Sustainability Around the World

With last week’s observance of Earth Day and the celebration of Arbor Day this Friday, April 29th in the United States, we’ve decided to look a little more closely at the efforts of the world’s most sustainable countries. The Yale Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks countries’ performances on two high-priority environmental issues: protection of human health and protection of ecosystems. The 3 countries that rank highest in EPI score in 2016 are, in order, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden. This blog post will celebrate the sustainable progress of these countries and examine what they’re doing to promote the health of the earth and its inhabitants.


Northern Lights, photo taken from Dave Grubb on Flickr Creative Commons


According to ThisisFINLAND, produced by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 32% of the total energy use in Finland is renewable energy. The Carbon Neutral Municipalities (Canemu) Project, launched in 2008, brings together five Finnish municipalities committed to cutting their emissions by an ambitious 80% by the year 2030. By switching heating schemes to fossil-free biofuels like woodchips, recycling waste, and thinking creatively about other solutions, the Canemu Project has already made immense progress. Finland’s dedication to sustainability is backed by their commitment to promoting education regarding environmental protection. Environment Online (ENO) is a Finnish interdisciplinary and virtual school that intends to get teachers and students around the world to discuss sustainability and act together. ENO has spread to 5,000 schools around the globe and gets students to learn by doing. Not only does ENO intend to plant 100 million regionally indigenous trees around the world by 2017, but the school also works toward goals of bringing peace to the world through sustainable education and action.


Fjaðrárgljúfur, photo taken from Andrés Nieto Porras on Flickr Creative Commons


Iceland’s dependence on fisheries and exports of seafood make sustainable harvesting of marine resources both an economic and environmental concern. Iceland implements a quota system in fisheries, advocates for an end to pollution of the oceans on a global scale, and takes an active role against persistent organic pollutants. The Icelandic Soil Conservation Service has been thinking sustainably and taking steps to fight soil erosion in the country’s large wilderness areas since 1907. Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, is already one of the greenest cities in the world. But it is aiming to take its status a step further by being entirely free of fossil fuels by 2050. The city has a long history of using geothermal energy and has saved an estimated 110m tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere between the years 1944 to 2006. While this success is largely due to the development of the city atop a volcanic region, Reykjavik’s commitment to sustainable living is admirable and something to keep an eye on in the coming years.


Stockholm, photo taken from Tommie Hansen from Flickr Creative Commons


The Swedish Institute stresses that sustainability is a way of life for most Swedes. This lifestyle is demonstrated by several initiatives across many Swedish cities. Sweden made a huge step toward sustainability in the early 1990s when the country switched from oil to district heating, the use of a centralized boiler to provide heat for a number of buildings. The central plant uses clean forms of fuel and also makes use of recycled heat from industries that might otherwise go to waste. Växjö, Sweden was the first city in the world to set a fossil-free goal back in 1996, hoping to reach it by 2030. Växjö encourages urban gardening and cycling, and its public transportation runs on biogas and other forms of renewable energy. Urban farming in allotment gardens is a hobby of Swedes across the country and urban beekeeping has been on the rise. “Passive houses,” which are low-energy buildings that power themselves through the use of energy from people’s body heat, have been popping up in a number of Swedish communities. Stockholm’s Central Station contains a geothermal system that captures body heat from over 250,000 daily commuters. The heat is channeled into water, which is then pumped into the nearby Kungsbrohuset office building to provide heat. The building cools itself with water from nearby Klara Lake.

To learn more about sustainable development around the world, check out the World Sustainable Development Web Archive, hosted by the International & Area Studies Library. Please comment below and let us know of other innovative, sustainable initiatives around the world that you find interesting. And be sure to like our Facebook page for more posts like these!

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Sustainability Web Resources at Web Archiving Service

One of academic libraries’ most important missions is to support local and global scholarship by providing comprehensive resources, such as academic publications, government documents, or non-governmental resources. Traditionally, most of these materials were provided in print and other physical formats. Now, however, an increasing amount of information is published and spread out over the web, including ephemera like news clippings, photographs, and other artifacts. This transformation makes it hard to ensure stable, long-term access to information for scholarly research. Web Archiving Services (WAS) is an initiative to address this issue.

Screenshot of the World Sustainable Development Web Archive webpage.

The World Sustainable Development Web Archive, curated by the International & Area Studies Library.

About the WAS initiative

WAS is an initiative of the University of California. It aims to help libraries preserve web information on a wide range of subjects and in many formats for stable, long-lasting academic use and to keep citations relevant as websites change. The archive covers many subjects, including historical events, geography, environment, engineering and more. The digital content is securely preserved in its digital preservation repository, the California Digital Library, for access and management. The archived content is open for the public to search and browse and users can freely use all content without special copyright restrictions.[i]


At present, around 60 institutions nationwide are participating in this project. The UIUC Library is the only participant in Illinois. The International and Area Studies Library partnered with WAS to create the World Sustainable Development Web Archive. The archive covers online resources on environmental sustainability from non-US Non-Governmental Organizations from all over the world [ii]. This archiving project is an effort to further develop our collection, to fulfill our library mission, and facilitate future user needs.

Our WAS archive aligns with the Library’s mission by building cross-regional primary source materials on environment sustainability for emerging research and teaching in relevant areas that IAS aims to support. The Library aims to develop rich digital collections of primary source materials of interest to area studies scholars and scholars focusing on thematic areas that rely heavily upon area studies knowledge: the environmental sustainability collection fits both demands.  An example of this includes the economic development, climate change, and the transition to renewable energy research team that consists of area studies faculty with expertise in South Asia, Africa, and Latin America from geography, sociology, agricultural and consumer economics, and political science. Their collaboration represents a unique, yet growing, trend in interdisciplinary research.

We also hope this project will inspire innovation and collaboration among area studies librarians within IAS and researchers from related fields. We will work to initiate more collaborative collection building projects like this one and warmly welcome area studies and interdisciplinary researchers to use our resources.

In the first stage, we have archived 43 web sites covering Latin America, South Asia, East Asia, Middle East, Africa and East Europe. These current sites are captured on an annual basis with basic metadata to aid access. The archiving frequency and range of topics covered are subject to change in response to our better understanding of user needs. This number of sites in our collection will keep growing as we more interesting academic resources that fall into our topic are found to enrich our collection. As such, your feedback is very helpful to us.

Want to find out more? Check out the World Sustainable Development Archive.

Please contact the International and Area Studies Library with any questions about this project or any of our other services.

[i] Web Archiving Service. Retrieved from:

[ii] Web Archiving Service. Retrieved from:

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