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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Save CEMUS!

As I wrote before I'm taking a course at CEMUS this autumn. CEMUS is a student initiative in Uppsala University that is concentrating on courses about sustainability issues. I can't stress enough how inspiring and good my course in Global Economy has been so far at this department. It is so refreshing to have different professors every time and students from all departments in the same room and I hope all CEMUS courses are just as inspiring.

Unfortunately the faculty which CEMUS is under has decided to cut the budget with 5% all in all, but the CEMUS department's budget is cut with a whole of 35%. That's not fair! Some of my course mates that are in taking the whole master in sustainable development at this department are working hard to change the mind of the decision makers.

Please help them by signing the petition here and please spread the word!

Pic taken on my way to the course last week.

The Value of Nothing

One of our coursebooks right now is Raj Patel's, The Value of Nothing, the title coming from Oscar Wilde's quote:

"Nowadays people know the price of everything but the value of nothing."




Even if you haven't read economics I think it can be a good read if you are interested in why things cost what they do.

On Monday in class we had a debate on if pricing nature is the best way to protect it, it's a difficult question! Perhaps we don't need to price it, but what we do need is to value it? However, how do you give something a value in economic terms if you don't give a price to it? Perhaps it is necessary to price nature in some instances, for example when making decisions on to exploit an area or not, if the true cost of exploiting can be seen perhaps a better decision is made. I think this is what the TEEB initative, that I wrote about before, is working on for example. On the other hand, it could be that there is always somebody willing to pay the price and would exploit anyway?

In economics it's usually scarce resources that will get a higher price, a high price on nature could maybe regulate the exploitation, but would it be practically feasible and would it make any sence? When you pay for water do you use it more carefully or how high would the price have to go until you value every drop of it?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SWOT Analysis

This weeks CTWW challenge is to do a SWOT analysis regarding your green living. This was quite difficult so I looked into Green-Steve's blog for some inspiration.

My Strengths:
  • Knowledge. Through this blog, my master and my interest in finding out more on the green subject, I have gathered quite a lot of knowledge about green living. There is of course always time for improvement and learning even more. I agree with Steve that the blog acts as a reference on green issues and for me also as a constant reminder not to slack on these things.  Additionally, the more you learn the more you realize that the option that seemed most environmentally friendly at first glance might not be so (see Steve's point number 3 on electric cars)
  • I rarely eat meat nowadays, I do eat it but I try to avoid it. However, sometimes I wish the meat-less options in restaurants were better and more, not that we eat out very often. I also try to lessen my dairy intake, which is why I'd prefer to learn how to make my own green juices instead of smoothies.
  • I've also stopped shopping so much, I try to keep the shopping to what I need and try to look for environmentally friendly options, like organic, fair-trade etc. 
  • We are fairly good at recycling, except for one weak point: plastic packaging!
  • I think we have become better in saving energy during the year, no appliances are on unless in use and lamps are off when not needed. I usually also plan it so that when I take the car we do several errands in the same go.
  • We have also lessen our food-waste to almost nothing
My Weaknesses:
  • I agree with Steve that the periods when I am busier, the lack of time makes me make less environmentally friendly choices. That's why I'm all for a society with less stress.
  • As Steve stated "not having a meat-eating pet" as a strength, I guess me having a dog is a weakness. Although, he does eat some scraps of us and I think it is a bit unfair to include innocent animals in this. Yes, I'm very much weak for animals and especially this one:
  • Technology use. I have to use my laptop for school but I do idle by it way too much. I also have a smart-phone which is not all that environmentally friendly but my excuse it that I bought it before I became such a environment-nerd.
  • Country-side living. We live on the country-side which according to some is not environmentally friendly, however, I've read different takes on that. In any case, we are dependent on the car, even if I take the bus to my lessons it's about 5-6 km to get to the bus stop, which is fine biking in the summer but not so much in the winter. Good news is that I only need to go to school an average of two-three times a week and my husband works from home. It wasn't really our first choice either to move here but as we couldn't find anything else when we needed to move, it is what it is. Now we are fine here for another year until I graduate and I would very much not like to move for such a short period of time until we know what happens after that.
  • As I said under Strengths, we could recycle plastic better.
  • I should give much more feedback to restaurants, stores and politicians when I see things that I don't agree with. I just always feel so embarrassed to trouble them, however they should be serving me not the other way around
Opportunities:
  • Well I do hope that when I graduate we have the opportunity to organize our life in an even more environmentally friendly way. Let's see how that goes...
  • I'm trying to get the most out of my study-life, there are heaps of opportunities in Uppsala. Like the CEMUS courses -one of which I'm taking now-, the transition town group and we have also just started a local group for sustainergies -a group working to connect students and companies when it comes to sustainability issues. I hope to write more about that another day. Also joining all seminars and lectures I can on sustainability issues.
Threats:
  • I agree with Steve that pressure from friend's in certain situations might push me to act in a less environmentally friendly way. I have to become stronger in standing my ground.
  • Perhaps the financial point that Steve points out could also be a threat if we would suddenly have to cut costs: it is not necessarily so that we can afford organic. However, a lot of green living does save you money as well (less shopping, less energy use, own food-garden).
Action Plan:
  • We can of course try to live as environmentally friendly as possible all in this system but I see it more and more as such that it is only to a certain degree we can act on our own. So what we need is for the system to change. So, I will definitely try to be much more open about that and give feedback to different institutions and share my views. Additionally I will also keep learning and correct things when I find we are still not as environmentally friendly as we could be.

