What if you lived in a place with almost unlimited possibilities to make your dreams come true? What if – at the same time – that place contributed in destroying the dreams of a better future for our planet and the future generations? Could you reconcile these two dreams that seem so incompatible? Or would you have to sacrifice something? These were the questions in my mind before I went to see the documentary Dark Eden (2018) at Helsinki Documentary Film Festival – DocPoint 2019. I wondered if the film might give me some answers.

Dark Eden, directed by Jasmin Herold and Michael Beamish, paints a picture of life in Fort McMurray, located at the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada. The Athabasca Oil Sands is the largest industrial project and the third largest oil reserve on the planet. People from all around the world are drawn to oil business to earn high salaries and to pursue a better life for themselves. But oil is also one of the world’s most destructive industries. It damages the environment by polluting the waters and releasing toxins in the air as well as contributing to CO2 emissions that add up to the blanket of greenhouse gases surrounding the planet.

It is difficult to watch people chasing after fortunes at the expense of the environment. I find myself wanting to rewind and watch some of the scenes again and again to understand better. Dark Eden does not explain. The lives of the protagonists just roll in front of the audience’s eyes framed by massive plumes of smoke rising from the oil sands. The scenery looks bleak. The waters, land and wildlife are affected by the oil industry. The livelihood of indigenous peoples in the area is in danger: the wild food is contaminated by pollution. And if the wildlife is affected, then so are the people. We find out that children are being diagnosed with rare conditions and diseases. And it gets more personal for the film makers when the film’s other director is diagnosed with cancer. People in Fort McMurray are worried but they seem hesitant to voice their opinions. After all, the oil industry is a major employer in the area.

There are no statistics, expert interviews, politics, demonstrations or oil company CEO interviews in Dark Eden. There are just people whose lives are intertwined with the Athabasca Oil Sands in good or bad. Greenpeace is mentioned in passing, and we see a glimpse of the celebrity activist Jane Fonda visiting Fort McMurray. Otherwise, no environmentalist action is seen in the film. I think it is more thought-provoking this way. The film does not point a finger at anyone. The audience is forced to deal with their own thoughts and feelings about the subject in the darkness of the cinema.

The reality of Fort McMurray crawls under your skin. The town exists because of the oil industry. If and when the companies leave the oils sands, the town might cease to exist. If there is no work, people will leave to pursue their dreams somewhere else. But the nature will stay damaged, and the people whose health has been affected, will still be ill. In the film, people talk more about what the collapse of oil prices might do to their future than about health and environmental concerns. Reconciling the two dreams is not easy. “You don’t see what you know”. Is this the answer that I am looking for? I feel it is only a survival strategy of sorts. The reality behind the dream future is something you do not want to or cannot see in order to go on.

People think, talk and dream about their life after they leave the oil sands. They dream of buying houses, building houses in the mountains, reunited families, good life, and in one case, trophy hunting in Africa. Nobody talks about leaving the oil industry in order to protect the environment. A human desire for a better, wealthier life outweighs the will to protect nature.

I am not sure if I got the answers I was looking for. The film asks what is the price for a better life. I might say that the price is the sacrifice you have to make. And what is the sacrifice you have to make in order to fulfill your dreams? In my view, there is not only one sacrifice. The environment, the future of the planet, the living conditions of future generations, health and even one’s conscience are all sacrifices here. There is no reconciling the two different dreams. There is only the question: which dream are you willing to sacrifice?

DocPoint 2019 took place 28 Jan to 3 Feb 2019 in Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno


People gathering at the Senate Square before the march. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

For several years now, I have followed the news with both fear and hope. Will we be too late or will we be just in time to stop the consequences of climate change from getting out of hand? What kind of a planet will we be leaving for the future generations? I have felt that as an ordinary citizen, my chances to make a significant impact are somewhat limited. But what I can do, is to demand the decision-makers to act now. In order to put pressure on the politicians, a group of organisations arranged a climate march in Helsinki on Saturday 20th October 2018.

People getting ready before the march. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

Getting ready. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

In the last few years, the world has seen the effects of climate change up, close and personal. Stronger hurricanes and typhoons, wild fires, heat waves, droughts and alarming amounts of algae are here to stay. And these are only some of the effects. Suddenly, the climate change and its impacts are everywhere: in the news, in social media discussions and at home when you sit down to your evening supper. The wake-up call has been sounding for years but now the alarm is getting harder and harder to ignore.

