8th September – End of the Tour

 

Last day.
We got up early to take the ferry.
We left the former prison and the island at 8:00 am. We took our breakfast on the boat.

After three hours where everyone took the opportunity to rest, we came to the south of Stockholm. We took the train to Stockholm Central Station.

In Stockholm, the farewells were not tearing because we knew that if the Tour was over, the experience was for everyone a way to start something new.

7th September – End of the Seminar and Countryside’s Gotland

 

Today we finished the seminar with workshops.
We returned to the Regional Parliament ‘s Chambers of Gotland. Torbjörn explained us the principle of workshops.
We decided to form three groups on different themes. For example,  » how to expand organic farming to a society ? « .
The groups reflected on their themes during one hour. We discussed and shared views. Finally, each groups have summarized their ideas on a large sheet of paper to present to everyone.

After a fika (coffee break) where we could discuss with other group members on how their workshop happened, we all gathered to present the results of our study . We all listened very carefully and finally Torbjörn closed the seminar by thanking all participants and especially the various stakeholders.

Around noon , we just ate next to the building, a former military barrack.
We discussed in more detail what we did in the morning and some of us were thinking to return to the hotel to enjoy our last day.

Thus, in the early afternoon, a part of the group returned to the hotel and the other part took a bus to visit the countryside of Gotland. First stop on the tour : the regional bus storage center in the region, because these buses work with ethanol. Then we stopped about 45 minutes to see a festival of farmers and agriculture of Gotland. Many people participated in this festival where we have found different stands. We could play or taste local products ( honey , vegetables ..) . While walking, I found a scene where politicians from the region participated in a quiz to see if they know the area that they administer.

Then we met again in the bus to visit a friend of Torbjörn, who has  energy efficient home. The house is impressive : it is equipped with many solar panels, the living room floor is made of wood from the surrounding forest and sunlight is optimized.

Finally, we ended the day by our last dinner at a restaurant near the hotel in Visby. We took some pictures together and then some of us decided to have a last to enjoy the last night on Gotland and of the Tour.

Thursday 5th September – Södertälje to Gotland

 

6:00 am : rude awakening because last night finished late.
This day, we left the school where we were staying to get us on the island of Gotland where the seminar will take place. So we took a quick breakfast and we went to the train station where we gave back the cars that we rented.

We took the bus there to the seaport where we took the ferry.
We ended up leaving around 12:00. After lunch on the boat, most of us used the three hours travel to rest from the last days. I also wanted to work on my next video montage of the week.
Torbjörn explained us during the meal that our next hotel was also a former prison as on Langholmen. Result of travel: jail – school – jail.

Indeed, after retrieving our luggage in Visby, we went to the hotel, which was effectively a former prison. We discovered our cells where we have been for three nights

In the middle of the afternoon, we met Helena Andersson, who showed us the city of Visby for around one hour. Visby is a delightful town with traces of the past: ruins, stones that line the floor…etc

Finally, we met Jan Forsmark, which is leading the Transition movement in Sweden, at the restaurant.
Then we all had dinner together outside where we enjoyed the last rays of sun of the day. We went at our own place to the hotel after a good meal, early enough not to be too tired for tomorrow.

Wednesday 4th September – Södertälje

 

This day was filled with a lot of visits!

We started the day with a visit to a grain company: Saltå Kvarn.
At first , we met one of the managers that explained us the goals and the operations of the company. One goal is to enhance the work of local farmers by providing them behind a healthy grain processing .

After an hour in the conference room , we have wear special clothes for visitors in the factory: we were all wearing a beautiful white blouse and a blue shower cap on our heads. We took a few pictures of that moment. We then discover the plant: all operations were explained by one of the workers there. He presented to us the different stages of production. Finally, we arrived in the chemistry lab where various tests are performed to check the quality of grains. Based on the results, grains are used for different purposes : flour, muesli … etc.. Nothing is wasted.

Around 10:30 , we thanked our partners and we headed to our next destination : an eco-bank. What a surprise to discover this alternative financial institution in the middle of a meadow. It was a shock for me and the Americans, who confessed to me that such a location for a bank is unthinkable in the United States.
We entered the building and met the Deputy Managing Director (http://www.ekobanken.se/?id=2951).
To describe the building, it is a renovated farmhouse : an eco- bank operating in a green building. The bank uses to finance mainly organic agricultural long-term projects. Before financing, bankers meet their customers on site to get to know them, assess their needs, see their infrastructure, and discuss the project. This is a bank based  on « human scale ». After that, the money is loaned or not. For each project, some safety devices are in place so that investors in the bank does not suffer the repercussions of a project that does not work. To simplify , let’s say the bank has put in place various compartments with security between each for spreading the risk of the investment (oil-boat metaphor for those who have seen the film Inside Job).
The bank has also implemented a policy of transparency: every month, it makes available on its website the records of investments it has made. Thus, customers can regularly check in what their money is invested.

