Sweden is Slowly Becoming a Cashless Society


IN BRIEF
  • Sweden is beginning to look at doing away with physical money in favor of a completely digital currency given that the amount of hard cash and coin in circulation has already decreased by 40 percent.
  • While Sweden’s economy is better equipped to handle such a change, other countries do not share the same ability in infrastructure, and many would be resistant to the increased transparency of digital currency.

CASH IN BITS AND BYTES

Digital wallets provided by services such as Apple or Samsung Pay, Venmo, and Paypal are a relatively new invention in the world of personal finance. Cash is still a major means of conducting transactions in many cases. For the Swedish though, cash may soon become a relic.

In Sweden, people are abandoning the use of paper money for an increasing number of everyday transactions. In fact, the amount of hard cash (and coin) in circulation has decreased by 40 percent in the last 7 years. This abandonment is due to several factors, among these is the prevalence of cards, both debit and credit. According to the Riksbank, Sweden’s Central Bank, the number of cash withdrawals are steadily decreasing while the number of credit card transactions are increasing.

Credit: The Riksbank
Credit: The Riksbank

A study conducted by Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology shows how there is less than 80 billion Swedish crowns (krona) in circulation; a decrease from SEK106 billion six years ago. The study cites Sweden’s strong IT infrastructure which leads to more adoption of payment apps like Swish and the digitization of some Swedish Banks.

POSSIBILITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR OTHER COUNTRIES

It might be easy for Sweden now but having other countries shun physical money could still be a challenge. “Swish is a brilliant idea, but to introduce it internationally is a challenge, not least because it takes a long time to change other countries’ banking systems from scratch,” says Niklas Arvidsson, a researcher in industrial economics and management at KTH.

Several countries are already considering this shift. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for example is pushing for a ‘less-cash society’ to pave the way for a cashless society in the future. More of India’s population have cell phone subscriptions than nearly every other country, which could make it possible for app-based payment systems to flourish in the country. Indeed, Paytm, India’s largest mobile payment company has told BBC news that it has experienced an increase of users with transactions numbering around 5 million.

Adoptions in other countries are still some ways from fruition however, as people still worry about the implications of a cashless society especially when people are still used to dealing with cash.

Sweden Is Left With No Garbage At All, It’s Importing Waste To Run Recycling Plants.


Sweden has run out of garbage and the Scandinavian country has been forced to import rubbish from other countries to keep its state-of-the-art recycling plants going.

 Sweden garbage

Sweden, which sources almost half its electricity from renewables, was one of the first countries to implement a heavy tax on fossil fuels in 1991. Sweden’s recycling system is so sophisticated, that only less than 1 per cent of its household waste has been sent to landfill last year.

“Swedish people are quite keen on being out in nature and they are aware of what we need do on nature and environmental issues. We worked on communications for a long time to make people aware not to throw things outdoors so that we can recycle and reuse,” said Anna-Carin Gripwall, director of communications for Avfall Sverige, the Swedish Waste Management’s recycling association.

 Sweden has implemented a cohesive national recycling policy so that even though private companies undertake most of the business of importing and burning waste, the energy goes into a national heating network to heat homes through the extremely cold winter.

Sweden garbage

That’s a key reason that we have this district network, so we can make use of the heating from the waste plants. In the southern part of Europe they don’t make use of the heating from the waste, it just goes out the chimney. Here we use it as a substitute for fossil fuel,” Gripwell was quoted as saying by the ‘Independent’.She termed Sweden’s policy of importing waste to recycle from other countries like the UK as a temporary situation.

“There’s a ban on landfill in European Union countries, so instead of paying the fine they send it to us as a service. They should and will build their own plants, to reduce their own waste, as we are working hard to do in Sweden,” Gripwall said.

Sweden garbage

“Hopefully there will be less waste and the waste that has to go to incineration should be incinerated in each country. But to use recycling for heating you have to have district heating or cooling systems, so you have to build the infrastructure for that, and that takes time,” she added.

Swedish municipalities are investing in futuristic waste collection techniques, like automated vacuum systems in residential blocks, removing the need for collection transport, and underground container systems that free up road space and get rid of any smells, the report said.

Sweden officially the ‘goodest’ country in the world, study says


The nation outranked 162 others thanks to its positive lifestyle contributions, including prosperity, equality, health and wellbeing.

