Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Eco Cool is the new Swedish Chic
In 2010 the country of Sweden is reaching out to travelers attuned to eco cool as lifestyle choice that influences the way we live, work, and travel. This Nordic kingdom, which spans from the Arctic north to the Baltic Sea, offers kindred spirits, committed to protecting plant Earth, an ecologically-oriented country that invites travelers to enjoy its sophisticated and natural assets while leaving behind the smallest of carbon footprints.
Equipped with 750 kilometers of bike lanes and with 75% of the population using public transportation, its long-term focus on environmental issues earned Stockholm the first European Green Capital Award (in 2009) granted by the European Commission.
Tourists exploring this maritime capital set on 14 islands, with equally proportioned water, cityscape and forest areas, may be surprised to learn they are using a public transportation system that runs on renewable fuels. As they mingle among the city’s population of 800,000, travelers quickly discover that Stockholm is both a green paradise and a major international city with great shopping and culture, and an ever-growing list of eco-friendly hotels and restaurants.
Even bedtime has a green component in Stockholm; 50 or so Ecolabeled hotels now bear the Swan symbol that ensures guests that sustainable consumerism is practiced here: numerous things from biologically degradable washing and cleaning products, to water-saving toilets and low energy light bulbs. Every property in the Scandic hotel chain has the Swan designation.
Nordegren loves green
Green thrives in Stockholm. Even celebrities like Elin Nordegren, who recently purchased an island abode, agree that the 30,000-island archipelago is one of Stockholm’s “must sees”. On the island of Djurgården visitors can picnic in the world’s first Ecopark and catch some of Stockholm’s best-known attractions en route: the Vasa Museum, Skansen, and Junibacken. Getting intimate with Stockholm’s deepest nature comes naturally during a guided tour on foot or by kayak. www.stockholmtown.com
2010 marks the 20th anniversary of Sweden’s ICEHOTEL nestled in Swedish Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle, in the village of Jukkasjärvi. This eco-friendly 5,500 square meter complex, with 62 rooms, an ICEBAR, restaurant and entertainment center, is reconstructed each year from the raw elements of ice and snow. And it plans to be CO2negative (to produce more renewable energy than it consumes) by 2015. Soft snow and river ice were the building materials used by an international team of juried artists to create this year’s otherworldly suites. Yet nature is the key showpiece here. Displays of Northern Lights, all-day husky safaris, snow shoeing, and river rafting delight and awe visitors. The ICEHOTEL is open from December through April. www.icehotel.com
Biodiversity & wilderness
Last fall Sweden’s first marine national park, Kosterhavet Marine National Park, opened on the country’s west coast near the Norwegian border. This beautiful 450 sq meter park enables visitors to help protect and share a unique marine environment that is rich in biodiversity. Expeditions aboard marine research vessels, seal safaris, diving excursions, sea kayaking, and island cycling top the list of ways one can commune with nature.
Eco-tourism also rules at Wauglen Vildmark, a green hostel that hosts adventure trips through the Kynnefjäll wilderness region. www.wauglen.se.
In 2010 a slew of eco-friendly holidays bearing the ecologically sanctioned Nature’s Best accreditation for will be launched in West Sweden. www.westsweden.com
Gothenburg, the regional gateway for West Sweden, is another of the country’s green hubs. It is replete with coastal and forest walking paths, rock climbing venues, and more ecologically sound playgrounds. Located between the Swedish coast and countryside, Gothenburg has kitchens awash with organically grown ingredients and the freshest fish and shellfish. Seafood grows slower in the cold waters of the North Sea, a key component of quality. Gothenburg has four Michelin-starred restaurants and numerous great places to eat. The cuisine is fundamentally Nordic cooking combined with flavors from around the globe. And a slew of recently introduced culinary inroads such as lobster safaris and oyster tastings -- in a hot tub – have amplified the region’s already esteemed eco-culinary profile.www.goteborg.com
Keeping “Fast” Company
Clean living, a transition to “green” from an industrial economy, and sustainability with worldwide connections all apply to Malmo, gatekeeper to the region of Skane in south Sweden. Malmo, made the 2009 list of “Top 12 Fast Cities” by Fast Company magazine, which profiles business initiative and innovation. Among the reasons cited: Malmo has targeted 2010 for a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions, renewable energy already powers most of the city’s Western Harbor, and bike-friendly roads enable residents to cut fuel consumption.
Travelers patronizing the Slottsträdgården (organic garden complex) Café are partaking in another realm of Malmo’s “eco cool”. It is one of an ever-increasing number of restaurants cafes, and boutiques that makes Malmo a “Fair Trade City” designation by The European Fair Trade Association. It is an “earth watch” group that promotes the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards for suppliers. The recently opened Barista Fair Trade Coffee Café is also a popular spot. All of its coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar are fair trade while all dairy products and juices have the eco-label Krav. www.skane.com