Around noon, we had lunch in a school : once is not custom, we ate organic food (no meat but we enjoy it anyway).
In the afternoon, we returned to the House of Culture of Södertälje and we met Hans von Essen once more, which is part of BERAS project. Shortly, BERAS is a project funded by the European Union, which borders the entire Baltic coast : the sea is polluted by discharges of phosphorus produced by farmers and other plants and the project involves municipalities to solve the problem at the source. For more information chek the website: http://beras.eu/
We ended the day on a visit to the park of 2000m ² right next to the House of Culture, which also contains an organic garden. Our interlocutor transmited her passion to us, starting the presentation of his work in the garden with a poem. She even put us to get involved in her work. She gave us some tools to mow the wheat. Fortunately, no injuries !
Finally, we returned in the early evening for another meal and we welcomed our 8th participants: Tim, whiwh was the only Swedish (and maybe the first Swedish to participate in a Sustainable Tour !).

Tuesday 3rd September – Södertälje

 

This day, the awakening was softer than yesterday. We took the time to take our breakfast all together and we met more fully the principal of the school , who had dinner with us last night. Around 9:00 , we took the car and mini- bus to get us to the place of the first visit.

It was a new wastewater treatment plant that allows their « recycling ». The place is owned by a company of the municipality: TelgeNät, which owns the station.
We met the person in charge of the place, which made us a presentation on the sewage system. It’s a village close to the station that uses it, because people are equipped with separate toilet. Urine is stored on site and it’s used as fertilizer for their garden, while other wastewaters are disposed each week by a truck that comes to collect them. This wastewater are then fed to the station, and a particular chemical process purifies the water, which contains less bacterias and less phosphorus after the process. This process takes 14 days, then clean water is stored in a large silo where it rests for an other 14 days before becoming a fertilizer for local farmers. This is a kind of virtuous systemic functioning.

After the presentation, we visited the premises and took a closer look how the station operates. It is always interesting to see the actual operation after the powerpoint presentation.

Around 11:00, we thanked our host for her hospitality and we headed to our next destination to eat.
We were in a beautiful flower garden with a few greenhouses around. The place was presented by Hans Von Essen, who was also at the dinner last night and that is part of the community BERAS.
We ate together organic food from the garden and we enjoyed the sun, that we had since the beginning of the week (a chance! ), on a terrace where we had coffee.

But at 13:00 it was already time to hit the road to find a school: the Wendela Hebbe Gymnasium. It is a school specializing in Art and Design. The building was impressive: a very bright with lot of space and many facilities for students. Moreover, we could felt a sense of well being around us, as if the students were planning a positive energy to study: a rare atmosphere. We then met the cooks in the school restaurant serving organic food every day: a warm, diverse food in sufficient quantity are the principles of the restaurant team. A form of waste management is also implemented: each day and after each meal, cooks indicate the number of waste collected on a blackboard. This table is used to inform and educate students not to waste food. But it also serves as an indicator for the cooks in order to change the composition of their meals and adjusting quantities (in fact, if there is waste when food was not appreciated, it is the same when the dish is good because the students use to take more food…).
We finished the tour of the school by meeting a professor of general culture of sustainable development with the mission to raise awareness of students on topics such as global warming, pollution, protection of eco- systems…Various studies are then applied on these issues through theater, photo projects, video projects…

After thanking everyone for having us, we went to our last visit of the day: the eco-village Charlottendal, where we met Peter Hagerrot, that was also present yesterday for the meal. This village was built by 6 families, which wanted to create it. These families own the land, that’s why they can lead independently the evolution of the space for the eco – village. Every house were energy efficiects and each family has its own garden. Near the village lay a forest that helps people to supply wood and there are meadows that allow sheep farming.

Finally, around 19:00, we went back our accomodation, where we stayed for dinner. It was a delicious meal with friendliness discussions. Peter and his new American student  ate with us. We eventually all went to bed satisfied.

Monday 2nd September – Stockholm

 

Today was a busy day!

We woke up early, we had a quick breakfast and finally we walked to the bus stop, which led us to our first destination : one of the the latest  eco-district in southern Stockholm. We had some time to walk in the neighborhood that Torbjörn knew.
He presented to us the various infrastructures, especially those concerning the  waste management.
Then we arrived at the meeting-point where we met our first interlocutor: Susanna Elfors, who works for the company Esam.

After some presentations, we headed further south to discover a Nature Reserve in the city. Urbanization here was impressive because buildings mark the space but there is forest all around. Finally, to conclude our walk, we discovered one of the first eco-village  in Stockholm (Understenshöjden). Every houses were energy efficient, laying in a natural environment.

Around 11:30 am, we thanked our guide and we took the subway. We had lunch in an Indian restaurant with spicy food : the atmosphere was friendly, but the first signs of tiredness were felt by the majority of the group because of the walk during the morning. We were all a little exhausted.

At 13:00, we had to go in order to meet Tomas Gustavsson, responsible of the Stockholm Royal Seaport Project.
We discovered the place enthusiastically : it was a bright design with a friendly conference room. In more or less one hour, we discovered this large project (renovation of the port, creation of new eco-districts, establishment of new businesses…). Exchanges were also creatives, as participants had many questions related to their own experiences in the United States. During this week, curiosity was not a default, but on the contrary, an important quality that promoted the exchange and made conferences attractives. Then we came out with new ideas and I could feel a passion for the project among the participants.

