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!