Visiting partners

Hello Dear readers.

On the 25th of March, the blog was written when workshop was taking place, by group SANE. Let’s introduce group SANE:

Simon – our collected and nice social and environmental student. Anna – Your one and only seal artist, exchange student and today’s blogger. Noora – our cool and hip social psychologist. Emilia – our calm aquatic science environmentalist, editing today’s post.

Today we had to summarize the information we received on our meetings with our partners, ours being Kotka. Anna and Emilia had hopped on a bus on the Friday before, meeting up in the City Hall of Kotka with the architects planning the Old Port area that was a focus for our project as well. After looking at maps of what exists today and what might be there in the future, we headed to the sight. Visiting the Maritime Centre Vellamo and then walking across the island (the distances are very short) to the Maretarium, an aquarium with Finnish fish. Getting a glimpse of what the town is like was on our agenda. It’s a beautiful town with a lot of potential.

Based on our visit to Kotka, we reformulated our question. Having been confused for the last couple session but filled with ideas, we were unsure of the direction we should take. Our partner had given us free hands, so a     conversation was in place of what we wanted our focus to be. At first, everything seemed even messier than before, but towards the end of the session our vision started to become more clear.

After small summary, there was need to call experts for further information concerning our project. There was feeling of suspense, who is going to make the call? Noora and Simon volunteered to make the calls.

Our friendly group teacher came with a smile asking, “Who are we gonna call?”

“Ghost busters!”  I answered almost automatically (What? Ghostbusters is good movie). Okay jokes aside, time to get serious! Time to decide to whom we should call. Emilia and Noora were searching for people who are in sustainable city development and tourism. One moment Noora was affected by the Life sucks virus, some minutes passed, and Noora was cured in the moment when she found a person to call – “THE LADY” (who the lady is, you may ask.  I have the same question, hope to find it later).

(P.S. Funny thing from bloggers perspective – I feel like a Homus Creepus (did you see what i did there), observing my group mates deciding who to call, sometimes jumping from English to Finnish).

Still we have not called anyone, Simon, Noora and I decided that “We should call, but who?”

Emilia – our saint and saviour, invented new mantra ‘’Anything is better than nothing, breathe in breathe out” (P.S. Course mates who I hope are reading this blog, we all struggle, think of cute seal which will either way give you seal of the approval). While we were thinking to call my group mates switched to the Finish. (I must admit finish is pretty language and I can distinguish some words like “turismi” and “Kotka” and “joo” meaning yes, an indication of success!).

ATTENTION: switching to Finnish is not discrimination or a bad thing – it is easier to think of the concrete problem in your mother language.

Time for calling has come! Noora went to call “THE LADY”, I’m remaining hopeful that she will return, but if not, it has been nice to know her. Simon has also gone to call a Demos think tank representative (“Demos” sounds awfully like “demon” – I hope there will be no need to sell his soul to succeed in this course). Some time has passed and I was starting to lose all hope to see Noora and Simon ever again.

Oh! I see Noora and Simon in the horizon, they have come back from their quest. Now for the results – both representatives are really nice and polite, but they were quite busy there will be needing to call later this week. Success nonetheless!

After calling specialists, 20 minutes of summarization of the information has started. We have created 6 information groups – Kotka’s view: what they already have, what they’re focusing on in this project, changes that will happening and ideas they’ve already come up with. The two remaining groups are what we think is missing from Kotka and the ideas we’ve come up with.

The next step is to present our summarization to other people and visit other groups in the clockwise direction. Our mission beginning, me and Emilia set on this campaign. Our journey brought us to the Kasvitieteellinen puutarha, or masters of the cardboard (P.S. they are not cardboard). They were trying to make marketing for paper packaging without diminishing and being mean to plastic.

Next were the Sea Hawks, one thing we all should be admire is that they are incredibly determined to find a good and sound solution for their problem, which is quite HARD and requires a lot of scientific research.

Next part of Emilia’s and mine journey had brought us to the group Mammals – one of their main ideas is that people are to be fined for visiting archipelago islands. A project quite like ours but taking a very different approach. After the Mammals Emilia’s and mine journey was brought to the halt. Our group mates went to continue our campaign, me and Emilia becoming the knowledge keepers of our project.

After our clockwise journey we gathered around the square table to discuss the future of our project – we decided to focus on accessibility, making a full circle of what we thought at first.

In the end of the lecture our we received the homework our independent work has started. We will head to city centre of Helsinki on Wednesday morning, wish us luck!

Anna and Emilia

Post Plastics – Solutions Solved

The next step along the road – what are the solutions to our problems, and how do we refine them! We started with a game of ‘Chinese whispers’, with a secret problem passed from one person to the next, who in turn had to pass on a secret solution to the next who then had to propose what the problem was… An interesting game, opening our eyes to the fact that there are many solutions to a problem – but that dialogue and cooperation are key to the best solutions, as in our case:  Problem – ‘too much dog fouling in the park’ Solution – ‘humans should walk less’ wasn’t the most useful!

Back in our teams we then defined the problem of our group and set out what the vision of our project was, an important clarification to verify our solutions going forward. Next – solutions, solutions and … solutions, thick and fast. The more creative the better.

Organising our solutions was next, here we worked our way up from the most unworkable/unrealistic at the bottom – to the easiest, but uninspired – to the best and most workable solutions at the top. We then shared our solutions with the other groups, while also walking to other tables and viewing what solutions the other groups had to offer. It was enlightening to see the different ideas and styles, but one thing was clear – everyone was sold by the idea of an App to market or raise awareness of their ideas… an interesting idea. Another idea that resonated with us was the concept that one has to ‘offer the carrot’ (i.e. offer subsidies for using alternatives to plastic) before swooping in with ‘the stick’ later on (i.e. legislation for a plastic tax).

