8 reasons Finland is winning

The Ecologist
The race to act on climate breakdown and ecological crisis is against time - rather than each other. Finland, though, is definitely way ahead of the UK.

Finns prioritise nature in helping their mental health.

The good people of Finland claim they are ahead of the UK and most of the world when it comes to the environmental crisis. I wanted to know more so packed my bags and headed to Helsinki to ask the difficult questions. I met politicians, business leaders and members of the public to find out what environmental action is really taking place. Here are the TOP EIGHT things that actually impressed me.

  1. Helsinki is sending a wooden satellite into space

Yes. You read that right. A wooden satellite. The WISA Woodsat is a nano-satellite designed and created by UPM, a company designing technology with little or no fossil fuel use. The first wooden satellite in the world is due to be launched this year. It is made from birch plywood and will be able to withstand both the hot and cold temperatures of its orbit. It weighs just 1kg here on earth and has the dimensions 10cm x 10cm x 10cm.

  1. Taxes are high and Finns don’t mind

Finland has a generous welfare state. Large amounts of money from taxes are used to improve public facilities. Quality of life therefore is noticeably improved which explains why Finns do not mind paying extra taxes. The Helsinki Central Library Oodi, designed by ALA Architects is a public library providing access to a multitude of facilities. From sewing machines, to 3D printers and computer games rooms. These taxes also fund progressive environmental policies.

  1. Clothes are being made by creating a cotton made from second hand clothing fibres

A brand new bio-based textile company called Infinited Fiber is using old clothes and materials that would otherwise be going to landfill to recreate new clothes by capturing its value at polymer level. Founded in 2016, the biotech company has already gained a strong following including Game of Thrones actress, Maisie Williams, who modelled a piece she co-designed made with 100 percent "infinite fibre" materials.

  1. You can have bathroom appliances made from wood which are stronger than ceramics

Woodio is an eco-design brand which uses the world’s first 100 percent waterproof solid wood composite material. Their products are made from wood chips and advanced resins. Although the resin has a small carbon footprint the company is actively working on new resins which can be made from the cellulose found in wooden properties. Woodio offer products ranging from bathtubs, toilets, wash basins and other accessories, in a variety of nature based tones.

Finns prioritise nature in helping their mental health.

  1. The future of medicine could include using wood based products

Biomedicine in Finland is becoming more sustainable with scientific research into how to make non-harmful everyday products. GrowDex is a company that creates nonofibrilar cellulose hydrogel for biomedical applications. One example is of a wound dressing for patients with burns or scars which stays on the skin until the wound has healed. These products are designed to be highly biocompatible with human cells and tissues and free of animal or human derivatives. This scientific research is applicable to a global effort to reduce carbon emissions. 

  1. Finland is the next country set to become carbon neutral - behind only Uruguay

Finland has set out a series of goals that involve achieving carbon neutrality all whilst protecting its biodiversity:

  • Achieve carbon neutrality by 2035
  • Be the world’s first fossil-free welfare society
  • Strengthen carbon sinks and stocks in the short and long term
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of construction and housing
  • Halt the decline of biodiversity in Finland
  • Strengthen their role as leader in the circular economy

From 2029 the use of coal for energy use will be banned in Finland. The operation of the Hanasaari Coal plant in Helsinki will stop in 2023 and this will have substantial positive effects for the climate and reduce significantly the city’s, and country’s, carbon footprint. The country will undergo what is described by Karoliina Niemi, Forest Director of Finnish Forest Industries Federation, as a “fossil phase out”.

  1. Finland measures not just their carbon footprint, but their carbon handprint

The carbon footprint is a term which describes the level of carbon dioxide released from a particular activity made by an individual, organisation or community. Finland offers a new concept what is called a carbon handprint. This relates to the positive impact of a company on the environment. This new environmental indicator will help to determine the true environmental impact of a certain group and will hopefully limit the level of greenwashing.

  1. Nature is key to the mental health of Finns

Finns prioritise nature in helping their mental health. Just two hours of exercise outdoors within nature has proven to make a person happier. Finland has a practise called ‘forest bathing’ which includes spending time outdoors within nature and absorbing the surroundings. It includes using all of your senses to reconnect with the natural environment. Tree yoga is an effective way of reconnecting your mind with the present moment within the forest. 

This Author

Ruby Harbour is the editorial assistant of The Ecologist.

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