What do Sweden, the U.S., Brazil & India All Have in Common?

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So back in June I get this email out of the blue from a very gracious woman at the Swedish Embassy inviting me to be part of a U.S.-Brazil-India delegation to Sweden. All I need to do is get myself there and back.

Needless to say I said “yes.” Remember my name is Rolf Nordstrom. An invitation back to the mother ship? Of course I’m going to say “yes!” I’m third-generation Swedish; my grandfather on my dad’s side was part of the million+ Swedes who left what was a very poor country in the late 1800s—though you’d never know it today!

So why me? (believe me, I had the same question). Well, it turns out that the Swedes know they are a small country and if they are to continue to prosper economically and also be the kind of leader they wish to be in catalyzing a sustainable global economy then they need to engage with like-minded people in other countries, and big ones.

It’s just my good fortune that our past bioenergy work with Sweden had put GPI in Sweden’s rolodex (I know, that dates me but you can Google it if you’re confused). This short 4.5 min. video gives you a glimpse of what the trip was all about.

The Swedish Invitation 3-5 Oct, 2016 from Swedish Institute on Vimeo.

So what do Sweden, the U.S., Brazil & India all have in Common? We all have an economic, social and environmental interest in figuring out how a prosperous circular economy can work in practice, and each wants to find concrete ways to benefit their home countries as part of a growing mutual exchange of trade—in both ideas and clean technology.

And while GPI’s core interest is a sustainable low-carbon energy system, we know that energy is simply the “master resource” in just such an economy, which is why our GreenStep Cities program helps cities meet their sustainability goals broadly (not just energy), and why we are so honored to be one of only three nonprofits to be members of Minnesota’s Sustainable Growth Coalition, which is dedicated to—you guessed it—making Minnesota a leader in fostering a prosperous circular economy!

Of course taking a trip to Sweden is not, in and of itself, progress. But the trip laid the foundation for GPI to organize a delegation of U.S. leaders to return to Sweden and begin an on-going mutually beneficial exchange that can benefit both countries. Our return trip will focus on anaerobic digestion and the potential for biogas in our economy. We can learn from Sweden’s extraordinary accomplishments (they send less than 1 percent of their waste to a landfill and power many of their transit buses with renewable biogas).

Honestly, the trip made me even prouder of my Swedish heritage! Sure this is part of their export strategy, but they also want to do well by doing good. It also made me want to engage Brazil and India more deeply. There’s so much opportunity to reimagine how we all prosper together!

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