Greetings from the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden

5 02 2010

Maud Olofsson, photo: Pawel FlatoDear Climate Pilots,

First of all I would like to thank you for participating in this exciting project. I enjoyed the interesting discussions we had sitting around Stokes’ dining room table in November. I really appreciated our conversation and to hear about your experiences as climate pilots.

As I understand it, you will now take on your fourth challenge; transports. As we talked about in November, there are a number of things one can do that will benefit both the climate and the wallet.

Whether you choose to use public transportation more often, practice the technique of eco-driving or start a car pool, I am sure you will be successful in lowering your impact regarding transportation.

I wish you all the best with your fourth challenge and I hope you will continue to make climate awareness part of you every day life. 

Kind regards,

Maud Olofsson
Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden


Looking Back, Looking Forward

1 02 2010

2010 is upon us. We’re well into our Climate Pilots program now, and with 3 of the 4 challenges under our belts, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned. Actually, I was reflecting on this as I drove home from work, while I “chained” my errands.  Although I’ve felt somewhat frustrated during the energy challenge (living in a condo somewhat limits our energy-use options), I realized that I do have the power to make many positive changes, and what’s more, I’m sticking to much of what we’ve learned through Climate Pilots.

For instance, it’s second nature to me to run my errands in a more efficient manner–whether I stop by a few local stores on the way home from work, or I wait for several shopping needs from the same mega-mall before heading over there, or whether I opt to make my purchases online. It saves time, and often money, to run errands in an eco-friendly and time-efficient way. With the traffic we face in this area, it’s no small delight to minimize time on the road.

I also consider my food choices before buying. Yes, I’d love to try that new recipe that calls for fresh tomatoes. But you know what? It’s winter, and we don’t have too many tomatoes growing on our local farms. I’ll file that recipe away for a better time, and I’ll use something a bit more seasonal. Isaiah and I spontaneously debated the merits of California olive oil versus Italian olive oil, after watching a tv program touting the CA variety. (For the record, we figured that while CA olive oil is from the same continent, it’s likely to be transported by truck from East coast to West coast, while European oil is likely to be transported be boat and short truck distances. Climate coaches, feel free to weigh in!)

Less processed is better for the bank account as well as the climate.  Taste plays a part, as well! I could buy prepackaged, cut and diced mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onion), but it’s not nearly as tasty as the same veggies I cut up moments before putting in a stew. It’s also several times more expensive. No need to add more steps to processing–I’ll pull out my knives and work on my chef skills.

Being conscious of energy consumption is a powerful motivator. Our digital thermostat gives a precise read of the temperature, so there are no battles over judgment calls. The temperature is what it is, and we dress in layers to feel comfortable. This was a truly intriguing thought for us–We’ll keep the household at 69 degrees, and we can dress to  accommodate that.  Again, this saves us money, is greener, and helps us be more conscious of what’s going on in our household.

I think my most powerful realization is that most of these goals were easy to realize. Yes, I did (and still do) feel frustrated at times, especially regarding my lack of energy choice in the condominium. Yes, some of those are mandated, and some of those are economic, but I’m going to continue with my own personal energy challenge throughout 2010. However, it was so simple to “chain” my errands, to eat seasonally and lower on the food chain, and to work with the weather rather than against it that I do feel I’ve succeeded.

As a teacher, I look for progress in my students, not perfection. I’m trying to apply the same principle to myself.  I’m happy to report that I do see progress, and it’s not just in me. It’s all around. From my friends who are becoming willing to recycle to my family members who are trying to travel “greener,” 2010 is turning out to be a pretty positive year!

By Climate Pilot Mya Akin

Questions for our Coaches

23 11 2009

At this point in the process, I’m really looking back and reflecting upon my old habits vs. new habits. I’m trying to figure out which habits will make it into my permanent repertoire, and which habits may need to be tweaked to become truly climate-friendly. As I do so, I realize that I’ve got a few questions for our Climate Coaches, but I thought I’d also open them up to any readers. I welcome the input from all sources!

1. We’ve learned that recycling isn’t the only piece in the ecological puzzle. We’re also trying to reduce our consumption and reuse what we have. To that end, what are your thoughts on holiday energy consumption? Specifically, I’ve read that LED Christmas light strands are much more energy efficient, but I do own plenty of serviceable traditional lights. How do I determine whether it’s better to discard old (but working) lights and buy new (energy-efficient) ones?  I suppose that this question could extend to other appliances and items as well: When is it best to replace old (but working) appliances with newer, more “green” models?

