Today is Earth Day, a worldwide day to demonstrate support for our planet. The day was first celebrated 49 years ago, in 1970, and events are now held in over 190 countries.
Iceland is blessed with a lot of natural wonders worth protecting and many Icelanders believe environmental issues are worth thinking about every day, not just on Earth Day. Here are a few things these Icelandic people are doing to help the earth.
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Plastic-free store in Reykjavik
One way to be environmentally friendly is to consciously reduce your use of products with a lot of packaging, especially plastic packaging. Merchants are becoming increasingly aware that consumers want less packaging and specialised plastic-free stores have started popping up around the world.
One such plastic-free store is Vistvera, a cute, little boutique in Reykjavík. The shop opened in 2018 in Grímsbær shopping centre on Bústaðavegur street. Vistvera is also accessible as an online store.
Vistvera aims to offer all necessities without any plastic. They also want to provide as many Icelandic products as possible to reduce the carbon footprint caused by importing goods to the country.
The store’s primary focus is to reduce the use of disposable products and plastic. Among the many products available are; shampoo and soap bars, plastic-free tape, refillable makeup products, toothpaste tablets, multi-use safety razors, plastic-free toys, bamboo toothbrushes and reusable menstrual products like moon cups and period underwear.
Iceland’s national broadcasting service, RÚV, has been televising a ten-part docuseries about the effects humans are having on the environment. The show is called Hvað höfum við gert? A slightly melodramatic title which translates to: What have we done?
The show is hosted by Sævar Helgi Bragason, a teacher and radio and television personality. Most Icelanders know him as Stjörnu Sævar, or Star-Sævar, not because of his star quality but because of the astronomy news updates he sometimes does on morning radio.
Among the people who have appeared on Hvað höfum við gert? is Iceland’s First Lady, Eliza Reid. In an episode about the effects of ‘fast fashion’ on the environment, the First Lady shared with Sævar, and the nation, that she often shops at the Red Cross’ second-hand clothing store when she needs an outfit for a fancy event.
Among other subjects which the show has touched upon in relation to climate change and preventative action are vegetarianism, garbage disposal, dumpster diving, air travel, melting glaciers, palm oil, global trading, recycling, greenhouse gasses and plastic-free packaging.
The Icelandic Car-free Association is an organisation with the main goal of getting more people to commit to a car-free lifestyle. They’re calling for improved public transport and other infrastructure which enables people to walk and cycle.
Members of the Association get various perks at many cyclist and sporting goods stores as well as priority and free entrance to the Association’s events. Those who sign up also get a cool tote bag upon registering.
The Car-free Association encourages individuals to use environmentally friendly modes of transport like; walking, cycling and public transportation. They are also putting pressure on the government to prioritise those modes of transport when planning the future of the city.
It’s been said that “If you build it, they will come.” This argument would suggest that if you build streets with more lanes, more cars will come but, if you make cycle lanes and public transport solutions, people will use those.
School strike for the climate
Students across the world, have been striking on Fridays to protest how governments handle environmental issues. Icelandic children are of course among the ones protesting.
The movement is inspired by a sixteen-year-old Swedish student and environmental activist named Greta Thunberg. Last year she was the first to refuse to attend school to protest lack of action because of climate change.
Greta made a sign that said “Skolstrejk för klimatet ” (School strike for the climate) and sat outside the Swedish parliament building every day to protest the government’s lack of action. She
Many other creative signs have been spotted at school strike marches across the world, making pointed remarks such as “Why should we go to school if you won’t listen to the educated?”
Read next: Iceland’s Troubled Environment
More environmentally friendly Reykjavík
The city of Reykjavík has some plans to make the city more environmentally friendly.
These plans include lifting restrictions on the number of sustainable taxis, supporting car sharing services and companies renting out bicycles and small electric vehicles. The effects of this recent decision are yet to be seen.
The city is also testing out a service which makes recycling electronics easier. This summer they are also repeating last year’s successful experiment in which they lent out electric bikes to people to use instead of more polluting modes of transport. This year they will be lending 25 electric bikes.