Sweden has topped a poll as the best ‒ or “goodest” ‒ country when it comes to serving the interests of its people while avoiding damaging impacts to other nations and the environment.

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The country has outranked 162 others to take pole position in the Good Country Index, a league table based on 35 separate indicators from sources including the United Nations and the World Bank.

Sweden scores highest for positive lifestyle contributions including prosperity, equality, health and wellbeing, while also performing well culturally.

Iceland tops the list for its overall contribution to the planet and climate protection, including low CO2 emissions and minimal production of hazardous material, while the UK performs less well in this area, sitting down in 22nd place.

The UK, however, is top of the table when it comes to science and technology, which takes into account scientific publications and study, Nobel prizes and patents.

The index suggests that Sweden, relative to the size of its economy, does more “good” and less harm than any other country. Smaller countries such as Ireland, Kenya, Iceland and Costa Rica have all dropped in the rankings ‒ this is partly because events around the world make a bigger impact on smaller countries.

The report, which weighs up a country’s contributions to the planet and the human race relative to its size ‒ measured in GDP ‒ is the brainchild of leading policy advisor Simon Anholt, whose aim is “to find ways of encouraging countries to collaborate and co-operate a lot more, and compete a bit less”.

“A good country is one that successfully contributes to the good of humanity. Of course it must serve the interests of its own people, but never at the expense of other populations or their natural resources: this is the new law of human survival,” he said.

He added that the UK must collaborate and cooperate more with other countries: “It [Britain] isn’t just an island unconnected to the rest of Europe or to the rest of the world. Just like every other country on earth, it is part of one system. If it fails, we all fail.”

Despite the addition of 38 countries since the first edition of the index, Libya has once again ranked last.

Adult obesity rate increasing across Sweden


Across all age groups and levels of education, obesity rates are steadily rising in adults in Sweden, according to study findings presented at the European Obesity Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“Obesity is still increasing in the majority of the adult population in our study area in Sweden, especially among the middle-aged and persons with secondary education,” Anu Molarius, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Competence Centre for Health, Västmanland County Council in Västerås, Sweden, told Endocrine Today. “It will probably lead to an increase in the health consequences of obesity.”

Anu Molarius

Anu Molarius

Molarius and colleagues analyzed data from surveys mailed to random samples of adults aged 25 to 74 years in four Swedish counties in 2000 (n = 29,017; 53% women), 2004 (n = 27,385; 54% women), 2008 (n = 25,910; 54% women) and 2012 (n = 24,152; 54% women). Overall response rates were 67%, 65%, 60% and 53%, respectively. Obesity (BMI 30 kg/m²) was based on self-reported height and weight.

Between 2000 and 2012, age-standardized prevalence of obesity increased from 13% to 17% in women and from 12% to 17% in men; obesity increased in all age groups between 2000 and 2008, and continued to increase among adults aged 45 to 64 years between 2008 and 2012.

According to the researchers, in 2012, the prevalence of obesity was nearly twice as high among adults with middle and lower levels of education vs. adults with a higher level of education.

“The ‘true’ prevalence of adult obesity, corrected for self-reported weight and height, was around 20% in 2012 for both men and women,” the researchers wrote.

Molarius said the researchers plan to carry out a new survey in the same area next year.

“It will be important to know whether obesity is still increasing or if the increase is slowing down,” Molarius said. – by Regina Schaffer

Sweden wants to become the first fossil fuel-free country in the world – how will it work?


In the recent Swedish budget, the government announced an ambitious plan to invest in renewables and green energy.

The Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven, has announced that his country will work towards becoming “one of the first fossil fuel-free welfare states in the world,” in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

The Nordic countries already lead the world in renewable energy, with Sweden generating around two-thirds of its electricity through renewable sources.

On one unusually windy day this July, Denmark produced 140 per cent of its electricity needs through wind power alone, exporting the rest of the energy to its neighbours, Germany, Sweden and Norway (one of the biggest oil producers in the world).

And almost 100 per cent of Iceland’s electricity comes from renewable sources, due to its investment in hydropower and geothermal energy production.

stefanlofven.jpg
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announces his climate plans at the UN General Assembly

However, making the jump to eradicating fossil fuels entirely in Sweden is a much more difficult task altogether. How will Sweden, an industrialised, developed country of 10 million people, manage to stop using fossil fuels in the next few decades?

In Sweden’s autumn budget, announced in September, the government announced it would allocate 4.5 billion kronor (£356 million) next year to green infastructure – funding things like more solar panels and wind turbines, as well as cleaner public transport and a smarter energy grid and energy storage system.