When the Paris Agreement was forged in the 2015 Climate Summit, the United Nations asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to examine what the goal of keeping temperature at 1.5 C would mean. According to the panel’s report, it is still possible to keep the temperature below 1.5 C but it will be challenging. To reach this goal, every single country in the world will have to commit to prompt climate action in order to lessen the impacts of climate change. The panel was very strict about this. Even the rise of a half a degree to 2 C would be a significantly worse scenario for the world. And if we keep going like we are now, the temperature will rise to 3 C which is something the world cannot handle. Therefore, the action against the effects of climate change must be taken now and not tomorrow, next year or in five years time.

The march has started. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

The march has started. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

On Saturday last week, the day of the march was finally here. I and thousands of other people took part in the climate march and demanded climate justice, ecosystem protection, support for the increase of renewable energies and energy conservation, environmental education to all school levels, support for the climate action of the poorest countries, and a just transition.

The weather was crisp and beautiful. The crowd gathered at the Senate Square in front of the Helsinki Cathedral before the march. The sight of all those people attending was almost emotional. I was happy to be there with others who were worried about the state of our climate.

The young Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, 15, who has been in a school strike for climate since August this year, gave a moving speech before the march and urged decision-makers to act before its too late. She pointed out that the climate crisis has already been solved: we have the facts and the solutions. Now we only need to open our eyes and change ourselves.

At the Parliament House. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

At the Parliament House. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

Soon after Greta’s speech, the march proceeded from the Senate Square to the Parliament House. In front of the Parliament House, we heard speeches by Kaisa Kosonen, the Climate Policy Advisor at Greenpeace Nordic, Petra Laiti, the chair of Finnish Sámi Youth Organization Suoma Sámi Nuorat, and the politicians from eight parliamentary parties. Petra Laiti’s speech was very impressive. She reminded us all that as one of indigenous peoples in the Arctic region, the Sámi people are in the frontline of climate change. They have the best knowhow of their land so they should have a place in the decision-making when it comes to making sustainable decisions about the arctic nature. I hope that her speech made as powerful impression on the decision-makers on the scene as it did on me and on many others listening to it.

Before the march ended, I had an inspiring discussion with one other participant about what we ourselves can do for our planet. We agreed that using renewable energy, avoiding food waste, being vegans or vegetarians, and setting an example ourselves are some of the things we can do. On Saturday, there were many of us setting an example. The reports say that approximately 10 000 people participated in the march. It was the biggest climate march that had ever taken place in Finland. The aerial photos I saw online later that day looked amazing. I felt empowered with a renewed sense of hope for the future. I hope that the knowledge that so many people are worried about climate and our future and the future of our children will accelerate the actions we as a nation have to take to do our part in keeping the temperature below 1.5 C.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno

Sources: IPCC, The New Yorker, Greta Thunberg’s speech (in English), Petra Laiti’s speech (in Finnish)



Whether you travel in your home country or abroad, sustainable travelling is the way to go. For me it also includes sustainable packing, environmentally sustainable to be exact. The market is filled with eco-labeled products to make your travelling easier and to help you consume more consciously. But what if you question consumerism, even if it’s conscious and eco-friendly? I thought about this and decided to explore packing from a point of view of a person who tries to minimise all consuming. What if instead of buying new eco-friendly products, you tried be an otherwise environmentally conscious traveller?

Environmentally conscious travellers are usually also conscious consumers. Conscious consumerism means that you make ethical and sustainable purchasing decisions. These may include buying eco-friendly, fair trade or locally produced products.

I used to be satisfied seeing myself as a conscious consumer until I read Maria Csutora’s research paper The ecological footprint of green and brown consumers. Introducing the behaviour-impact-gap (BIG) problem. Csutora suggests that there is actually no real difference between the carbon footprints of a conscious consumer and an ordinary consumer. She points out that the environmentally aware – conscious – consumers often have the funds to invest in eco-friendly lifestyles but while they make some green choices, e.g. recycle, the expectations placed on their socio-economic status influence their consuming habits. Thus, they consume more, which in turn offsets the impact of their environmental efforts. This made me rethink my idea of myself as a conscious consumer. I recycle and make green choices in my life, but is buying heaps of eco-friendly goods an actual green choice?