Living without the supermarket

Remember the challenges about local food and avoiding the supermarket? This guy has avoided shopping in a grocery store for a whole year! I can't but admire that, his blog is now in my google-reader. He is now also nominated to the yearly Environmental Hero award in Sweden. You can vote here until October.

On Reduce Footprints blog is some more tips from the CTWW (Change the World Wednesday) gang from the challenge.

Picture from the blog Husfadern.

Green Juices

My new favorite place to go before class is MoeJoe's Juicebar in Uppsala. Their juices are awesome and gives me just the energi I need for my evening lessons. The rest of their menu I haven't tried and I'm not too convinced about it, but the juices are just perfect! A big minus though as they always serve them in plastic cups even if you don't take them to go, neither am I sure that the fruit is organic but at least it's real fruit.

I've been thinking for long though that I should learn to make my own "green" juices for breakfast but I never seem to have the ingredients at home and it feels more difficult to start experiencing with mixing carrots and stuff than with smoothies. I'm an expert in doing smoothies but I always follow the same base recipe of milk, yoghurt, banana and then I add whichever berries or fruit we have at home. It's easy and safe (it always turn out drinkable).

So help me out here. What is a good "base" for a green juice, ingredients always to have at home and which recipe is your favorite one for a green juice?

Maggie shared one of her recipes (in Swedish) some time ago, it's still on my to-do list to try it!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Join Blog Action Day 2012

If any of you have followed my blog for a bit longer you might remember that last year I participated in Blog Action Day. The theme last year was food, this blog was still quite young and I kind of jumped in in the last minute which is why I wrote about GMO which I had read quite a lot about around then. This year Blog Action Day is on 15th October and the theme will be "The Power of We". I haven't yet decided exactly what my blog post will discuss this year, but there are heaps of initiatives around the globe where people are working together and achieving amazing stuff, so I might focus on something like that.

photo courtesy of Greenpeace which is partnering with Blog Action Day

If you have a good idea up your sleeve and a blog, do join! If you just want to check out different blogs and their posts on Blog Action Day you can see the list of participants here. Additionally, if there is something you'd like me to write about, feel free to give suggestions!




Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We Can Do It!

Found this video from here, I though it was relevant as I just asked if you are optimists or pessimists a few posts ago. This guy argues is doesn't matter as long as we are determined to get trough the challenges.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Anthropocene

As we as humans are altering the earth and making an geological impact ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer has found it so significant he gave a name to this "geological age". Read more on Wikipedia.




Welcome to the Anthropocene from WelcomeAnthropocene on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Are you an optimist or pessimist?

Had the opportunity in the course I'm taking to go to a lecture with Alan Atkisson who works (among other things) as a consultant on sustainable developement. The lecture was called " an introduction to sustainable developement or why time is short".