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50 million kronor (£4 million) annually will be spent on research into electricity storage, and 1 billion (£80 million) will be poured into upgrading residential buildings to make them more energy-efficient.

Beyond Sweden’s borders, more money will be invested in green projects overseas, with 500 million kronor annually being invested in creating green infastructure in developing countries, which the government hopes will send an “important signal” to the West ahead of the UN climate change conference in Paris this December.

Sweden currently has a coalition government, lead by the left-leaning Social Democrats, who have dominated Swedish politics since the 1920s.

The other partner in the coalition is the Green Party, who were born out of the anti-nuclear power movement of the 1980s.

Several of Sweden’s nuclear power stations are set for early closure, partly because they are old and unprofitable, but partly to speed the push towards renewables.

Sweden’s recent budget policies, along with a more long-standing commitment to green energy, stands in stark contrast to the position of the UK government – which, following the last General Election, announced it would scrap renewable energy subsidies, encourage the development of fracking, and implement general cuts to funding for renewable technology.

In a speech to the Swedish Parliament in which he announced these green policies, Löfven said: “Children should grow up in a toxin-free environment – the precautionary principle, the removal of dangerous substances and the idea that the polluter should pay are the basis of our politics.”

With the investment going into green energy and the no-nonsense positon of the government on polluters, Sweden is aiming to set an example to other countries at the upcoming UN conference.

6 Reasons Why Countries Like Denmark, Norway And Sweden Are The Happiest In The World


Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden are at the top of the UN’s annual World Happiness Report, year after year after year. We would suggest moving there, but these are countries where temperatures in winter drop to around -20˚C!

So alternatively, we thought we’d try to figure out why they’re so happy and healthy. According to the UN, Scandinavians are also leading in terms of health, with regards to diet and exercise.

Here are the secrets to their health and happiness.

1. They have the perfect work-life balance.

Scandinavian Way Of Life

via Giphy

Working on weekends is unheard of in these countries, and the idea is that everyone should get to have dinner with their family. In Norway, the average work week is only 34 hours! Swedes have 15 minute breaks built into their working schedules twice a day, where they can have a chat, go for coffee, or just relax. The idea being that it will make them more productive. Danes are extremely protective of their private time, and are known to refuse breakfast meetings and after work drinks.

2. They’re kind to themselves.

Scandinavian Way Of Life

via Giphy

People in Denmark have a tradition known as “hygge” (pronounced “hooga”), which is “the practising of wellbeing towards yourself and others”. The term was actually coined in order to describe the need to escape the harsh Danish winters, but it can also apply to something that a person really loves doing, whether it’s snuggling up with a good book or having a nice dinner with a friend. The only condition is that the activity cannot be inconsiderate to others in any way.

3. Their diet consists of plenty of fish, root vegetables and berries.

Scandinavian Way Of Life

via CarrotMuseum

While the Mediterranean diet is considered to be the best in the world for heart health, the Nordic diet is a close second. Studies show that following this diet can reduce cholesterol considerably, and even boost weight loss. So what exactly does the Nordic diet entail? It consists of foods that are typically eaten in these countries, like oily fish, which is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and protein, root vegetables like carrots, radishes, potatoes, etc. and several types of berries. Scandinavians are not big on red meat and animal fat, which is another plus for them.

4. They’re trusting people.

Scandinavian Way Of Life

via Giphy

According to the Prosperity Index of 2014, 74% of Norwegians said they felt like they could trust others, while 83% of Swedes said that they trust their government to do right by them. Amazing, isn’t it? Several studies document a strong link between trust and happiness, where trust triggers the release of oxytocin, the hormone associated with love, happiness and bonding.

5. They spend plenty of time with nature.

Scandinavian Way Of Life

via Giphy

Scandinavian countries have several public access laws, which give anyone and everyone the right to walk, ride, camp and enjoy all land freely. Citizens enjoy vast, green, public spaces, spending plenty of time with nature. Studies show that spending time with nature increases happiness, memory, learning, mental health and heart health.

6. They have amazing healthcare services.

Scandinavian Way Of Life

via Tumblr

In these countries, if you need to see a doctor, you will be given an appointment that same day. All forms of treatment are free, although they are paid for indirectly in the form of extremely high taxes. But still, it could be worth it, if you consider the amazing services they get. When a woman gives birth to a baby for example, she is given an entire boxful of supplies, clothes and toys for her child!

