Swedish Language Blog

5 Tips to Discuss Sustainability in Swedish Posted by on Feb 26, 2021 in Living in Sweden, Swedish Language

Credits: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

54% of Sweden’s energy comes from renewable sources. With a commitment to fighting climate change, Swedish society has taken action to make sustainable choices every day. It’s commonplace for Swedes to discuss their flygskam (shame of flying) or their apartment building’s system for sorting hushållssopor (household waste) into multiple smaller bins for efficiency. Practicing vocabulary related to the environment and climate is time well spent! This week, I’ll cover 5 ways to smoothly integrate sustainability into your Swedish.

1. Use Sustainable Grammar

The adjective “sustainable” has three forms in Swedish. One for en-category nouns, one for ett-category nouns, and one for plural nouns as follows:

  en                     ett             plural
hållbar     →    hållbart →    hållbara
Hållbar mat innehåller mindre kött.
Sustainable food contains less meat.

Ett hållbart sätt att resa är att åka tåg.
A sustainable way to travel is to take the train.

Hållbara bilar använder el istället för bensin.
Sustainable cars use electricity instead of gas.


Hållbarhet(en) is the noun for sustainability. Similar to English, it can also be used to address sustainability in other contexts. For example, the terms social och ekonomisk hållbårhet (social and economic sustainability) are widely used.

2. Master New Nouns

en miljö → miljön                     environment

ett klimat → klimatet               climate

en natur → naturen                   nature

den globala uppvärmingen      global warming

(en) konsumtion                          consumption

…can you make a proper sentence with each of these nouns? Show me your best example in the comments!

3. Use Comparative Adjectives

Our office is pretty green, but can we be greener? The Swedish adjective grön works to refer to the color green but also to describe something that is environmentally friendly. For a guide to using the comparative form of Swedish adjectives, see Happy, Happier, Happiest – Comparing Adjectives in Swedish.

grön → grönare → grönast → grönaste
green → greener → greest → the greenest

My Swedish “hometown” Växjö is often referred to as Europas grönaste stad (Europe’s Greenest City). They were the first city in the world to declare a goal of ditching fossil fuels by the year 2030. The 60,000 inhabitants in Växjö proper get their energy via centralized heating and cooling – perhaps a statistic not that surprising. But, what is impressive is that 90% of the electricity used in Växjö is powered by byproducts from the local forest industry.

Another common comparative seen in conversation is English cognate klimatsmart (climate smart).
smart → smartare → smartast → smartaste
smart → smarter → smartest → the smartest

4. Read Up on Current Events

Sweden may be greener than most countries but they still have a lot to sort out before reaching their goal of 100% sustainable energy. Swedish Kärnkraft (nuclear power) has been a topic of news lately. A student and I read this 8sidor.se article, Kärnkraften kan bli stoppad (Nuclear Energy May Be Stopped). Swedish energy giant Vattenfall and the government discuss kärnkraftverk (nuclear power plants) and the dilemma of dangerous sopor (waste) they leave behind.

This bit of current news is eerily similar to the premise of hit SVT program White Wall. It’s streamable now on SVTplay, as has a combination of Swedish and English dialogue. 

5. Pay Attention to Politics 

Swedish policymakers have passed legislation in support of environmental efforts across party lines for years. But Miljöpartiet (Sweden’s Green Party) is championing environmental advocacy in riksdagen (Swedish parliament). Started in 1981, this party has seen a decrease in general popularity in recent years but they still hold seats in both riksdagen and the European parliament. Visit their website to learn the party’s main objectives and meet the party leaders. Miljöpartiet’s website has lättläst (easy to read) information about their policies here!

Although most Swedes aren’t Greta Thunbergs, one this is certain: Swedes make sustainable choices every day. So strengthening your eco-vocabulary is sure to pay off! 

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.


  1. PG:

    Hej, jag älskar din blogg och använder den till att bättra på min engelska. Men utifrån dagens inlägg har jag några funderingar…
    1) Du ger exempel på böjningar för en/ett/flera “hållbar”, men i ditt exempel blandar du “countables” och “uncountables”. Det heter inte “en mat”.
    2) I Sverige säger vi nog för det mesta “ett klimat” och “klimatet”

    • Chelsea B:

      @PG Kul att du gillar bloggen, Pia! Hoppsan, det heter “ett klimat” så klart! Du har rätt med båda exemplen, tack 🙂