Suzanne Jacobs’ article Consumerism plays a huge role in climate change refers to a study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology that suggests that consumerism is responsible for up to 60 % of greenhouse gas emissions and 50 to 80 % of water, land, and material use globally. There is no mention of conscious consumerism but let’s face it: the Earth cannot be completely unaffected by our choices, no matter how conscious or green they are. Of course it is recommendable to buy ethical, environmentally-friendly items if you need to buy something but if you want to minimise your consuming altogether, what do you pack in your bags as an environmentally conscious traveller. I will take a look at my packing habits and share some of my sustainable packing tips.


How to minimise consuming and your carbon footprint? A step in this direction is using reusable packing materials. A good way to be a sustainable traveller is to borrow your travel bag from a friend or find used bags from fleamarkets. In the past, I have done both. If you cannot find a suitable bag and you travel frequently, you might want to invest in a good-quality carry-on bag or suitcase made of sustainable material. A quality bag can be a one time purchase that you will use for the rest of your life.

When I pack my belongings I try to minimise packing materials. Plastic packing materials are something I have had hard time dealing with. I would like to avoid plastic but sometimes it is difficult. For example, when travelling by plane with only a hand luggage, you have to pack your liquids into a reclosable plastic bag. It’s a good thing there are small plastic bags such as Minigrips that are reclosable and reusable. These little bags are something that I already have at home for freezing berries and such. No need to buy new ones. You can wash them and reuse them, and make them last close to forever.

When I travel by train, packing food is easiest in stainless steel, glass or plastic containers since they keep the spillage inside and can be used again. I have seen many reusable and environmentally-friendly steel and glass containers online. But if you already have the equivalent at home, why buy new ones. I think you should use everything you have at home before jumping into the eco-consumer bandwagon.

In my opinion, the easiest glass containers are mason jars which are good for carrying nuts, seeds and other snacks of your choice. If you worry about the jars getting broken, pack your snacks in reclosable and reusable Minigrip bags. They are also easier to fit into your travel bag. And you can fill them again and again.

My tip for drinks is to use a refillable water bottle to avoid accumulating disposable plastic bottles in the oceans or landfills. A good bottle has probably been the only thing I really wanted to invest in, so I bought a refillable BPA-free (BPA=Bisphenol-A, a chemical used in making plastic) bottle a few years ago and never looked back. I never need to buy water bottles or worry about harmful chemicals when drinking from my own bottle. In Finland, you can drink tap water so filling your bottle is easy everywhere. When travelling in countries without drinkable tap water, you might want to consider investing in a filtering water bottle. Yes, you will have to be a consumer there, but it is better than buying bottled water many times a day.


My aim is to reduce waste and minimise my consuming so I will not pack items that can be used only once. It is also easier to carry reusable everyday items with you than try to find a place to buy new ones. Besides, do I want to leave trash to a place I am visiting? No, I don’t.

If I want to take a book with me, I take it from my own shelf. You can choose e-books too. It is argued that paper books and e-books are both as bad since making paper destroys forests, and electronic devices you use for reading e-books have materials that cause environmental problems. But reading is good for you so try to choose what is best for you and for the environment.

When packing your toiletries, be a minimalist. It’s good to have a travel sized shampoo bottles at hand. You can refill them, and they require only a little bit of space. An even better choice could be an organic shampoo bar packed in a recyclable cardboard packaging that you can carry with you and recycle the package when back at home.

Bring your own cutlery. Even on shorter trips, say a day’s sitting on a train, a spoon and a fork might be good to have on you. Disposable cutlery is a big no-no for me, and biodegradable forks and knives seem pointless when I have stainless steel cutlery at home.

Be fashionably functional. To avoid buying new bags or using plastic bags, you can pack extra tote bags or light canvas bags. They can also be of use when you need to carry dirty laundry. Also, take reusable cloth napkins with you. They last long and are easy to wash. And there will be no trash and no need to buy new napkins.

Having reusable items means you have to carry all of them with you but I think it’s a small price to pay and worth it if it benefits the environment.


