Iceland. The land of fire and ice. The opposite of Greenland. Progressive and equal. These are common pieces of knowledge that we have of Iceland. All of these are true, and yet the country also holds a mysterious aura that is wholly captivating. This past June I travelled to Iceland for the first time as part of a sustainability program, called The GREEN Program, and it was life-changing. This article will explain why, and hopefully inspire you to pursue it as well.
The GREEN Program first and foremost enables students to take part in a unique educational experience which encompasses adventure, teamwork, and hands-on research. During the ten days of your chosen program (Iceland, Nepal, Peru, or Japan) you split up into small groups to complete a Capstone Project that addresses at least 3 of the UN’s sustainable development goals. Teams are chosen based on mutual interests, and find an attainable sustainable solution to one of the many global problems we face today. My team was comprised of an engineer, two architects and a philosopher, and our Capstone Project addressed the issues of poverty, equality, and the overuse of plastic materials by finding a way to employ highly impoverished women to build their own insulated houses with plastic materials discarded in their local area. These women would in turn educate others in their community on how to do the same, thus creating a largely self-sustaining system as well as giving women the conviction and independence needed to help them out of the poverty cycle.
Each group in our program found an equally innovative way to create a solution that, big or small, could make a lasting impact on global sustainable development. Working with other like-minded people was incredibly inspiring and some of the conversations I had still inspires me and fills me with hope for the future in a world of so much hate and despair.
While the Capstone Project was an ongoing project throughout the ten days, we also went out into the field and put Leave No Trace principles to practice as well as toured multiple renewable energy plants; both hydropower and geothermal. The program is available for academic credits, but regardless everyone took classes from Reykjavik University on Iceland’s history and different types of renewable energy. When we in turn went out into Iceland’s highlands and beaches, it was easy to apply what we had learned in the classroom to real world examples. The balance between pure academics as well as outdoor exploration was unlike any other educational experience I had been through before.
Iceland is an incredible country- so much so that I went back three months later on my own and explored the Westfjords and Snaefellsnes peninsula. It is the kind of place that leaves you breathless and in awe at every turn. The kind of place you want to return to, again and again. The GREEN Program provides an unique insight into the renewable energy industry in Iceland and kickstarts a life-long love of sustainability- and what’s not the love about that?