Nothing beats the feeling of fulfilling a personal goal while also supporting sustainable development, says Madelene Eklund, 38, who sold her car and now rides 16 km on her electric bike everyday. A break from exhaustion in her career lead to a strong realisation about what direction the world has taken, and led to a newfound passion for sustainability and going back to university.
Climate change has a different meaning for me, because I have a daughter. With current measures that are happening today, we’re heading for 3 degrees of warming. I only recently realised that just a few degrees can make an enormous and quite scary difference. I hope that does not happen, and luckily I see many positive signs that things are starting to change for a better direction.
I’m motivated to contribute to change for the sake of my daughter. I would really just want her to have access to a world just as beautiful as the one I grew up in. It’s not only climate change, but so many other things like plastic pollution and eutrophication of our Baltic sea. If we don’t manage to start turning these things around, I’ll feel very sorry for my daughter.
We’re so busy stressing around that we often don’t have time to reflect on what really matters. I’m 38 years old, and so many people that I know have had some more or less serious form of burnout in their mid 30s. It’s the job, the family, the building of the house…
I’m an engineer and product developer, and I’ve worked as a consultant specialising in plastic constructions. It wasn’t until about a year ago when I got some time off work, due to being overworked, that I had the headspace to start reflecting on sustainability. That pause was so valuable, and it led me to really question what we are doing to our planet. I had the chance to really sit down and read interesting books. The one that made the largest impression was called “History of the bees”. Now I’m studying for a master’s degree in Sustainable Development at Uppsala University.
During my work as a consultant, I had to be representable for client meetings and because my office did not provide showers, I could not arrive sweaty to work after a cycle ride. Instead, I sat behind the wheel of my car, sometimes having to commute longer distances. No wonder we get burnt out when we spend two hours of our day stuck in traffic, sitting still.
I’ve wanted to start cycling for a long time, but it wasn’t until 6 month’s ago when I finally bought an electric bike. The bike really signifies reaching a goal for me. It just feels so much better to commute daily by bike compared to by car. It also signifies trying to do my part to make a better world, and it just feels so good physically and mentally everyday when I get on the bike.
Our family still has one car, but not two as before and I’m trying to talk my partner into getting an electric bike too. We’re also considering switching the one car for an electric car, or just joining a car pooling scheme.
After returning to work after my break and before my master’s started, I started really engaging in what my company could do to promote sustainability. I really reflected on what the responsibility of each of us is, when it comes to what kind of world our work contributes to making. I spoke to the Head of Technology at our company, and I got some things started. Now everyone is talking about sustainability, but to be honest we’re still not quite sure exactly what we need to do. Should we concentrate on climate emissions of products? Should we aim for durable products or maybe put all our efforts into making biodegradable plastics? I realised these questions were so complex, and that’s one reason I applied to do a master’s degree.
I also realised that for companies there are still many opportunities to turn sustainability practices into a business opportunity. In the long run, I am aware that we can’t just look at the sustainable solutions where there’s business and money, but for organisations that are completely new to considering sustainability aspects beyond the law, it’s a very good place to get things started.
There are so many examples of negative trends just having an exponential impact very quickly, war being the worst example. But I really believe that the opposite can be true for positive things! If we all start acting with our little things that end up influencing larger decision making in society, the effect can rapidly become exponential!
1. If you live in Sweden, take use of government grants for both electric bikes and solar panels to put on your roof!
2. Cut down on beef consumption, even just buying minced meat from pork rather than beef has an impact.
3. Create energy saving habits for yourself and teach them to the younger one’s! For example, don’t keep the water running when you brush your teeth, make sure you have a good place to dry laundry in the air to avoid the tumble dryer and when you cook, don’t boil more water than you actually need!
Consumption (pink): Nowadays the only stuff I buy is for gardening. I have really realised that we don’t need a new dress for every event! There’s also a shopping centre in Eskiltuna dedicated entirely to reused products, that I really like.
Food (yellow): I'm eat vegetarian lunches and rarely cook beef for the family. Sometimes we eat vegetarian with the family, sometimes chicken and every now and then minced meat.
Flying (light green): last year we went to the Canary Islands for vacation, and that really shows in my donut. But for the next year I don’t have any flying planned! I’ll also be avoiding other wasteful aspects of tourism, like buffet tables...Maybe we’ll go skiing in Sweden for our next holiday?
Electricity (dark red) and heating (red): I was not as environmentally conscious as I am now when we built our house, but I am proud that our house is quite small, not larger than we need for 3 people. We also designed it to be very energy efficient! We use only LED lights and we are hoping to install solar panels on our rooftop.
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Felicia works for a cleaner energy system as an analyst at BloombergNEF. In her spare time, she loves dancing and slow travelling.