Alan's definition of sustainable: "If we keep doing what we're doing we can keep doing what we're doing."

I think most of us agree that if we keep doing "business as usual" on this planet it is not very sustainable.

I can't say that the lecture brought that much new perspectives to me though, perhaps I've heard a bit too many times lately about our challenges for the future, but it was quite nice hearing his talk anyway as he's very skilled in retorics and fun. However, everyday it's not fun to hear and think about possible harsh futures and on Monday evening I was tired and the lecture left me feeling a quite depressed. On which side are you? Are you optimistic about the future or pessimistic? For me it goes up and down. I think we have solutions for some problems, but for example the energey question I see as really challenging as we are so dependent on fossil fuels and changing a big infrasturcture like that takes energy and effort and time (which we might not have).  Another thing that makes me huuuugely depressive is the current extinction rate. Biodiversity is so much more important than we think for ecosystem services (for example the bees' pollination). However, as we don't have the resources to save all the species scientists are now enlisting the species that might be more important to us to put more effort into saving those. However, I agree with Simon Stuart in the end of the article and I think it in general would be just sad if we lose any more species.

"All species have a value to nature and thus, in turn to us humans," said Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. "Although the value of some species may not appear obvious at first, all species in fact contribute in their way to the healthy functioning of the planet."

Back to Alan, he recommended this TED talk where one pessimist and one optimist are debating. Paul Gilding vs. Peter Diamandis:


 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

A problem in the current economy system is that it doesn't value nature, it considers nature to be infinite and therefore there is no price tag on it. However, nature's resources are finite and TEEB (the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity) is an initiative trying to raise awareness of the economic benefit nature is giving us, that we do not account for in the current systems. Here is a longer lecture (1 hour 30 min) with him for those interested in learning more.


There is some reporting standards that do try to include the value of nature into accounting, or usually you add costs for the carbon emissions or similar harm the company's activities cause. These are often referred to as "full cost accounting". The Global Reporting Initiative is one of these. However, we need to move away from the economic growth thinking on political level as well and put less importance to the GDP measure. There are already alternatives to GDP as well, like GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Transition and The Economics of Happiness

I forgot to tell you that I went to see a movie on Thursday at an event by Transition Uppsala. Transition Uppsala is based on the transition network organization that I wrote about before here. Is your town involved in transition yet? It seems this idea is spreading pretty fast and I was suprised and happy to see that there is a group working on this in Uppsala as well.

Here's a short movie explaining more about trainsition network:


Back to the movie that we saw, it was called "the Economics of Happiness" and it was trying to go into the subject of why our current economic system based on globalization and growth doesn't really make us happy. It was a good movie if you want to get an overview of our current economy based on globalization but if you already know about this subject it might not bring you so many new points.


On Education

I have posted a talk by Sir Ken Robinson before but I just think he's so funny and brilliant it's worth watching more from him.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Enjoy the weekend!

Beyonce's "I was here" song related to the UN campaign I tipped about in August.




P.S. It's "cleaning day" in Finland today, people organizing flea markets and garage sales all over. Check out if there is one close to you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Wedding Presents

Irene wrote in her Simple Living blog (in Swedish) about a couple of alternative ideas for wedding presents, like asking the guests to give money to charity instead of brining material gifts. A great idea she mentioned she had read in the Ikea Family magazine was about a pair who had asked the guests to bring their favorite book as a present. I wish I had read about this idea before our wedding! Both me and Stefan enjoy books (even if I don't read as much as I would like to) and it's quite a nice idea to have books that remind you of your friends and family.

However, perhaps it was better that we didn't ask for more books as our book shelf is already full. Theres defenitely a lot of books just waiting to be read or giving away to the next reader.

I think I already mentioned that we had asked for money for our honeymoon from our guests, which is also an idea but I thought I'd share with you a surprise gift that we got from my parents that all wedding guests enjoyed. It was a song-gift, a song made especially for us by a Tom Nyman, the "song-messenger". It was cool on many levels, a non-material gift, a very personal gift, a gift that all guests enjoyed and he had made the effort to make the text both in Swedish, English, Spanish and French so all the guests understood at least part of it. This should be a link to the text of our song-gift.

Thanks still once more to my parents for this one!



