Being a Swede and an ardent Wastehater, I often am asked, “Why are the Swedes so conscious about waste”? My best answer hits at the heart of what it is to be a Swede: the so-called Law of Jante. This law is embodied in the essence of Volvo and Ikea, two well-known Swedish brands.
Welcome To The Land Of “Lagom”
It all starts with the American dream — striving for prosperity, success and climbing the social ladder. Americans are not ashamed to show their socio-economic status through materialism — keeping up with the Joneses, buying new, bigger, better — and more.
Growing up in Sweden, I didn’t know the Joneses. Instead, I got introduced to the Law of Jante. Created by a Danish author in the 1930s, the Law of Jante consists of ten rules that portray and criticize individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate.
Nowadays, Swedes rather laugh at Jante and his rather depressing rules. We, too, want to think that we are special and good. However, Jante’s spirit still exists and forms us as citizens. It is no coincidence that the word “lagom”, meaning “just the right amount”, only exists in the Swedish vocabulary.
Sweden: Home to Volvo and Ikea
So it is no coincidence that brands like Volvo and Ikea were born in Sweden. They bring us the safe, the robust, the functional and the timeless — rather than bold, shiny, edgy and over-the-top.
What makes Ikea and Volvo so appreciated by the more simple living Swedes (as well as some Americans), is their honesty and straightforwardness. In Volvo’s and Ikea’s world, everyone is treated equally with safety and care in mind. It’s all about value for money and engineered craftsmanship.
Keeping Up With The Joneses Is Destructive For The Planet
I think Sweden and America can learn a lot from each other’s cultures. Swedes need to be more American — believing more in themselves, daring to stand out and embrace success. But the planet would probably be in better shape if Americans learned to live simply the Swedish way, and well, followed the Law of Jante
Reducing Waste is Not Just About Recycling and Reusing.
It is not just about repairing instead of buying new, either. It is also about “not”. As I’ve been hearing people say: not buying things you don’t need, with money you don’t have to impress people you may not even like.
Reduced waste will be achieved in a less materialistic world where status equals consciousness, functionality and moderation, rather than showing-off.
As many Americans appreciate driving a Volvo and furnishing their homes with Ikea furniture, I hope a cultural change happens. I hope more Americans will espouse the Law of Jante, and learn to appreciate the timeless design, the sheer functionality and minimalism of Volvo and Ikea — two brands that may be more Swedish than the simple living Swedes themselves.