Can Iceland’s unique energy system change the way the world is powered?
Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is one of the most sustainable cities in the world. Every building is fueled using clean geothermal power. Iceland is lucky though; most countries don’t have an abundance of geothermal activity to turn into energy. And, Icelanders own more cars and fly more miles than their European counterparts. This raises the question: which parts of Iceland’s clean energy economy can be shared globally?
With a base in Reykjavik as well as time spent in smaller towns across the country, we can explore how this country’s unique energy system poses an inspiration and a challenge to the rest of the world. By visiting key geothermal spots and Icelandic landmarks such as the Blue Lagoon, we can get a sense of the country’s geological advantages. With local nonprofits and designers we can consider the balance between architecture, technology, and politics of sustainability.
Right now Iceland is also undergoing one of the biggest transformations in the world. It is quickly becoming one of the most desirable tourist spots on the planet--which means that this tiny country is being inundated with all sorts of visitors. This reality is creating new questions about the nation’s future that we want our groups to be mindful of, but also inspires new questions for us to explore. Is tourism a force for good on the island? And can Iceland inspire a new future for global energy usage?
Flights to Iceland arrive in Keflavik which is usually over an hour’s drive from Reykjavik. As flights to Iceland often arrive quite early in the morning, we find a great way to refresh and relax is to stop at the Blue Lagoon (the top tourist spot in the country) for a dip in the hot springs and a quick introduction to geothermal energy. This part of the country is also where we can seek out the Northern Lights during the winter months (roughly October-March).
In Reykjavik, we’ll spend time with locals on a walking tour to get an intro to the city and culture. In town, we will make stops at some of our favorite food spots in the city for cinnamon rolls, lamb stew, fish and chips, and the famous Icelandic hot dogs. We may also enjoy the heated pools that are part of many Icelanders’ daily routine.
Getting out of the city, we’ll get lunch at a geothermal tomato farm, and visit an Iceland energy company’s power stations and hot water plant.
Vik is a village in Southern Iceland that makes for a great base to explore the landscape of the South Coast. In Vik we’ll take a day trip to the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano whose eruption halted all travel to the country in 2010. We’ll also stop at the spectacular Skogafoss waterfall, and set out onto a less technical trek up a glacier.
The Golden Circle:
The Golden Circle is a famous loop in the middle of Iceland where we’ll visit the original Geysir (the source of the word geyser) and the largest waterfall in the country. At Pingvellir, we’ll touch on Icelandic history (in addition to its recent history as a filming location for Game of Thrones) and explore the geology of the continental divide. Standing in the rift between the two tectonic plates of Europe and North America provides powerful backdrop for discussions on global policy on climate change!
Atlas Workshops has a passion for working with schools to build trips that meet their goals and align with their curriculum. With high school groups in Iceland, we like to introduce a mix of STEM and social issues while we think about the future of energy globally through specific case studies and site visits. With other groups interested in Iceland, exploring the current impact of tourism and engaging with the design community in the country can open up some deeper threads on current challenges and opportunities.
For a trip with a deep focus on sustainability and renewable energy, we have a variety of other programs around the world, such as “Harnessing the Wind” in Uruguay, “Food, Land, & Civilization” in Greece, and “Cities That Cycle” in Scandinavia.