Sweden is Now Recycling 99 Percent of its Trash. Here’s how


It would serve Americans greatly to take a page out of Sweden’s book about recycling their waste.

The Scandinavian nation of Sweden has set a new precedent in the world of recycling its trash, with a near zero waste amount of 99 percent. Sweden was already ahead of the game back in 2012, when they were recycling 96 percent of their trash, but the three percent jump in just two years is quite impressive. Image credit: sweden.media

How does Sweden do it? They have an aggressive recycling policy, which goes in an order of importance: prevention, reuse, recycling, recycling alternatives, and as a last resort, disposal in landfill. As of 2014, only 1 percent of their waste ends up in a landfill.

Swedes understand that producing less waste to begin with is key to reducing the amount of trash that ends up being thrown away. Something as simple as using reusable containers for water and drinks can greatly reduce the amount of trash each person produces per year.

They have a very advanced system of trash separation which makes it easy to recycle nearly everything that’s thrown away.

Much of the left over waste is taken care of by using “recycling alternatives”, such as the Waste-to-Energy program, which is explained in this video:

While the “recycling alternative” remains controversial, it’s cleaner than drilling for oil or natural gas to burn in traditional power plants.

Sweden is so good at recycling its trash in fact, that it now has plans to import 800,000 tons of garbage from other countries in Europe in order to create heat for its citizens through its Waste-to-Energy program.

America should take note of this process considering we only recycle approximately 34 percent of the garbage we throw away.

Sweden is shifting to a 6-hour work day .


*Packs up life, books plane ticket*

 

Despite research telling us it’s a really bad idea, many of us end up working 50-hour weeks or more because we think we’ll get more done and reap the benefits later. And according to a study published last month involving 600,000 people, those of us who clock up a 55-hour week will have a 33 percent greater risk of having a stroke than those who maintain a 35- to 40-hour week.

With this in mind, Sweden is moving towards a standard 6-hour work day, with businesses across the country having already implemented the change, and a retirement home embarking on a year-long experiment to compare the costs and benefits of a shorter working day.

“I think the 8-hour work day is not as effective as one would think. To stay focused on a specific work task for 8 hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable. At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work,” Linus Feldt, CEO of Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus, told Adele Peters at Fast Company. 

Filimundus switched to a 6-hour day last year, and Feldt says their staff haven’t looked back. “We want to spend more time with our families, we want to learn new things or exercise more. I wanted to see if there could be a way to mix these things,”he said.

To cope with the significant cut in working hours, Feldt says staff are asked to stay off social media and other distractions while at work and meetings are kept to a minimum. “My impression now is that it is easier to focus more intensely on the work that needs to be done and you have the stamina to do it and still have energy left when leaving the office,” he told Fast Company.

The thinking behind the move is that because the working day has been condensed, staff will be more motivated and have more energy to get more done in a shorter period of time. Feldt reports that not only has productivity stayed the same, there are less staff conflicts because people are happier and better rested.

No doubt Filimundus was looking at the several Toyota service centres in Gothenburg, which switched to a six-hour day 13 years ago and report happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and ease in enticing new employees to come on board. “They have a shorter travel time to work, there is more efficient use of the machines and lower capital costs – everyone is happy,” the managing director Martin Banck told David Crouch at The Guardian, adding that profits have risen by 25 percent.

Back in February, a Svartedalens retirement home in Gothenburg implemented a 6-hour work day for their nurses with no changes to wage, and will be running the experiment till the end of 2016 to figure out if the high cost of hiring 14 new staff members to cover the lost hours is worth the improvements to patient care and employee morale.

“The Svartedalens experiment is inspiring others around Sweden: at Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University hospital, orthopaedic surgery has moved to a 6-hour day, as have doctors and nurses in two hospital departments in Umeå to the north,” The Guardian reports.

While impressions of staff being happier and full of energy aren’t exactly scientific basis for declaring 6-hour work days as ‘better’ than the 8.7-hour work day endured by the average American, we do have evidence that what we’re doing right now isn’t working.

A study published in The Lancet last month analysed data from 25 studies that monitored health of over 600,000 people from the US, Europe, and Australia for up to 8.5 years found that people who worked 55 hours a week had a 33 percent greater risk of having a stroke than people who worked a 35 – 40 hour week, and a 13 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, while a separate study found that working 49-hour weeks was associated with lower mental health, particularly in women.

