I am Karlina. For the last 10 months, I have been on an EVS placement in Finland working at EKOenergy, hosted by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC). This is where I write about my adventures in Helsinki and beyond.
Autumn for me was the time of Finnish adventures. October was off to a good start when I got to attend a seminar jointly organised by EKOenergy and FANC on fish passes. In case you didn’t know, hydropower dams and power plants can have disastrous impacts on local fish populations, so understanding how to minimise these (for example by building ‘fish-friendly’ dams or adding fish passes to already existing dams) is very important. Especially in a country like Finland that is rich in rivers, hydropower and critically endangered salmonid populations. The seminar was entirely in Finnish, but as I am a biology nerd and will grab any chance to surround myself with people who care about fish and river protection, I volunteered to help as EKOenergy's official photographer. Most of the presentations went over my head (lots of text based slides equal a very confused non-Finn), but it was nice to talk to everyone during the breaks, so overall, I'm happy I joined in. It helped that the location (an old hydropower plant, now part of the Museum of Technology in Viikki) was so cool!
October was also the time for a new EKOenergy campaign, this time targeting chocolate producers to switch to EKOenergy labelled renewable energy to power their production. As part of the campaign we interviewed current EKOenergy users – a lovely little chocolate factory in Porvoo, a scenic town (the oldest town in Finland according to trusty Wikipedia) not far from Helsinki. Laura (an EVS participant from Germany) and I were the lucky two of our team who got to visit the factory, try all their tasty chocolate-based treats, and, between mouthfuls of vegan chocolate cake, ask a few questions about the sustainability of cacao farming. So as far as random Wednesdays go, that was a good one. If you want to find out more about our big day out, Laura wrote a lovely blog about it on the EKOenergy website: http://www.ekoenergy.org/chocolate-made-with-ekoenergy/.
October also meant it was time for another EVS training event. I wrote about my wonderful experience of the on-arrival training week in Kokkola in my first blog post, so it was safe to say I had pretty high expectations for the mid-term training. This time we were in a youth centre in Sipoo, a town east from Helsinki, and it did not disappoint. I enjoyed three days of getting to know other EVS participants, learning about their experiences as well as reflecting on my own. The group leaders in charge of the event were so knowledgeable and full of recommendations, especially for those of us who are thinking of staying in Finland after our EVS is over. I also appreciated a less strict timetable, with lots of free time for walks, talks and sauna, of course. If there’s one thing I have learned in Finland, is that there is a special kind of friendship and closeness that can only evolve in the dark vulnerability of a Finnish sauna. It must be something to do with the heat making your brain a bit fuzzy and incapable of keeping all the usual filters and walls.
Outside of work, it has not been that much fun. It is dark and cold outside, with a distinct lack of snow this year. So, I have spent a lot of my time getting increasingly alarmed at the state of the world and trying to come up with ways to make it better. I have a scientific mind, so thinking of practical ways to save the world is my way of battling the winter blues. I gave up on specific new year’s resolutions a while back, but I am a firm believer in not being a shitty person, so each new year I aim to be a better human than I was the year before. ‘Better’ includes anything from being nicer to the people I love, to learning how to swim, to researching how to save the world from climate change. If you follow the news, care about the environment and are a little bit like me, you might find getting up in the morning some days a bit difficult. We all know we need to recycle, stop using plastic, cycle to work etc., but it can often feel simultaneously too much and not enough. But here's what I've learned in the past 10 months, from the people whose job it is to investigate climate change solutions. It all boils down to two simple things you can do to significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
Firstly, reduce your meat and dairy consumption. According to the UN, global animal agriculture makes a greater contribution to global warming than all transportation (including air-travel) in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change! By reducing your dairy consumption (or swapping to a plant-based alternative - oat milk in a brew tastes surprisingly ok), experimenting with beans or lentils in your favourite recipes, and maybe saving that steak and cheese for special occasions, you'll do the world a whole lot of good. Not to mention the fact that animal farming is cruel and beans and veg are so much cheaper than meat (and a whole lot better for you too).
