The thrift/reuse culture is big in Norway. And as most things, it starts with school: books are reused, passed on from child to child. Thrift markets provide a perfect opportunity to both sell and buy old furniture, clothes and bric-a-brac. Second-hand stores like Fretex are gathering donations for various charities (Fretex is an important part of the Salvation Army), while giving you a chance to buy anything from clothes and furniture to books, records and homeware at really low prices.
Norway has one of the most efficient recycling plans in the world. It starts at home. There are separate cans for plastic, food leftovers (compost), and general waste, each with a color-coordinated bag – the blue bags for plastic and green bags for compost you can get for free at the supermarket. You are also encouraged to keep paper, metal and glass on separate bins. All apartment buildings/blocks in cities have an assortment of recycling bins nearby, where you can dispose everything (although for metal and glass you need to go to specific centers). When you’re out and about, most bins you’ll encounter on the street have the same sorting system, so you can always compost that ice cream stick.
One of the most important aspects of recycling in Norway is the ‘pant’ system. It’s basically a reward system for returning plastic bottles and aluminum cans. When you buy a plastic bottle of juice or a can of soda for example, you pay a few NOK extra that you will get back when you recycle it. The ‘pant’ price is written on the bottle or can, and it’s usually around 1-2.5 NOK depending on the size. There are returning machines in every supermarket, so you place your bottles and cans on the slot and collect pant for each one. Once you’re done, you can get a receipt with an amount you can donate to charity, or use it to pay for goods at the supermarket.
Plogging is a new, ingenious way of doing some good for the planet while also exercising. It started in Stockholm and has now fully reached Norway. You will see many Norwegians going for plogging in forested areas, where the waste collection process is not so frequent, picking up any litter they may find along the way to recycle it.
Norwegian supermarkets are on a mission to do better when it comes to plastic bags and packaging. Plastic bags (that already came with an extra charge to dissuade people from using them) are now being made with recycled plastic, or replaced with paper ones. Fruit and vegetable packaging is getting an overhaul, drastically reducing the plastic used to package products such as strawberries and avocados. Salad bowls are now paper. Overall, these changes are expected to reduce 1,260 tons of plastic by 2020.
Norway’s sustainable mentality has also permeated the food industry. An app called Too Good to Go is a perfect example of that: for the last couple of years, they have been working with restaurants, cafés, bakeries, and hotels all over Norway to help combat food waste. How are they doing it? By “matching” leftover portions with people who’d rather buy them for a very cheap price than see them end up in compost.
Norway’s preference for electric cars has grown immensely since 2014. This year, for the first time, it actually started affecting the oil industry – causing a 2.2% decline in overall petroleum product sales. The latest numbers show that one in two cars bought in Norway is electric, which is a higher rate than any other country (and can be explained if you take into account the perks the government offers electric car owners). This all ties into Norway’s plan to end sales of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2025, switching completely to electric which, of course, is better for the environment. By 2030, Oslo aims to have reduced 95% of its CO2 commissions, making it one of the most clean air cities in the world.
Equally ambitious is Norway’s plan for electric airplanes. Rolls Royce and Siemens are currently working with Avinor, the proprietor company of Norway’s airports, to create a hybrid fuel-electric plane model by 2020. The long-term goal is for all flights of up to 1.5 hours (which would cover all domestic flights and flights to other Scandinavian capitals) to be 100% electric-operated by 2040. This will not only result in less greenhouse gas emissions, but also in significantly less noise pollution in the skies.
Norwegian fjords are breathtaking – and understandably a very popular tourist destination. Perhaps a bit too popular: a 2006 study has showed that the air quality in some of the fjords is more similar to that of a city, because of all the emissions from the ferries and cruise ships. So the Norwegian Parliament voted that from 2026 onwards, only zero-emission electric ferries will be allowed to travel the fjords of west Norway (where the more popular, UNESCO Heritage Sites fjords are). That would make Norwegian fjords the first emission-free marine zone in the world! For now, diesel-electric hybrid vessels as well as a brand new electric vessel are being tried out, hoping to see both a climate and a marine industry impact.
This one is more like a “break glass in case of emergency”, literally. The Seed Vault on the Svalbard archipelago is a “Doomsday Bank” a place where over a million seeds of plants from all over the world are gathered and preserved in permafrost, to be used in case of a global crisis. This could mean anything from climate change, a nuclear war, or any geopolitical disaster that would require replanting the future from the ground up. Norway understands the importance the vault, so on its 10-year anniversary it spent 100 million NOK (US$13 million) to upgrade it. Talk about a country really investing in the future…