But no time to hang out even more if we wanted , because we must quickly return to Langholmen to get our luggages and get to our next destination: Södertälje , where we had dinner this evening with city politicians and other people involved in the life of the municipality.

The ride was a bit long and allowed everyone to get some rest after this busy day. However, we encountered some problems with the lease of two vehicles to move us around Södertälje. A little annoyed by this new waiting time (fatigue, hunger started to be felt), we ended up to Ytterjärna Restaurant where our guests were waiting for us.

The meal was cooked only with organic vegetables : it was excellent, especially since it was concluded by two birthday cakes. In fact, during this week, we had the chance to celebrate three birthdays! So we sang several times in Swedish, English , French , and even Russian!

Later in the evening , we finally discover our new accomodation for a few days : a school (Vackstanäsgymnasiet), where we have spend three nights.

Sunday 1st September – Langholmen (Stockholm)

 

This day was the real beginning and also a king of introduction for the Tour.

First, we all had breakfast at the hotel.
Once everyone was ready , we started looking for a place where we could talk together. Finally, we have found one where everyone can sit and get comfortable .

As introduction of the day, Torbjörn declared that the experience of the Tour will be a change for all of us. Then, he asked everyone to introduce themselves , but in an original way in order to make us aware that we are a community ( we all had a common origin ). We had to do a self-presentation including our roots since 600 years ago.

I was the one who started .
No special background for me. From what I know , my family has its origins in Spain on the side of my father and my mother. But I do not know any more , because we live in France for the past several hundred years .

Then came the turn of the others, and many of them have their origins in the wave of Irish immigration. Others have Spanish or German origins. Torbjörn , meanwhile , says that his family has its origins in the north of Sweden:  » the first Sweed ».

This kind of presentation was a way to explain that, despite our current differences , we have a lot of roots in common. Once all participants feel at ease , Torbjörn began to explain his view of the world : the first draft eco- municipality in the 80s (Övertorneå), the theory of fundamental needs from the Chilean economist Manfred Max- Neef … etc.

After a good meal at the hotel , we continued the introduction of the week. Torbjörn explained his new concept « ekokommun 5.0 » which is the title of his new book (in Swedish , soon translated into English).

Finally, after this brainstorming, the group discovered the city of Stockholm : the docks, the Old Town, the Royal Palace…The most fascinating was to discover all the greenery in urban areas, which was quite fascinating. During a shutdown, all the participants, who come from the same school , decided to take a group photo with the T -shirt with the logo of their school.

Then we slowly returned to Langholmen in the late afternoon to rest, have dinner, and finally have some sleep. Tomorrow, the first visits will start !

Saturday 31th August – From Umeå to Stockholm

 

Friday the 30th of August, doing my luggages to fly to Stockholm.

After the famous checks at the airport, we flew from Umea to Stockholm in approximately one hour. This Friday night, we met Torbjörn’s brother and daughter (Sara). After a well deserved fika (coffee-break in swedish) at Torbjörn’s brother’s home, we went to bed early to begin an intense week.

Saturday 31th, we finished to prepare the Tour after intense days in the North of Sweden.
We had a seminar there, that’s why the last preparations for the Tour were made later..But our work was « almost good » and the schedule for study-visits, lunch and dinner was fixed before the beginning. Then we waited in the central train-station in Stockholm for the last American participant. The others were already waiting for us at the hotel on Langholmen island. Unfortunately we didn’t found him at the  train-station, but we were sure that he will have found the hotel. In fact, after a surprising walk in the forest, even we were in Stockholm, we found the hotel and our last participants. It was time for presentations.

Torbjörn introduced himself first, then his daughter, the 8 participants and me.
We had some good news : Hector, who wasn’t supposed to be able to participate, was actually here for 1 day.

7:00 pm : time to eat. First dinner at the hotel. It was great! But I felt tired : I needed to rest of my first day.
Once in my room, I had time to talk a little bit with my « temporary » roommate : Zach, the American we were waiting for this afternoon. He was the older of the group and didn’t knew the others. We had a nice time speaking about our cultural differences and knowing a little bit more of each other.

As a precision : all Americans came from the same school : Brainbridge Graduate School, localized in Seattle. They are all doing a MBA (Master of Business Administration).

11:00 pm : time to sleep before the real start of the Tour..

Saturday 15th – From Övertorneå to Umeå and back home

 

At 10 am the next morning the participants jumped in the car for the drive south and the end of the tour. Before leaving Övertorneå a visit to the church and a short trip to the Finish side of the border was done.

On the 7 hours drive towards Umeå the group stopped at the Övertorneå ecovillage, in Kukkola rapids for lunch, in Luleå airport to drop off Jane and at several other places. One of the cars even had time to check out Robertsfors municipality and the Green Zone in Umeå.

Officially the tour was over at the arrival in Umeå but the remains of the group took the opportunity to have a last dinner together at the restaurant Socialize in Umeå that serves local food and beverages.

Some last goodbyes and “see-you-laters” were said and suddenly everyone found themselves walking in different directions.

The two weeks trip had indeed ended but for most people it was clear that this wasn’t the end. It was the start!