Reflections from a conference on sustainable lifestyles

Monday, 26 November, 2018

Jenny Lagergren, Project Manager at Swedish Life Cycle Center gives her reflections from the conference Hållbara livsstilar, November 14-15, 2018.

“What is a sustainable lifestyle and what drives us to choose more environmental friendly products instead of conventional ones? How do we create driving forces for consumers to do so? What are the behavioral patterns behind a choice? Those were some of the complex and interesting questions that we aimed to get an answer to at the conference Hållbara livsstilar initiated by The Swedish Consumer Agency, Mistra Sustainable Future and Karlstad municipality. Not only, the conference was a great forum for discussions together with other professionals within the sphere of environmental and social responsibility, but also a great way to fill the pocket with good substantial examples and ideas for the future.

Visual interpretation: Fair booth with table, folders, roll-ups by Swedish Life Cycle Center

I had the honor to be the representative from Swedish Life Cycle Center, to spread the word about the life cycle perspective and to join workshops. I had the opportunity to meet local policy makers, scientists on behavioral patterns and society, creative artists, decision makers and all types of change makers, working in the same direction – towards the global sustainability goals.

At the Circular Innovation workshop, led by Tobias Jansson, we learned and discussed ways to approach a society designed to recreate value – a circular economy. What sort of technical components should be captured and preserved, and what does a circular city look like? Examples of key solutions presented were access in contrast to ownership, and industrial symbiosis where waste from one actor is a valuable asset for another in an extended lifespan. Furthermore, political steering instrument was a topic as well as changed behavior and thinking from top down as well as bottom up.

At the Driving forces workshop, led by KTH, the Schwartz Theory of Values Model was presented, and we had the chance to dig into ways of reaching out to the different types of personalities, meeting their needs and reality to better understand the underlying process of making sustainable choices happen.

 

“Some speakers suggested to go from words on a paper to real action — beyond the pilot phase.”

 

The broad spectrum of speakers gave an overall view of the challenges to meet the sustainable development goals, with main focus on goal no 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production. The program covered good examples as well as critical voices against the slow development. Some suggested policy makers to look away from the heavy pile of documents at their desktop and other were pointing at the importance of applying science in business, or maybe more accurate – to go from words on a paper to real action, beyond the pilot phase.

There were also plenty of good examples, where organizations have walked from theory to action. ICA Sweden AB has decided to be climate neutral by 2020 and Emelie Hansson, Sustainability Strategist at ICA, presented ICA’s work toward a sustainable food market. By setting goals through Science based targets they manage to cover the whole scope of environmental impacts, in the entire value chain from material to final consumer.

Rebecca Palosaari Foglar, Head of Sustainable Development at Gothenburg municipality, talked about the importance for consumers to go from information receivers to being participants in the process, and also for policy makers to create opportunities for business, civil society and academy to meet and translate great ideas into action.

Two full days of presentations and workshops gave a lot to digest. The impressions that I bring home are full of inspiration but also buried with dark clouds. I am glad that there are platforms like this where we can come together to make things happen; with various kinds of actors and various kinds of challenges, where one question can be the answer of another question.

What bothers me is that all participants of this event were people that already know what sustainable choices are all about. To make a further impact, the goals need to be addressed where they create most value, where the hotspots of environmental challenges are – outside the walls of a sustainable lifestyles conference. I think it is time to pick the fruits of knowledge and go from thinking to action!”

 

Text & photo: Jenny Lagergren