40 days – no emissions? Swedish urbanite lives the concept
Joakim Book Jonnson, a salesman for a security company and a member of the Church of Sweden, transformed his urban commuter life when he decided to leave, at least temporarily, no ecological footprint.
Simply put, he gave up emissions for Lent. He managed to live for 46 days with 80-90 percent reduced emissions.
At times, he admitted, his own project – called “40 Days – No Emissions” – made him furious.
“For the love of God, I wanted to give up! I spent hours, days, weeks being furious for all sorts of things: plastic wrappings around vegetables, people driving cars, my roommate leaving the lights on.”
Sometimes Book Jonnson asked himself why he was even trying.
He found his answer in the people around him – his friends, family and even perfect strangers – who offered a surprising number of emissions-reducing solutions.
“To my great surprise, friends, strangers, teachers, parents and family all told me tip after tip of what to eat, how to wash, how to live. There seemed not to be enough problems to deal with all the solutions, proving once again that we already know what to do,” he said.
Book Jonnson said that he never would have launched his project without the support of his peers at Youth for Eco-Justice, a 2011 event planned jointly by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
“If it wasn’t for the inspiration, meeting all those bright people who knew so much more about climate change, about sustainability, about biodiversity than I did, I would never, ever dream of starting anything like 40 Days,” he said.
Since then, Book Jonnson has, in turn, spread the word of his emissions-reducing solutions to as many people as possible, both in person and through a blog he kept that recounted his experience.
“I’ve had the opportunity of speaking to so many people about these ideas,” he said. “I even visited an international conference within the Youth Chapters of Church of Sweden. A couple of times every week, new people called me, sent me a message, or commented on the blog, telling me what a good inspiration I became for them, how weird the world works and how easily it could be changed.”
Ultimately his project changed the way he thinks about reduced emissions. “After a while, I realised that the most difficult part was accepting that I’m only responsible for my own emissions. I can’t go around blaming everyone else for theirs,” he said. “I have to reduce mine, and be happy with it. After all, I started the project in order to be a role model for how a sustainable life could look like. Blaming everyone else certainly isn’t part of it.”
By Susan Kim, a freelance writer from Laurel, Maryland, United States.
Rio+20 disappointment impassions youth to pursue local eco-justice (WCC feature article of July 16 2012)
“Youth has a stake in the issue of climate change” (WCC feature article of May 1 2012)
Youth promise active involvement for environmental justice (WCC feature article of December 14 2011)
Four emission-reducing tips learnt from ’40 Days – No Emissions’
1. Buy locally grown food. This is the most visible lifestyle change that stuck with Book Jonnson after his 40 days were over. “I don’t hesitate paying a higher price to get locally produced food anymore. In the end, it’s all worth it.”
2. Use your bicycle. Book Jonnson, who commuted via bicycle the 15 km to his workplace, acknowledged that the hills and the physical exertion posed a challenge. But he ended up – unexpectedly – valuing the extra time. “I had 30-45 minutes of reflection each way, which I never imagined was useful and relaxing.”
3. Eschew plastic, paper and wrapping. Book Jonnson had to search some specialised stores to find food that wasn’t wrapped. Then he transferred his no-wrapping rule into the other facets of his life: “I also learned that I really don’t need a paper towel for everything, and I might as well use my cell phone for writing a few notes,” he said.
4. Keep company with eco-conscious people. “Seeing the fighting spirits of thousands and thousands of people gave me all the inspiration I needed to pull this through,” he said. Connect with Youth for Eco-Justice on Facebook and Twitter!