Before packing, I usually think hard what I am going to need on my trip. I prefer to pack light and also leave a little bit room for something that I might bring back with me. If I go visit relatives, there might be a need to have space for berry jams and other homemade goodies. And there is always the chance that you cannot avoid buying something from your destination. If you want to buy items, be a conscious consumer and buy sustainable.

When it comes to clothes, I pack just the clothes I need. In the past, I have packed heaps of clothes just in case. But as I’ve travelled, I have realised that I always use the clothes I’m most comfortable with. If I go to areas where the weather differs greatly from that of my home country, I do research beforehand and pack things that I might need.


I believe your packing list can be environmentally sustainable without a complete eco-label makeover. I admit that I have been happy to call myself a conscious consumer in the past. But as was pointed out earlier, consumerism adds to the burden of the planet, and I do not want to take part in that. I am a consumer in a higher income country. In general, we buy more and thus, we pollute more. Since being a conscious consumer does not necessarily make a difference, you might as well think long and hard about your consumerism and how it affects the planet. Why buy more if it only adds to the heavy load the environment already carries? Perhaps the only way to make a difference for the better is to stop unnecessary consuming altogether. That’s something to think about.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno

Sources: The European Round Table on Sustainable Consumption and Production (ERSCP) 2012, Grist


Despite being a vegetarian, I have never been to a food event that concentrates solely on plant-based food. Therefore, it was quite expected that the Finnish vegan fair, Vegemessut, caught my attention. The wonderful range of vegan food exhibitors, animal welfare advocates and organisations, vegan fitness exhibitors, climate info, and clothing lines and shops housed the industrial-feeling cultural centre Kaapelitehdas on 24-25 February 2018 and attracted over 8000 people. I went there to explore new vegan foods, environmental sustainability, and atmosphere. And see what the first-ever VegAwards was about.


The weather was chilly and temperatures were low on Sunday 25th as I made my way towards Kaapelitehdas which is a home for dance theatres, galleries, art schools, museums, companies and bands in the Ruoholahti district in Helsinki. As I got closer, I bumped into a friend and talked with her for a few minutes in the cold winter air. She was already leaving the fair and said that a lot of fun things were waiting for me inside. I hadn’t been exactly sure what to expect so my interest was piqued.

As I entered the Merikaapelihalli area where the fair was held, I was met with smiles and happy-looking people. The atmosphere felt warm and excited. This was my first food fair where the food was my kind of food. Still, I was stunned (in a good way!) by the smiles I saw and the relaxed atmosphere that just floated towards me. So I picked up a broschure, stepped inside the hall, and went to explore the origin of all those smiles.


I like to make sustainable choices when I eat. I often try new things but I haven’t tasted every plant-based product on the market so I found the food exhibitors very exciting. The downstairs space of the venue was full of vegan food producers, sellers and importers who offered samples of their products. I really wasn’t expecting all of that vegan food galore. No wonder everyone was smiling. I also got to talk about sustainability a bit when I was tasting foods but the crowd was so dense and the exhibitors so busy that I didn’t have a chance to be as thorough as I would have wanted to be.

The wellbeing of animals is connected to veganism so there were several animal rights advocates at the fair. The tables of Animalia, Oikeutta eläimille and Eläinsuojelukeskus Tuulispää shared information and sold support products. Tuulispää also had vegan cupcakes to sell. They looked delicious and seemed to be popular among the fair-goers. Now I also know where some of the smiles originated from.

At lunch time, I met a friend and explored the upstairs restaurant world that housed a Planti café and food vendors such as Bali Brunch Helsinki, Rulla and Hey Poke as well as the ice cream roll maker Spiro. As expected, everything was vegan. Choosing what to eat was difficult since all the plates on peoples’ hands looked wonderful. We ended up with a vegan plate ”Gado Gado” from Indonesian street food restaurant Bali Brunch Helsinki. Such a delicious treat!


Vegemessut had an interesting stage programme that ranged from topics such as the future of food and climate change to food innovations, sports, nutrition and ethics of food. As our interest in Global Senses lies on environmental sustainability, I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t make it on Saturday when Ville Lähde, a researcher from BIOS research unit, talked about hunger and climate change. Luckily, his talk was available online.

