LIVING SUSTAINABLY: Finding Sustainability in an Iceland Eco-village
By Alex Webb, Hope College student
During the fall semester of 2016, I traveled to Iceland through a study abroad program that revolved teaching “Sustainability Through Community,” a concept I was not aware of before this three-month excursion. This idea was one in which I found the most practical solutions to sustainable living in the modern-day world.
While I studied in Iceland, I lived in an eco-village with four other students, our professor and 100 Icelandic residents and workers. The other students and I spent most of our days learning about concrete ways to reduce our carbon footprints and transform our lives to become completely sustainable. We also worked in the greenhouses, kitchens and workshops with the residents to help make products for the village to sell.
It was not long before I realized that this study abroad experience was less about touring a remote and exotic country, but more about learning how the concept of sustainability does not survive without a cohesive and synergistic community. I learned how a group of people lives sustainably with their environment and each other.
Iceland is praised for being one of the greenest countries in the world. What does this mean?
Renewable energy resources, like hydroelectric power and geothermal reserves, provide 100 percent of their electricity and heating. This makes it more convenient for them to be a sustainable population.
Icelanders use this advantage to play an active role in sustainable development and commitment to the environment. Their environmental awareness is largely shaped by close community ties, a strong sense of tradition and a unique bond with nature.
Through learning about another culture’s environmentally conscious traditions, I was able to gain a new perspective on the applicability of sustainability in our day-to- day lives back home. By the end of the program, Viking Stouts and homemade candles were not the only gifts I was bringing back to the states. I also brought home three valuable lessons from my time in Iceland that I would like to share with you.
1) This concept of becoming more sustainable can be overwhelming. However, it starts with each person becoming more self-sustainable in his or her daily activities. For example, try walking with a friend instead of driving to your destination. Experiment with growing your own food. You may even be able to compost your food waste and use it as fertilizer! Try your hand at making your own shampoo or soap. You’d be surprised how much money you can save.
2) Reduce, reuse, recycle. Reduce your consumption of unnecessary clothing or food. Reuse what you can and don’t be afraid to get creative. Recycle what you can. This simple effort minimizes waste products in landfills.
3) Your life can make a big difference in the world. Whether your concerns are local or global, don’t be afraid to speak up for what you think is right. I realize that not everyone is going to become an environmental activist and go out to buy a Prius after they read this article. The most important point I want you to take away is to keep an open mind when listening to someone with a different perspective.
Regardless of your race, religion or socioeconomic status, respect your neighbor because when we work together, our words and ideas can change the world. Community is a cornerstone on which sustainability is built.
Alex Webb is a senior studying sociology and environmental studies at Hope College. After graduation, she’s interested in pursuing a career in business and sustainability.
Alex in Iceland jpg: Hope student Alex Webb experienced sustainable community in the unique country of Iceland.
Ecovillage greenhouse tomatoes.jpg : Sustainability in the ecovillage includes growing tomatoes in a greenhouse.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland, and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information