Living within the planetary boundaries at the University

We wish to operate within the carrying capacity of our planet and establish preconditions for an ecologically sustainable way of living at the University. We aim for carbon neutrality by 2030, invest in the circular economy and actively promote biodiversity on our campuses.
Towards a carbon neutral University

In its strategic plan, the University has set the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. We are committed to responding to the global climate crisis in all our operations. We carry out extensive collaboration to achieve the climate goals on the local, national and international levels.

The roadmap for a carbon neutral University by 2030 includes steps to reach the University’s related goals. We promote ecological sustainability by reducing the carbon footprint of our operations through investment in smart energy solutions, low-emission travel and transport as well as sustainable eating habits and procurement. At the same time, we will serve as a pioneer and leader in creating new knowledge and preconditions for mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss through our research and teaching.

The carbon footprint of the University of Helsinki

We have calculated our carbon footprint annually since 2019. The table shows the carbon footprint divided into operational categories - facilities, procurement, travel and transport, and food, and the target state for reducing the carbon footprint by 2030. The University's annual carbon footprint:

  • 2019: 77 777 t CO2e
  • 2020:  58 167 t CO2e
  • 2021: 58 217 t CO2e
  • 2022:  62 448 t CO2e
Carbon footprint in 2022

The university's carbon footprint in 2022 was 62,448 t CO2e.

  • Facilities 49%
  • Procurement 35%
  • Travel and transport 12%
  • Food 4%
Sustainable buildings and facilities

The sustainability of the campuses of the University of Helsinki and their operations is increased by providing the facilities and services needed for teaching and research with as low emissions and as high material efficiency as possible.

Practices and procedures observed on campuses are socially, ecologically, culturally and financially responsible. A sustainability and responsibility committee established by the rector carries the responsibility for the development, monitoring and reporting of campus sustainability and responsibility.

Contributing to practical implementation are Helsinki University Properties Ltd and University of Helsinki Property Services Ltd HY247.

Smart energy solutions

The University of Helsinki invests in the reduction of energy consumption and the use of renewable energy. By 2030 the goal is that 10% of the energy consumed will be generated on site from renewable sources. At the moment, systems that produce renewable energy are in use in 17 buildings.

Examples of investments in renewable energy:

  • The annual output of the solar power plants on Viikki Campus amounts to 4–5% of the electricity consumed by the entire campus. On clear spring and summer days, the panels can generate as much as 20% of the electricity used on the campus.
  • Geothermal heat is available in the Info Centre and the apartments of the research farm in Viikki, as well as in the student building of the Tvärminne Zoological Station.
  • The Lammi Biological Station is heated with wood pellets.
  • More solar power and geothermal heat solutions are coming, for example, to the Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station and the new buildings to be completed on Kumpula Campus in 2023.

A range of measures to reduce energy consumption are continuously being developed, and the University community is encouraged to conserve energy, for example, through energy-saving campaigns and other communications.

Promotion of the circular economy

Investment in the circular economy is made by continually developing waste sorting and recycling. The waste sorting model and sorting containers have been redesigned, and the opportunities for sorting plastic have been increased.

New solutions are being developed for the reuse and recycling of furniture. Furniture that is no longer needed is sold through the Kiertonet service.

Since 2019, the University’s IT Centre has operated a centralised recycling service for the responsible recycling and disposal of IT equipment and devices.

Laptop Lender is a laptop library available to degree students and staff where they can borrow laptops.

Sustainable water use

Quality of drinking water

In Finland and also in Helsinki metropolitan area tap water is drinkable and of excellent quality. Most of the raw water for the Helsinki metropolitan area comes from Lake Päijänne by a tunnel running over a distance of more than 120 kilometres. The multi-stage treatment process of water treatment plants produces high-quality supply water. Helsinki Region Environmental Services HSY makes sure that there are no substances or microbes in the water that are harmful to health.

How to save water

The production of clean and warm water and the treatment of wastewater consume energy and chemicals. Although there is generally no shortage of tap water in Finland, moderate water use is part of a sustainable lifestyle. Low water consuming toilets and taps are used in university buildings.