Lähde talked about the future of food, climate change and the changes we should make in food production in order to fight and to adapt to climate change as well as to keep hunger at bay. He pointed out how people often say that if we all went vegetarian or vegan, it would solve climate change or world food problem. Reducing meat production is essential in fighting climate change and adapting to it but it is not all. Lähde suggested that we should think about what kind of world we live in and begin to see how we can change things from where we are now.

Reducing poverty and inequality, trading fairly, practising fair politics, and making changes in the food production all play their part in staving off hunger in the future. What was new to me was the idea of diversifying food production, i.e growing 10 or 20 plant species in the future farms instead of the 3-4 species that are produced at one farm at the moment. Even if some crops do not thrive, the others do.

Lähde also mentioned that agroecology is exploring how to increase the amount of organic matter in the soil, fight erosion, and improve the land’s water-holding capacity simultaneously. Water-holding capacity and fighting erosion are important to food production. Increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil in turn means that fields would become carbon sinks that absorb more carbon than they release as CO2. This way food production could start reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and cause negative emissions. If all the three above-mentioned things worked, they could help both in the fight against climate change and in staving off hunger.


On Sunday afternoon, I placed myself near the stage to watch the first-ever VegAwards in Finland. The idea was to celebrate the change in food culture by awarding the pioneers on this front. The best vegan brands, companies, products, and movers and shakers were voted by us, the public.

The winners were Kolmen Kaverin Jäätelö (The Best Brand & The Best Ice Cream), Oatly‘s iKaffe (The Best Milk), Härkis, a Finnish invention made of Finnish fava beans (The Best Plant-Based Protein), Vihis by HoviRuoka, a vegan pie (The Best Prepared Food), Vöner, a vegan version of kebab meat (The Best Newcomer), Vegaanituotteet.net, a site that keeps track of vegan products in Finland and shares information (The Best Social Media), and Piia Anttonen & Eläinsuojelukeskus Tuulispää (The Special Category Award) for the relentless work done for the wellbeing of animals.

I think some of the winners were quite obvious since their products are very much loved. The audience seemed to agree judging by the cheering and happy smiles. It was great to see plant-based products awarded and to know that their success is not showing signs of slowing down.


All in all, Vegemessut was a really nice event. As a first-timer, I found the atmosphere great, and people, both the audience and the exhibitors, very forthcoming and enthusiastic. If I could make one wish, it would be to have an even larger slot in the programme for environmental sustainability of food production and everything that goes with it. Next year, perhaps?

The organisers of Vegemessut are promising something interesting happening in August too. The keywords are ”good food” and ”summer Helsinki”. I’ll be waiting.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno


What kind of choices should I make if I want to support environmental sustainability in my food choices? I try to be sustainable when it comes to eating but I also like many edible things that have to travel from far away to reach me. I have often tried to choose differently – more local and more seasonal – but it can be hard when you crave for grapes or mandarins. With food, sustainability and environment in mind, I decided to write down a few things that I myself try to follow in my eating habits.


The easiest way for me to eat sustainably is to choose organic, local and seasonal foods. If can’t have all of them in one package, I try to choose products that have at least one of these traits. It isn’t always easy to stick to this. Sometimes you want those grapes or mandarins.

When you grow fruits, vegetables and grains organically you are being good to the Earth. Natural Resources Institute Finland states that the basic principle of organic farming “is to secure the well-being of nature, humans and animals”. Organic farming uses practices that are designed to minimise the human impact on the environment and at the same time makes sure that the agricultural system works as naturally as possible. Some of these practises are, e.g. strict limits on synthetic fertiliser use and wide crop rotation to use on-site resources efficiently. (EU Agriculture and rural development: Organic Farming).

Organic farming is carefully regulated so you can rest assured that it is good for the soil and good for the body. I prefer to choose products that are both organic and local. When I choose local, I know that my food is transported across short distances which means that the transportation has less effect on the environment.

I also prefer seasonal food, i.e. fresh food that hasn’t been stored for long periods in certain temperatures or grown in greenhouses which consume a lot of energy. Here in the north the growing period for fruits and vegetables is quite short. If you want to eat foods that do not grow in your country, you can choose foods that are imported at their harvest time. The large harvest time quantities are transported by ships, and this mode of transportation causes less emissions than airfreight. Despite being able to choose seasonal veggies from abroad, my favourites are still local and seasonal berries, cabbages, tomatoes, rhubarb, potatoes, kale and salads.


