‘Leave a footprint, not a carbon footprint’

Nisha Thakur from Nepal, who is studying for her master’s in Mechanical Engineering at Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH), reflects on a recent trip to a waste management site and how it opened her eyes to more climate-friendly ways of dealing with waste.

'Leave a footprint, not a carbon footprint'
Photo: Nisha and her fellow students

Ever since I got news of my SI scholarship, I was so excited to learn more about Sweden, its culture and lifestyle. I had left no media unturned where I could find information about Sweden. From the dark winter to Systembolaget, I searched for all the information I could find. And then waste management in Sweden caught my attention. I got to know that Sweden recycles 99% of its waste which was the most fascinating fact for me as, in my country, waste management is a headache for the government because of the growing population, particularly in cities. Though for now, we are surviving on landfilling which is not sufficient to process waste so, I wondered, how is Sweden able to manage its waste?

On the very first day I came to live here in Karlskrona, I was given a waste separation brochure by my housing company. It was fascinating to see how they separate waste. The first thing I thought was 'wow!'. If we can separate them at the source level then almost 90% of problem will be solved. It’s just the matter of putting in a little effort and forming a regular habit. Indeed, it was not easy when this separation thing was launched but in due time people got used to it. And yes, it’s never late to adopt good habits!

We planned a trip to the Mältan, a waste management site in Tippvägen, on the north of Karlskrona as our yearly planned activity. On 15th November 2019, finally I got the chance to dig inside of the waste management thing. Avfall Sverige – the Swedish Waste Management Association which is owned by the municipality converts all the waste into resources in Sweden. We were given a remarkable presentation by Robert Malmgren, who is a product manager at the company, regarding how the company actually makes efforts to keep Karlskrona clean and green.

The site of Mältan is more like a collection center where the waste from the town is collected and kept separately and transported to recycling centers of Kalmar or Malmö for further processing. Robert explained that the waste is kept in a shaded area so that it won’t get rained on (which makes it heavy and can damage it) and they won’t have to incur losses in terms of transporting something which is not of the exact weight. In addition, we made a short walk to their landfill area where they are currently doing landfill — this collection of landfill in sacks was also a new thing for me. He explained that they pack the waste in sacks so that it won’t cause land and water pollution. And the place will be safer in future as well. He explained that although they have an incineration plant, they are not allowed to burn anything except wood as it will affect the houses near the surrounding.

All the producers, consumers, households, businesses and municipalities are responsible for eliminating waste and managing waste. It is not only the responsibility of the government to manage waste from the producer to the consumer — all households are responsible for waste management. We got insights regarding waste hierarchy, something which I have never heard before i.e. waste prevention, reuse, material recycling and biological treatment, energy recovery and disposal. This value chain must be followed everywhere to prevent the world turning into a dumping site and stop the effects of global warming. Isn’t this a thing to consider before we produce any more waste?


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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.