Water can be saved by paying attention for to the following:

Wastewater treatment Helsinki Region Environmental Services has two wastewater treatment plants which treat the wastewater in the metropolitan area. Learn more about wastewater treatment

Sustainable travel and transport

Identifying increasingly sustainable modes of transport and travel and encouraging their use for commuting and work-related travel is an integral element of the University’s efforts for carbon neutrality.

The travel guidelines of the University of Helsinki guide you towards sustainable commuting and work-related travel.

  • We consider carefully the need for travel.
  • When travelling in Finland, we prefer rail whenever possible.
  • We enable non-flight travel abroad under certain conditions.
  • We prefer flights without stopovers.
  • With certain restrictions, we offer opportunities for combining leave and remote work with work-related travel, as well as combining multiple work-related trips.

In recent years, the University of Helsinki has also created better conditions for cycling. The University supports cycling as follows:

  • Staff and students are offered bike racks, shower facilities and lockers for storing cycling gear.
  • Bike racks are located close to all University buildings, while frame-locking stands have been added wherever possible on the campuses.
  • We also promote the installation of city bike stations in connection with the campuses, with a total of five stations already available on our campuses. We have participated in the Kilometrikisa bike-a-thon since 2016.
  • Car parking on University premises has been subject to a fee since 2017.
Responsible procurement

Our goal is to set an example in responsible procurement.

We take the environmental, social and economic aspects related to responsibility into consideration as broadly as possible in competitive tendering and framework agreements. All of our contract suppliers must undertake to comply with the relevant minimum responsibility criteria.

In order to develop the responsibility of our procurement processes, we utilise an emissions report to examine the carbon footprint of University purchases.

Increasingly sustainable eating habits and events

We aim to spur and encourage members of the University community in the transition towards increasingly sustainable eating habits. Our goal is for the University’s catering services to prioritise plant-based food by 2030. The University’s catering recommendations guide to consider sustainability and responsibility in catering – food waste is to be avoided, while vegetarian and vegan food as well as sustainably caught fish are preferred at events.

Read the University’s catering recommendations

Sustainability and responsibility are considered also when organising events at the University.

Tips for organising sustainable and responsible events.

The lunch cafeterias operating on our premises are investing in increasingly sustainable and responsible food. You can read more about the sustainability actions taken by the cafeterias on the websites of the businesses that operate them.

Promoting biodiversity

We prevent biodiversity loss and promote biodiversity in our everyday activities.

Survey on campus ecosystem services and natural capital

As part of the sustainability and responsibility plan for the period 2022–2024, we will survey ecosystem services and natural capital on the four campuses in Helsinki. Besides surveying their biomes and ecosystem services, the goal is to draw up an implementation plan to promote and safeguard the biodiversity of the campuses in the future. The survey is to be completed in 2024.

Campus meadows

There have been meadows on Viikki Campus since summer 2022, when the University community and various operators launched a collaborative experiment aimed at creating increasingly diverse and pleasant on-campus green spaces. Another goal of the scheme is to improve the biodiversity of campuses, increase the recreational use of their green spaces and identify new ways of utilising green spaces in research and teaching. Since then, the scheme has expanded, for example, through new meadow patches established in 2023. As part of the scheme, morning coffee sessions will be held on a regular basis, bringing together those interested in campus biodiversity to listen to expert introductions, discuss current projects and ideas related to the topic, and network. 

Campus gardening on all of our campuses

The University provides all students and staff with the opportunity to participate in campus gardening.

The inspiration for gardening originates in students, and the first grow bags were placed in the courtyards of the Snellmania and Topelia buildings at the City Centre Campus in 2013.

Nature Positive Universities

The University of Helsinki is a founding member of the international Nature Positive Universities network. The network encourages universities and members of the academic community around the world to take measures to promote and safeguard biodiversity and slow down climate change.

Three pledges under Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development

Under the Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development scheme, the University has pledged in 2015 to

  • Reduce the energy and water consumption of University buildings by 10%
  • Use renewable resources to produce on site by 2025 at least 5% of all energy consumed
  • Promote low-emission and healthy commuting, including the following measures:
    • Increased use of independently produced solar power
    • Construction of bicycle parks
    • Deployment of software that facilitates telecommuting