2. Walking our dog, and hiking with our dog, is one of our preferred forms of recreation.  We scoop up dog waste and dispose of it in trash bins per local laws. In the interest of being climate-friendly, we’ve been purchasing biodegradable dog waste bags.  However, I recently realized that the plastic bags we put our grocery produce in (fresh veggies and fruits) are really not being used past the purpose of packaging produce and taking it out of the store.  So I thought I might use those bags as doggy waste bags, but then I realized that these are NOT green bags, so perhaps reusing them defeats the purpose. Is it better to reuse these produce bags in a way that’s perhaps not so eco-friendly, or best to simply return them to a recycling facility?

(I realized as I wrote this that perhaps the real answer is to not use the grocer-provided plastic bags for produce. I have seen a few reusable mesh bags that I can purchase online. But then, is it better to purchase a new product or to reuse an existing one?) Can anyone weigh in on this topic?

by Climate Pilot Mya Akin

From White House to green house

6 11 2009

Photo: Gunnar Seijbold/RegeringskanslietJust a few hours after Minister for Enterprise and Environment Maud Olofsson ended the first Energy Council meeting within the framework of the Washington Summit between the Euopean Union and the U.S., the Minister headed to the Washington, DC suburb of Falls Church, Virginia to visit the American families who are participating in the Climate Pilots project.

The day before Maud Olofsson had met US President Barack Obama and the US Minister of Energy Steven Chu regarding the climate negotiations on a global level – the day after she met ordinary American families about what can be done in the everyday life.

– My reflection was that we need politics and climate agreements on a global level, but we also need this. We need this knowledge and inspiration, how we as individuals can change our behavior both when it comes to big and small things, says Maud Olofsson in a telephone interview from Washington to the local newspaper Östra Småland in Kalmar.

Read more on the Climate Pilots wesbite >>

Read the article on the website of the Swedish Presidency of the European Union >>

Photo: Gunnar Seijbold/Regeringskansliet

Greetings from the Mayors in Kalmar

5 11 2009

greetingsfromkalmarDear Climate Pilots,
We are very impressed and thankful for your great engagement and all the concrete measures you already have made and are planning.

What you are doing for the climate is good for the inhabitants in the City of Kalmar and vice versa. We are fully convinced that the citizens are worried about the climate and would like to act. What and how are key issues. The Climate Pilots in Kalmar are role models and have proved that a climate smart life is also a good life.

It is very exciting that the concept of Climate Pilots, developed in the City of Kalmar, seems to be a success in Washington DC as well. We like to continue learning from your experiences and of course do our best in supporting you.

Johan Persson, Mayor of Kalmar and Malin Petersson Vice Mayor of Kalmar

Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson visited the Climate Pilots today

4 11 2009

Maud Olofsson, photo by: Pawel FlatoSweden’s Deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson visited the home of one of the Climate Pilots families in Washington D.C. on the Wednesday.

Maud Olofsson learned more about the project between the families in D.C. who are coached by four climate coaches in the city of Kalmar in Sweden. Maud brought as well greetings from the climate coaches in Kalmar.

Read the greetings from the climate coaches >>

Everything’s Sweeter in Sweden!

3 08 2009

Swedes are known for a lot of things: Swedish meatballs, clogs, and windmills just to name a few. After having spent 4 days and 3 nights there myself I have to add friendliest people, greatest food and an impressive recycling program to the top of that list.

During my 10 day road trip in Europe with co-workers and friends Mya and Misty we had the unique experience of living the life (if even just for a brief time) of local Swedish residents. Thanks to the kind nature of the Nilsson family, Rolf Moller’s family, Tove, and other Climate Coaches we enjoyed the fun, food and recycling practices of these newfound friends.

Möller's kitchenWhile in Sweden we made a visit to Rolf Möller’s home in Kalmar, located on the west coast of Sweden to meet with his family and a few of the other Climate Coaches. Rolf and his wife had prepared a spread of  delicious ‘climate friendly’ food for our visit complete with organic Free Trade wine. We had a wonderful time dining together and discussng the Climate Pilot Project while sharing tips for this first food challenge.

And the meal didn’t stop there! After dinner we enjoyed a delicious dessert of strawberries doused in milk with a sprinkle of sugar and gingerbread cookies as well as freshly picked cherries from Rolf’s cherry tree located just outside of his house.
recycleAfter dinner we had the opportunity to visit one of the many recycling depots that Sweden has available to the neighborhoods. In order to “pay for our meal” Mya and I helped Rolf and his family sort the recycling and deposit them into the correct containers.
As you can tell my trip to Sweden was an unbelieveable adventure full of fabulous people and fantastic food. I would like to thank the Nilsson family, Rolf & Birgitta, Adam, Jorgen & Karin and Tove for making this an incredible trip, one I will remember fondly forever!
By Climate Pilot Angela Ulsh