Being climate-friendly must be easy

19.11.21 | News
Milada Vigerova,
Private over-consumption on a massive scale is a challenge that all the Nordic countries face. That’s why choosing climate-friendly solutions must be made easier for citizens in the Nordic Region. A four-year cross-sectoral programme funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers is tackling the challenge.

Dietary guidelines must be expanded to include a sustainability perspective, the Nordic Swan Ecolabel must be extended to new product categories, and we must become wiser about how factors such as gender, age, and social class affect our consumption. This is just a selection of the plans compiled under the heading of the “Sustainable Lifestyle” programme. By 2024, a total of six projects will, in various ways, seek to make it simpler and more attractive for Nordic citizens to make green, sustainable choices in all areas of day-to-day life.

Absolutely necessary

Here in the Nordic Region, we have a large climate footprint and our material consumption is constantly increasing. This has been demonstrated by a recently published report written by Rambøll Managament and published with the funding of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The large climate footprint is a huge challenge that can’t be solved with a single initiative or within a single sector. The programme was born out of the obvious necessity for us in the Nordic Region to start making more sustainable choices in our day-to-day lives.

“Lifestyle changes are about behaviour, culture, and structure, so different solutions are needed. With this programme, we want to help create a breeding ground for lasting changes in our lifestyles, and I believe that this is best done by looking at all facets of our lives,” says programme manager Inger Smærup.

I took the train to COP26 in Glasgow last week. I think there are many prejudices when it comes to changing our habits. We think: The train? It takes a long time, it’s a waste of time, and it’s tiring. But I think we need to question our habits. Do we really need to travel so fast?

Alfons Röblom, Åland’s Minister of Development, responsible for Environment, Energy, and Housing Issues

Political attention

The programme was launched on Friday 12 November 2021 at the Nordic COP26 hub in Helsinki. In a lively debate, the programme’s six project managers made mention of its motives and discussed their expectations for the programme’s results.  

“Sustainable choices should be the default and not the alternative. We want to ensure that the systemic level enables sustainable choices to also become the easiest ones,” explained Julian Lo Curlo, member of the Nordic expert group for sustainable development. 

Alfons Röblom, Åland’s Minister of Development, responsible for Environment, Energy, and Housing Issues, rounded off the debate with a short speech. Among other things, he said:

“This programme helps us to think in new ways and challenge our habits. It’s about building bridges between the old and the new, between generations, and between different ways of thinking. The politicians are following this programme closely so that we can link the results of the programme with the policies we need to develop.

A unique combination

The six projects look at our lifestyle challenges through a unique combination of perspectives and disciplines, across education, gender equality, nutrition, communication, and culture. The expectation is that there’s great potential for creating synergies between various professional groups.

Specifically, the different projects will make analyses, develop policy, disseminate information, provide inspiration, and demonstrate best practices for the benefit of everyone working with the programme’s areas. Among other things, the programme contains an extension of the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, one of the world’s most credible eco-labelling schemes, to include far more climate-central product groups. In addition, it includes a communication initiative for and by young people.

“Part of the core of the programme is an attempt to accelerate the normalisation of sustainable everyday actions. One of the ways to do it is through clear communication,” Inger Smærup explains.

The “Sustainable Lifestyle” programme is a cross-sectoral Nordic collaboration between the Nordic councils of ministers for gender equality and LGBTI (MR-JÄM), environment and climate (MR-MK), fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture, food and forestry (MR-FJLS), education and research (MR-U), culture (MR-K), and Nordic co-operation (MR-SAM), as well as NORDBUK and the expert group for sustainable development. The purpose of the programme is to help make it easier to live sustainably in the Nordic Region, make sustainable lifestyle choices, and to accelerate the development towards the normalisation of a sustainable lifestyle.