Practicing what we preach - Improving the environmental performance of our work community

“How do we make environmentally ‘smart’ practices visible and embed them into our actions at work?” In early February, a group of researchers at the University of Helsinki decided to tackle the challenge of practicing the sustainability goals they preach.

It all started over a cup of coffee. Noora, Heini, Florencia and Jaana from the Forest Bioeconomy, Business and Sustainability (FBBS) research group, started pondering about the lack of visible measures and instructions on how we could—and should—minimize our environmental footprint as individuals, and as a part of the University, faculty, and department level communities.

“How do we make environmentally ‘smart’ practices visible and embed them into our actions at work?”

In early February, we circulated an email inquiring our colleagues’ interest towards a joint effort to decrease the carbon footprint in the Department of Forest Sciences. In response, nine enthusiastic researchers expressed their desire to transform climate change and sustainability goals into concrete and visible actions within our work environment. Many of the researchers came from the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth system research (INAR).

The group got together for the first time on March 6, 2019 to brainstorm what we could do to better promote environmental sustainability goals; this was when the Viikki C-group took its first breath.

What’s the Viikki C-group all about?

Our group consists of an interdisciplinary set of researchers associated with Dept. of Forest Sciences. We are post docs and PhD students from Finland, and abroad. Somewhat organically, we chose our own department unit as our testbed.

In our first meeting, we were introduced to a carbon calculation tool (see the Finnish calculator at Hiilifiksu järjestö) by Tiina Haaspuro from VITRI. The presentation acted as both example and inspiration of the instruments that exist to measure environmental impacts. It also helped us understand what sustainability aspects measurements tools consider (e.g. energy, transportation, waste).

Three other meetings and a bunch of emails followed. We continued to discuss and brainstorm existing and novel ways to enhance environmental sustainability at our work.

What is next?

As the next steps, we aim to collect information from students and colleagues in other units in Viikki Campus. We want to know which environmentally smart practices they already apply, and possibly even measure, on campus. We also hope to gather ideas about new practices that the students and staff would like to see implemented either in Viikki Campus, or beyond at the University.

Our group hopes to inspire other research and lab groups to take part in this initiative by sharing their existing practices and new ideas to reduce our environmental footprint. It only takes a few moments to respond to the electronic form and share ideas with other groups in the Campus.

Our goal is to turn some of the most promising ideas into action, e.g. by organizing challenges based on them. We will also communicate the results to the team in charge of the University of Helsinki’s new Responsibility and Sustainability programme.

Our ultimate ambition is that based on everyone’s participation, the strategic goals on sustainability will be translated into real practices within our Campus, and at the University as a whole.

C you in Viikki!