Tom Nyman presenting the gift. Picture by our photographer John Grönvall.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Peak Oil and Economy


Found these movies on Cruel Crude's blog (in Swedish), they are all made by the Post Carbon Institute and all of them touch pretty much the subjects we were speaking about in class yesterday. How fossil fuel uses, economic growth and politics are all entervened. Basically the formula for economic growth has worked well as we have had cheap oil, however, as the oil and other resources on the planet are finite, it is not a reasonable option for a future economy. So the sooner we start preparing for a transition, the better. It's just a shame the politicians seems to be stuck still in a fossil fuel world and economical growth thinking! Here's the short version:


Here's the little bit longer version and a historical background of fossil fuels:


However, if you want to learn more about the subject and why there probably not is a cheap alterntive to oil to keep the economy and our lifestyle up and running in the future (in any case it is not ecologically sound either to keep using resources as we are). I think this longer video (30 min) might be worth looking at. 



P.S. did you remember it's no make-up day today? I've been at home all day so even if I forgot, I haven't had any make-up on, convenient!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Local Food

The CTWW challenge for this week is to make a plan on how to eat local food during winter. This is surely not an easy challenge living in the Nordics. However it also depends on how you define local. Is local only food from your backyard or can local be carrots from South Europe during the winter months? Read more in my previous post about local food.

Naturally, it is best to eat what's in season in the area you define as local and store things you can. We've picked some berries and put them in the freezer but otherwise we have not stored more food for this winter, not that our freezer would fit much more anyway. I also made some plum marmalade but we are not gonna eat only berries and plum-jam half a year of course. Some pages that help me know what's in season though are these two ( in Swedish though):

Seasonal food
Skogsskafferiet

It's good to base the food you eat on what's in season because then, even if they are shipped a bit, they are not shipped as far. I wish I was more active in trying to find stuff that we can eat from the forest though, but there's a time for everything and for now I'm sticking to the berries and mushrooms I know are edible.

If we lived closer to the city I'd consider signing up for a company that sends you the week's food to your door, complete with recipes and instructions. In Sweden there are quite a few companies like that, offering seasonal, Eco and even vegetarian options. I've seen that some companies also offer a weekly fruit and vegetable box in case you are not interested in receiving a complete menu. Plus points with these are that you save time not having to plan your shopping and you know you will get a reasonably Eco-friendly option, hopefully there is less food waste as well as someone has planned how much you should eat during a week.

Here are some of them (I haven't tried them so I can't say if they are any good):

Årstiderna
Middagsfrid
Ecoviva

And one in Finland:

Middag

Joining a food circle is a good option too. I know a friend of mine has joined this one in Helsinki. I haven't encountered any food circles around were we live right now though but I know there is supposed to be a shop on a farm somewhere relatively close, need to investigate that more. I'm afraid it might be the meat farm we are passing by sometimes and as this challenge is to avoid meat it doesn't count.

Otherwise our best option is to continue to go to as many farmer's markets as we can during autumn and get onions and potatoes and things that doesn't go bad too quickly.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Do Something!

I'm taking a course at CEMUS this autumn and just came back from the inspiring kick-off panel-discussion. It was a discussion with the two founders of CEMUS, Niclas Hällström and Magnus Tuvendal. CEMUS is a student initiative and 20 years ago these were the two students at Uppsala University who said to their professors "this is the kind of courses we want; interdiscplinary courses and courses that acctually touch the subjects of the big challenges we have ahead". Already that is a big inspiration, that they managed to get trough their wishes in an old, traditional University where they felt every institution focused only on themselves and the their subject.
 


We talked a little bit about how the first priority of Universities should be to educate people so that they don't use their knowledge in a bad way once they have graduated. What is meant by this? Well, the sad truth is that a lot of  people with degree titles are the ones creating most damage to the planet. People in politics often have law degrees or similar higher degrees but seem to forget the state of the planet when they are taking decisions.

Here's a nice quote by Stephen H. Schneider, Ph.D. at Stanford University. Apparently he was a great lecturer when it came to climate change issues (if you are interested you can see some videos of him speaking and other material here).

