Alice Melz

alice melz 


Alice Melz is an undergraduate working for the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce to advance cleantech innovations in Scandinavia & California. She also helped organize Green Connections last month, a conference that promotes networking and exchange of sustainable solutions between Nordic and American companies.


How did sustainability play a role in your life growing up, if at all?

Sustainability has always been a part of my life growing up, a very natural part. I don’t recall thinking a lot about it, because it has always been the norm. We only took the car a few times per week if we had to go to the grocery store, all other times I walked or used public transportation - even in snow storms or late at night. We always brought our own grocery bags, recycled (meaning we sorted colored glass, uncolored glass, aluminium, paper, etc) every week, and minimized food waste. Sustainability is deeply rooted in the Swedish culture, so this was how I thought people were supposed to live, the normal. Moving to the United States was a wakeup call for me. That’s when I truly got interested in sustainability, because I noticed such a sharp contrast between my life growing up in Sweden and my new life in the U.S. in regards to sustainable living.

What did you notice most- relating to sustainability- when transitioning from Sweden to the US? What could the US learn from Sweden?

The list goes on, but two things that stood out to me was lack of awareness and the complexity of living sustainably. I noticed that, generally speaking, people weren’t as invested in the issue as Swedes were, we look at it as a duty and a responsibility, while some Americans doubt whether the issue even exists. And for those that are aware, it’s pretty difficult to live sustainably here. Just as an example, in Sweden you can recycle bottles and cans at most grocery stores, so we’re in the habit of bringing the empty bottles to the grocery store when you do your weekly shopping. In contrast, here, you have to find specific recycling centers that tend to be remote, few in numbers, and long lines. In other words; recycling can’t be incorporated in everyday life in the same way as it can in Sweden. A huge difference is, of course, the driving culture. We barely drive in comparison to the U.S. When I moved here I was in shock, I was not even planning on getting a car. I realized pretty soon that without a car you can hardly live a functioning life. In Sweden, I only used busses, trains, and a whole lot of walking, and it didn’t limit me in any way. 

What was your day to day work for the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce and how did you get the position?

The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit organization that has chambers all over the U.S. Our purpose is to help Swedish companies in establishing themselves in the American market, and to have a Swedish community and network in the U.S. I applied to this internship because I wanted to share my knowledge and experience of being a Swede in the U.S., and to broaden my network. We have fantastic entrepreneurs and companies in the Chamber. The San Diego chapter has two main emphasises; CleanTech and Life Science. My role was to be in charge of marketing and CleanTech. The majority of my time at the chamber was spent preparing and organizing Green Connections. Besides the event, I was responsible for our CleanTech member companies, and to keep a strong social media presence. 

You helped organize Green Connections this year, can you explain what this event is and what you learned?

Green Connections is a three-day conference we’ve held for 9 years in a row. Green Connections have three themes for each day, and focuses on the Nordic-American exchange of CleanTech solutions. This year's themes were Renewable Energy, Smart Cities/Buildings, and Energy Storage. Of course, 2020’s Green Connections had to be a bit different. We moved online, which changed our usual structure by a lot. I wanted to take advantage of this new situation and make the event bigger than before. Not being restricted by geographic limitations, I was able to invite speakers from Scandinavia, and targeted our biggest and most successful CleanTech companies. Speakers that attended were Volvo, Siemens, Skanska, Alfa Laval, and many more. In total we had 23 speakers and 5 financial sponsors. I also wanted more female speakers this year, and have more students attending. I was very happy to see a wider range of age groups attending, as well as a greater gender diversity among the speakers. My mission was to make CleanTech more relatable to people, as it tends to be very heavy and technology-focused. A great memory from the event was when a 20 year old speaker from Norway, representing the electric boat company Evoy, received a request from one of the attendees wanting to invest in Evoy because he was so impressed by the speaker and Evoy’s solutions. Seeing such a young, talented man representing a fantastic sustainable company and being offered such a fantastic deal - that’s inspiring. It exemplifies that CleanTech and sustainability is in fact for everyone, regardless of age or other factors. We all belong in this arena, and we can all make a difference. 

The purpose of our event was to bring Scandinavian CleanTech ideas and solutions to the U.S., which means a lot to me. There are many things the U.S. does a lot better than Sweden, but CleanTech and sustainability is something we dominate and my top priority was to inspire our attendees by teaching them about all the amazing solutions Sweden, Norway, and Finland have developed. For example, one of our speakers has developed a neighborhood in Sweden that is completely net zero, another one has developed a completely organic battery that can be thrown away in the regular trash. The ultimate goal is that people don’t have to make sacrifices, but manage to live sustainably without feeling limited. Green Connections is an event that gives hope and fosters new ideas and collaborations that can help people just as much as it helps the planet. 


What other kinds of eco-marketing are you doing?

I recently started an internship position with The Humble Co. North America, a company that is a member of the SACC-San Diego, as their Marketing Coordinator. The Humble Co. was developed by a Swedish dentist who wanted to make biodegradable oral care products as an effort to minimize plastic waste, and now has the biggest sustainable oral care portfolio on the market. Going from working with CleanTech to sustainable oral care products has been a fantastic experience, because both experiences represent two important parts of the concept of sustainability. We need structural changes, companies taking a stand and developing clean solutions. But we, people like you and I, also need to take our responsibility. Just by simply purchasing another toothbrush or cotton swabs that are not made of plastic or toxins actually makes a difference - and it’s not causing you to make any sacrifices. If we expect people to live more sustainably, we need to create competitive alternatives to non-sustainable products. It would be naive to expect all people to care, so we need to make it easier for people to live sustainably so that they can do it effortlessly. The goal is to make sustainable living easy, if not easier, than their current lifestyle. I’m proud to work for a company that creates those solutions for people that don’t know where to start. Making small differences is a fantastic start, and I’m proud of everyone who makes a sustainable choice - big or small. It all matters.

You’re a senior, what are your plans after graduation/what is your dream career?

My plan is to take a gap year and get some more work experience before pursuing my MBA. I’m very open-minded regarding my future career, but I do know that I want to work in the United States for a company that prioritizes sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Finding a company where you can bring your whole self to work, an organization that shares your values, makes all the difference.

Do you have any advice for other students still on their journey?

A quote by Steve Jobs has stayed with me, that “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards”. As you’re going through life, you’ll often find yourself feeling that your plans are not working out, and what you’re doing right now isn’t going to lead to where you want to be. But I can assure you, that if you work hard and stay true to what you believe in you are on the right track. You might not be able to see that yet. In the future, it will all make sense, and you’ll realize that you were on the right track all along.