A few weeks before I departed Australia for Sweden to begin my studies at Chalmers there was a segment on the television about Swedish flying shame. At first, I didn’t quite understand what they meant by the concept.
I learned that flygskam or flight shame is this notion whereby Swedes are encouraged to take alternative modes of transport, particularly buses or trains, in order to curb and offset the carbon emissions as the result of traveling by air.
At the time, flygskam, had felt quite irrelevant for me considering how large Australia is and how distant the continent is from other countries and places I liked to travel to. Arriving in Sweden and taking into account how close I was to other major cities, I looked into longer distance bus and train travel almost immediately as I was planning on visiting a close friend of mine in Copenhagen shortly after I settled into Gothenburg. The 4-hour bus to my friend was a great and affordable guilt-free alternative to taking a 45-minute flight. The Australian TV segment on Swedish flight shame had first enlightened me on the issue and although I did not feel it was super relevant to me at the time, it did, in fact, make me practice what was preached.
Flygskam was actually a regular topic of discussion among my classmates during lecture breaks at Chalmers where although there was consensual support for the notion, some were critical as to whether or not it had actually made any kind of difference overall. Even if the numbers haven’t stacked up yet, the shame of making uninformed decisions and buying into unnecessary material items has actually permeated into other aspects and industries.
, or the shame associated with shopping, has propelled my group of friends and the youth at large to reconsider their buying habits and shop sustainably through second-hand stores and flea markets when we feel like we need a party outfit or a kitchen appliance for example.
This movement has been visibly encouraged by venues and institutions across Gothenburg as there’s a second-hand popup in town every other week! The popularity of Chalmers’ Re:Cycle
initiative is another prime example of this where students are able to buy rescued bikes that would have otherwise been thrown away. Wherever you go, you never know what you’re going to find - it could be a diamond in the rough or nowhere near a diamond at all - but you do know that it’s going to be affordable. Köpskam has definitely made me reconsider my buying habits as it has made me focus on what I really need as opposed to just what’s trendy right now. Although I may feel that I’m not making a difference on a larger scale, small things do add up and if enough people get on board then I am optimistic that old-school attitudes will adapt and the way businesses do business will follow suit.
Shame, however, is a loaded word. Although some may think that guilting others into these movements is overstepping some boundaries, I personally feel that it is necessary. Seeing as the environment is such an important and pressing issue, making others feel uncomfortable about it actually encourages them to do their own research and assists in propelling these notions to the wider international sphere (which is exactly what happened as flygskam reached me all the way in Australia!).
My exposure to the movement of flight shame here in Sweden will definitely be at the back of my mind when I go back home to visit. Although alternative modes of transport from Sweden to Australia will be difficult, my flights to other cities within Australia will be taken with coaches or trains where the one major difference will be planning slightly further ahead! I also hope my friends and family back home will like their mystery thrifted items (it’s the thought that counts anyway).
Instead of Keeping Up with the Joneses, I’m Keeping Up with the Swedes and I feel that my carbon footprint is all the better for it!