"Just because we scientists have Ph.D.'s we should not hang up our citizenship at the door of a public meeting."   - Steve

So what degree do you have? And how do you use it to make a better planet? I'm quoting Niclas Hällström now (how I remember his words): "Trust your gut-feeling. Have a healthy lack of respect for authority. The values they are reflecting upon us are not always the right ones".


So how do we change policies made by people who don't seem to be very keen on it? Well, remember that all big social changes in history have come from below, not the top.

This is an important lesson that came up in the debate; don't underestimate what you can do RIGHT NOW. Don't sit back and think I will do something once I finished this degree, or after this job, or after having a course on climate change or whatever. I can relate to what they were saying about that a little bit. That it is difficult to know what to do with the scary facts about the state of the planet and it's easy to get paralysed. Our systems are complex and our focus on money-value is not easy to change. So you wait and think that the degree will give you some answers to that and some tools to work with. The truth is that we all know already about something we can do and there's no better time to start than now! 

It's a fact that climate change is happening, it's by this time irriversible and the effects will probably come sooner (and be worse?) than we are prepared for. However, instead of letting this depress us, it's a great opportunity for us to change things for the better. So do something good for the planet and allow yourself to feel good about it! Even better when we do things togheter, in groups, in communities etc. because it's a rewarding project creating co-value.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Flowers

Look how nice flowers I got from my summerjob yesterday as it was my last day.


So what have I been doing all summer? I've been doing some administrative work related to the EU chemical law REACH for a company in the medical industry. Nor chemicals nor law is my area but as it was administrative work it was not a problem. It was interesting to work for a health and environmental team in a company and I did learn a bit more about chemicals which might be useful one day.

The REACH law does create quite a lot of administrative work for companies but in general I think it's good that it regulates and hopefully little by little forbid chemicals that are dangerous. From a company point of view it's good that the law is inforced in steps so that they have time to substitute the chemicals that will be forbidden before they are. On ECHA's (European Chemical Agency) website you can find more information on REACH.

On Food Waste

Maggie posted yesterday a post (in Swedish) about how much food we are throwing away in the world, which is up to 30-50%! The food waste is created all along the supply chain but it's a fact that a lot is thrown also in the households.

It's about a year ago I wrote the Don't Throw Away Food! post and I think in our little family we have succeeded in lessening the food waste a lot during the year. I'm super proud of that and I've learned that when you think that you have nothing to cook with it's almost always not true. I've also come to enjoy experimenting with cooking new things from left-overs and from what can be found in the cupboards.

What works for us:

-planning 4-5 days meals and shop for that. A whole week ahead is a bit too much for us and I've realized that usually when I plan four days ahead the food lasts sometimes the whole week anyway because we eat left-overs for lunch or unexpectedly eat out one night or similar. On the weekend we have also more time to check what is left from the week and cook with that and if we need the odd thing from the shop we can do the next weeks shopping at the same time

-Remember that recipes don't need to be followed as described. Almost everything can be replaced (try google if you want advice on what to replace an ingredient with)!

-Best Before dates are also just a suggestion, most things can be eaten after that date. Try smelling and tasting before throwing stuff out!

-Don't be afraid to buy things that are almost out of date in the store. Try to use that for eating the same day or freeze it for few days. Whatever the shop doesn't sell of those products will be thrown out. Here some pics with "red note" products from a grocery store in Finland this summer. I got a bit overwhelmed by the whole aisle full of those (on the pics there only few),  but my friend who've worked in a store convinced me that people do buy it by the end of the day. I sure hope so!





-I have to also admit that our dog helps with some scraps whenever it is things he can eat. Meat is of course good dog food but also broccoli and carrot is things that are OK for dogs. Avoid for example onions and especially chocolate! Don't give too much and mixing it with the dog food is a good idea and lessen the amount of dog food accordingly.

-Last but not least, the food you throw away, compost it or throw it in the bin for food waste. (I think in Uppsala food waste is used as biofuel in buses).


Here is some good links for more ideas and recipes:

Leftoverchef
Love Food Hate Waste
Släng Inte Maten (Swedish site)
Släng Inte Maten no 2 (also Swedish)

I'll be back soon with a post on local food as well related to this weeks #CTWW challenge.