Secondly, switch to renewable energy. We all use electricity and the easiest way to reduce your carbon emissions without any changes to your lifestyle is to choose green electricity. It really is that simple! You can call your electricity seller enquiring about the origin of your electricity. Ask if they offer any electricity from renewable sources (wind, solar, maybe hydro). If they don't, ask why not and consider switching to a seller that does. And do the same for the electricity provider at your parents’ house, student flat, work, university, business. More often than not green electricity will be cheaper, but this depends on your region and specific provider so shop around if you can, there are plenty of comparison websites available online. The more consumers put pressure on their electricity providers to offer green energy, the more they will have to listen.
My aim for 2018 is to try to do both. So, if you are looking for a way to make the world just a little bit better, join me!
I shall leave it at that. Hope you all have a lovely Christmas and I'll be back for my final blog in February.
Kiitos for reading and happy holidays!
To begin with, the European Voluntary Service (EVS) is a programme financed by the European Union through which young people, aged between 17-30 years, travel abroad to participate in volunteering projects. The living costs (accommodation and food), insurance, local travel are covered and some pocket money is provided. International travel is also reimbursed.
It is a great opportunity to live abroad, a chance to meet new people and gain experience that can be very useful in future, plus you get the taste of a new culture!
Since October 2017 I have been following such a volunteering project, in Sheffield, United Kingdom - by this way I want to give a massive shout-out to my sending organisation Synergy Romania for all the support and assistance they are and have been providing me with.
To this date, the first two and a half months of my 1 year long EVS, I feel, have past very, very fast. A lot of good and exciting things have happened since, with regards to the activities done and experiences gained, both within our receiving organizations, namely Youth Discovery Ventures (YDV) - our host organisation and the Regather Co-operative - the coordinating organisation, and outside of it, as well.
From the very beginning we - we meaning my EVS volunteer colleagues, Giorgia from Italy, Kristin from Estonia, and I, Sergiu from Romania - got to meet the people that we were to interact with the most, such as staff from the receiving organizations, our mentors and also former EVS-ers that have decided to stay in Sheffield. The event happened in a very pleasant and welcoming atmosphere, where we were introduced to the British style pub, thus a bit of the local culture, and also to the highly appreciated beer, which is well present in the archipelago’s history.
“Speaking” of beer, Regather has its own brewery - how exciting is that!? Over there we have learned how the stork brings the baby beer to the people (LOL). Brewing beer is a cool process, in which the malt drink flavoured with hops undergoes a yeast fermentation process. The thing I like the most about making beer is the physics and chemistry of it - how every ingredient is precisely measured, following the recipes, and calculating the exact moment in which the next step of brewing needs to happen. So, it’s pretty cool, the brewing process, and the end result is refreshing and tasty.
One day per week we are helping out with the Veg Box. The organic fruit and vegetables reach us in the morning and when we receive all the goods from the local farms and producers, we begin to weigh them and place them in the box, according to each customer's' preference and available produce. When packing the boxes, we put in a very good team effort, and every week, we listen to engaging music, while doing it. And this is when the future food has its best time... The veggies and fruits start busting some moves, change dance partners, while the box is passed from person to person when getting filled, and then go to have a rest in their actual place inside the veg boxes. I find it thrilling and inspiring to be part of the Veg Box scheme, because through it people are encouraged to eat food that is grown organically, whilst, at the same time, they are supporting local businesses to function and develop.
Regather is also an events venue. From gigs, film projections, comedy acts, private events, all of it happen here. I love that when an event takes place I can interact with people working in the creative world; it is a great networking and learning opportunity, since I get the chance to communicate with fellow artists and performers.
The sort of activities we do when events are on include setting up the place, stock management or bar support. At the bar, which is open only when events take place, you can try the earlier mentioned Regather beer, so come on by and have a taste!
Events is something we like to take part outside of Regather and YDV, as well, but not only... We like to have our fair share of fun also in our free time, so we go to parties, films, pubs, theatre, outdoors and nature, fairs and loads more, sometimes together sometimes individually, accordingly to our preferences. Below you can see an example of the three of us in our full splendor, entertained mode on, while attending a fancy dress party. A bunch of cheeky monkeys!
On a more serious note, I am very much appreciative for the opportunity given to take part in such an amazing project! I strongly believe that it is contributing to my development as an active and involved citizen in the community and it empowers me furthermore to pursue both my entrepreneurial goals and creative dreams, and make them come true.
More posts about our EVS project are to follow, so keep an eye on the blog here for updates!