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Swedish student promotes sustainability in Port City

Julia Arvidson, a college student from Sweden, spent the summer as a sustainability research fellow in Portsmouth City Hall working to promote incorporating sustainability practices into the everyday lives of Seacoast citizens.

PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth listens.

That is the message that Swedish graduate student Julia Arvidson has brought back with her after spending three weeks as a sustainability research fellow at Portsmouth City Hall.

And that’s not to be taken lightly, Arvidson said.

“I’m interested in that bottom-up control of sustainability,” she said. “Portsmouth Listens, Sustainable Portsmouth, I like that model of citizen-driven policy.”

Arvidson is studying environmental management and policy at Lund University, just outside the city of Malmö, Sweden, population 300,000. Sweden takes its sustainability seriously. According to the Swedish government, a recent study by European commission found 40 percent of Swedes had purchased a sustainably made item in the past month as compared to the European Union average of 17 percent. Purchases of organically grown food is growing at a rate of 5 percent to 7 percent a year. It’s against the law to buy anything in plastic bottles and in 2005, stricter packaging requirements were enacted.

In Malmö, Arvidson said, wind farms supply electricity, and by 2014, the government aims to have mandatory composting, which will turn into biogas for the city’s bus fleet. Like many parts of Europe, the main mode of transportation is bicycle, she said.

“We bike everywhere — to work, to school, to get groceries. The city is not planned for cars,” she said.

Malmö also boasts an eco-district “that’s trying to incorporate sustainability practices into every part of people’s lives” such as public transportation and wastewater treatment, she said.

“But we also have the resources to deal with those issues,” she said. The Swedish people pay 56 percent personal income taxes, according to the European Union. As such, many Swedish city halls have a department staffed with people working on sustainability issues, she said.


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