Finally, we considered three characters who are affected by the problem. Never in fear of generalising we decided upon William, the CEO of Plastic Co; Susan the single mother doctor; and Manny the Manta Ray. William is ignorant of the plastic pollution, focused only upon increasing revenue for his beloved Plastic Co. Susan is aware of the terrible effects of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems after watching Blue Planet II, but only has time to buy ready meals and takeaways generating two bin bags full of plastic a week! Manny yearns for the times of his forebears, where life was one big plankton party in the azure seas – but now he has to battle discarded fishing lines and the plastic soup flooded out to sea after heavy rains. Three very different individuals, but all linked to the same issue. Plastic.

Since the session, we’ve all met our partners again. We visited the Kemira R&D department to discuss how we can try to decrease the epidemic of single use plastics. A really interesting afternoon ensued – are biodegradable alternatives better than bio-based ones? How does one really effect a fundamental change upon the industry when the plastic packaging change consists of Kemira → Board & paper producers → Brand owners → Retailers → Consumers → Waste management? Legislation is key, but what is a ‘plastic’?

To sum up, a question: do you recycle your cartons in the plastic bin or the cardboard bin?

Answer: Liquid packaging board (recycling code 81) is 75% paperboard, 20% polyethylene and 5% aluminium and so is recycled in the cardboard bin.


Group Post Plastics

Defining problems and formulating the vision

This time on the project course, it was all about further defining and selecting the final problem that the groups would then start working on. Selecting only one problem, from the wide array of dilemmas that we had earlier come up with, seemed like a difficult task at first. Our given challenge is broad with many issues linked to it. We would have wanted to pick up at least two problems to concentrate on, but time and resources are limited in one course. We’ll save the rest of the world later…

We were asked to think how our group’s skills would be useful in solving the problems. At the end of the day, the existing abilities and resources would in part facilitate possible solutions. Our group quickly noticed that the proficiencies we had listed were more general, whereas the problems we had in mind were quite specific. We started by stating that all technological solutions are off the table. After agreeing on one problem to focus on, we went ahead to meditate on preliminary solutions. At end of the session, we realized that these ideas about solutions turned out to be somewhat technological – the only thing we had thought it couldn’t be. Keeping an open mind and especially not limiting the things you think you can do seems to be a key to greater solutions.

We were also asked to form a vision: what do we want to solve and why and, what change do we want to achieve in the world. Our group consists solely of environmental science students, so we already had a shared vision: we want to go after problems and create solutions that really matter for the betterment of environment and the world. Within the framework of our given issue this means enabling more energy-efficient solutions to be used in the public buildings.

Now that the problems are more precise and concrete, it feels exciting to get to go forward creating solutions. At the end of the session we shared with others our group’s vision, the given challenge and the problem we had decided to concentrate on. The problems and plans in each group seemed ambitious, and we can’t wait to see how the solutions come together and what they will be at the end of this course!

Group Ekat

Challenge accepted!

Time to move onto the next stage! On today’s agenda the biggest and most nervous chatter-inducing event was meeting the partners. During the brief introductions by all of the partners’ representatives, quick glances were exchanged between group members which seemed to say “maybe they will be our match…or what about them”. Safe to say, the anticipation and expectations were high.

Finally, we were united with our partner, Metsä Board! During the briefing we got sucked into the world of bio-fibre and the future of packaging. Interestingly our challenge focused on effective, factual and ethical communication, a subject of which our knowledge at this point is still scarce, but which makes the challenge even more interesting. We feel that through treading through this, as of yet, fairly foreign field, we are embarking on an adventure that can provide us with a lot of new and exciting knowledge. We truly have the opportunity to step outside of our current ‘disciplinary comfort zones’. Throughout our conversation with the representatives of Metsä Board, and of CLIC, an innovation company whose mission is to find sustainable solutions to bio- and circular economy, and to energy systems at large. Good questions were asked and at the end of it we had gotten a good overview of why the issue at hand is important and we were no more ‘out like snowmen’ as the saying goes in Finnish. In other words, good groundwork was laid out. After the partners had left, we got to hear what the other groups had gotten their hands into. One of the groups got to go to Kotka and some to Espoo.

Then it was time for a workshop that consisted of many, many post-it notes. Thanks to the workshop’s questions themes, actors and problems related to the challenge started to arise. Even though in the end the number of post-it notes seemed overwhelming, we managed to create order from chaos with the help of grouping, lines and arrows. The results of the first workshop seemed promising and we cannot wait to continue forward on our journey!

Group Kasvitieteellinen PUUtarha 

Welcome to the ECGS Project Course 2019

Students from the University of Helsinki’s Environmental Change and Global Sustainability (ECGS) Master’s program know that ensuring a healthy and productive planet for tomorrow means addressing sustainability issues today!

On Monday March 11, they, along with their instructors, gathered in Viikki to kick off a hands-on project course, allowing them to do just that. The course offers students the opportunity to throw their ideas into the ring and develop solutions to pressing sustainability challenges in Southern Finland and the Baltic Sea. Throughout the course, workshops will guide students as they grapple with these complex issues, but it is their own expertise and innovation that will propel them toward the finish line!

Before the beginning the race in earnest, Monday was spent breaking the ice, getting acquainted, and learning about the structure of the course. Instructors prepared the students for the days ahead, discussing project management tips, intellectual property rights, and expectations. Afterwards, during the “find your flock” game, students met and mingled with their new teammates and discussed the plethora of skills and backgrounds they bring to the table.

Next up, the big reveal! The sustainability challenges, submitted by the course’s seven external partners, will be revealed on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Photo credit: Taneli Lahtinen on Unsplash