable takeaway cup

Swedes are among the world’s biggest coffee consumers. You might have become a big fan of the beverage yourself, but while it would be nice to have time to sip coffee while having fika in a lovely café every day, sometimes you only have time to grab a drink to-go.

Takeaway cups sold in stores or at coffee shops are hard to recycle because of the extra layer of polyethylene, a form of plastic which makes the cup waterproof. This extra layer of plastic can’t be separated for recycling, so the cup often ends up not being recycled at all.

Switching to a reusable mug made out of bamboo or some other recyclable material is a great solution. Also, some shops offer a discount if you bring your own cup, so it will pay for itself in no time.

Skip the plastic

Plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic packaging. Plastic is everywhere. Since it takes 500 (or more) years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill, this is not good news.

Get a tote bag (they’re often given out for free as advertising material), and you’ll never need to buy a plastic bag to carry your shopping back home again. The same applies to plastic bottles. Just throw a reusable bottle and a tote bag in your everyday backpack, and you’ll save money on unnecessary plastic every day.

Unplug your devices

This tip is probably the simplest, yet so easy to forget. Unplug your phone or your laptop when you aren't using them or when they’re fully charged. Not only will this decrease your energy consumption, you will also avoid ruining the battery of your devices.

Resell or recycle your worn-out clothes

When you realise your T-shirt has one hole too many, you might be tempted to throw it away. Don’t! Many big clothing companies, such as H&M, accept worn-out clothes. Just bring your old clothes into a store and they will be turned into other products, such as cleaning cloths or textile fibres. And you’ll often get rewarded with a voucher.

Even better, next time you go on a shopping spree, head to a second-hand store such as Stadsmission, which operates all around Sweden. You might need to dig a little, but you're sure to find some hidden gems.

Use microfiber cloths

Another deceptively simple tip is to get microfiber cloths instead of paper towels. You can clean your room, dust your bookshelf or rinse your dishes with the handy material.

Just put them in your load of washing next time you’ve booked yourself a trip to the tvättstuga. It’s that easy.

See, being sustainable isn’t so hard, is it?


Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.