And as we reported earlier this month, we probably shouldn’t even be forced to clock on at 9am anyway, with expert Paul Kelley from Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute saying that society is in the midst of a sleep-deprivation crisis, because our 9-5 working hours are at odds with our internal body clocks. “Staff should start at 10am… Staff are usually sleep-deprived,” Kelley said. “Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to. We cannot change out 24-hour rhythms.”

Hear that? Everybody is suffering and we don’t have to. I guess until the rest of the world catches up with Sweden – which btw is also making moves to become the world’s first fossil fuel-free nation – we’ll all just have to move there.

Sweden sets its sights on becoming the world’s first fossil fuel-free nation .


And it’s putting its money where its mouth is.

The Swedish government announced this week that they will be spending an extra US$546 million on renewable energy and climate change action in their 2016 budget, with the aim of becoming one of the world’s first nations to end its dependence on fossil fuels. They haven’t set a deadline for this ambitious goal just yet, but last year the country announced plans to make its capital Stockholm fossil fuel-free by 2050, so we’re imagining a similar time frame.

It may seem like a pretty big task, but the Scandinavian country already gets two-thirds of its electricity from non-fossil fuel energy sources – predominately hydroelectric and nuclear – and it will now be focussing on increasing its solar and wind energy potential, as well as making its transport industry more sustainable. The majority of the budget increase will be financed by heavier taxes on petrol and diesel fuel.

“Sweden will become one of the first fossil-free welfare states in the world,” Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told the press. “When European regulations do not go far enough Sweden will lead the way.”

The move comes after Sweden suffered extreme heatwaves last summer, and one of the worst bushfires in the country’s history. The government has committed to taking action to protect its citizens from the effects of climate change in the future.

One of the most impressive winners in the new budget is solar energy, which has been allocated US$58.4 million per year between 2017 and 2019 – an eight-fold increase from its current budget, as Bloomberg Business reports.

The government also announced that it would be spending money on:

  • smart grids
  • renewable energy storage technology
  • an electric bus fleet
  • subsidies for green cars
  • climate adaptation strategies
  • renovating residential buildings to make them more energy efficient.

It’s no coincidence that the move comes just a couple of months before the 2015 United Nationals Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Paris at the end of November.

“2015 is our opportunity, a chance to, in dialogue with all the countries of the world, change course towards a new development path where we can succeed in generating welfare for all, not at the planet’s cost but in cooperation with it,” a key adviser to the Prime Minister, Johan Rockström, said in a press briefing.

Although the big jump in spending is new for the country, Sweden already has a pretty impressive track record when it comes to climate change action. The government recently announced that several ageing nuclear power plants are scheduled for early closure, with no replacements planned. And just last month itwas reported that an extra 144 MW of wind power capability had been added to the grid with the new Sidensjö wind farm.

What’s most exciting is that Sweden is just one of many governments around the world getting behind renewable energy. Hawaii has announced its plans to become the first US state totally powered by renewables, and a city in Texas is also making the switch. Earlier this year, Costa Rica was powered with 100 percent renewable energy for 75 days, and Denmark successfully produced 140 percent of its electricity demand from wind power back in July.

But these influxes of renewable energy were achieved during extremely favourable conditions, and right now there’s no way to store this energy for later use, which makes it hard to completely cut out fossil fuels. If Sweden has success in developing new energy storage technology, as they’ve committed to in their new budget, they could well lead the way. Let the race begin.

Smoking Injurious to Genes Too


Here comes another shocker for those reluctant to kick the butt.

Smoking not only affects your health but also increases health risks of your children and grandchildren; today’s puffs of pleasure can permanently damage your genes, according to a new study.

Smoking can also affect the genes important for sperm quality or immune response.

The research findings from Uppsala University and Uppsala Clinical Research Center of Sweden showed that smoking alters several genes that can be associated with health problems for smokers, such as increased risk for cancer and diabetes.

The research, led by Asa Johansson, researcher at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, said the genes of smokers as well tobacco users can change and expose them to more health risks.

However, according to the findings, tobacco itself may not be the cause of gene alterations, but the different elements that are formed when the tobacco is burnt.

“Our results therefore indicate that the increased disease risk associated with smoking is partly caused by epigenetic changes. A better understanding of the molecular mechanism behind diseases and reduced body function might lead to improved drugs and therapies in the future,” Johansson said.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.