Organic cashews and organic sunflower and pumpkin seeds. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

When I am at a grocery store I try to pick foods that are in danger of being labelled food waste, i.e. getting thrown into the trash. Food waste is edible food that might have passed its best-before date, is a funny-looking vegetable, a little darkened fruit, or ingredient that consumers do no want. Finnish grocery stores throw away more than 65 million kilos of food yearly and the whole food chain produces 400-500 million kilos of food waste. Add the environmental resources invested in food production and the emissions caused by food waste to that, and it makes the burden on the environment quite staggering. I try to keep that in mind when I’m choosing my fruits and veggies.

My own sustainability compass has deemed a shopping list to be a perfect way to avoid creating food waste. When you write down what you need, you don’t buy extra food on impulse. If I have bad-looking fruits or flour that is nearing its best-before date, I try to use them in one way or another. Even though I recycle biowaste, I can be fairly conscience-stricken when I have to throw food into my biowaste container.


I have been a vegetarian for 20 years. I have eaten some meat during that time but nowadays I lean towards a vegan diet. If you want to be very kind to the environment, going vegetarian or vegan is a good way to do that. From the environmental point of view, plant-based diets are better for the environment than meat-based. Growing fruits, vegetables and grains require less land and water than meat production. They also cause less greenhouse gases than livestock production, including meat, milk and eggs.

The world’s largest user of agricultural land is the livestock sector which also has “a major role in climate change, management of land and water, and biodiversity” as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations points out. In an ideal world, the land and water that is used for the livestock, would be used for growing food that is directly fed to human beings. I have always thought that this way everyone would get enough to eat. But this view also poses the question if it is applicable everywhere in the world. It is easy to say “go vegetarian or vegan” but it would be interesting to know if it really is that easy in a different social or environmental setting.


The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

At first glance, the idea of fair trade seems to clash with sustainable eating. To reach us in Europe, fair trade goods have to travel long distances. But if I enjoy grapes and mandarins, I have to consider fair trade as a part of my sustainable eating puzzle. Fair trade is environmentally friendly. One of the 10 fair trade principles is respect for the environment meaning that fair trade producers are committed to use materials from sustainably managed sources, to reduce energy consumption, to use renewable energy if possible, to minimise the impact of waste and to use organic or low pesticide production methods. (World Fair Trade Organization) Abiding by these principles makes fair trade fall into a suitable slot in my sustainable eating map.

I try to balance my eating habits between local and fair trade. What doesn’t grow in my own country, I buy fair trade if it’s possible. Some people say that fruits that do not grow in our northern latitudes should not be bought at all if you want to be completely sustainable. I could choose not to buy a banana at all since it is shipped from the other side of the world. But if I really want a banana, I buy it fair trade and organic.


As I wrote down my thoughts, I decided to see if I could whip up a breakfast following my own ideas. The result is in the pictures. I have found the above guidelines to be good signposts for myself. I want to be kind to our environment and I have spent quite some time figuring out how to do it. Mixing and combining local, fair trade, seasonal, organic and vegetarian or vegan foods and not throwing anything to waste is working for me. I don’t know if being a completely sustainable eater is possible but you can get very close to it at least.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina junno

Sources: Natural Resources Institute Finland, EU Agriculture and rural Development: Organic Farming, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Fair Trade Organization.


Can countries with different agendas unite in the face of climate change? How do you reach an agreement with the aim of limiting global warming when you have the countries whose economy thrives on fossil fuel industry and the countries that suffer most from the said industry’s consequences at the same table? Reaching a consensus on climate issues among countries with different interests has always seemed like a miracle which I did not expect to happen. Until it did. To get a better look at how it all came about, I went to see the film Guardians of the Earth at Helsinki Documentary Film Festival – DocPoint 2018.

Guardians of the Earth, directed by Filip Antoni Malinowski, tells the behind the scenes story of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, which was the 21st yearly meeting that finally resulted in the Paris Agreement, the first legally binding global climate deal. 195 countries and 20 000 negotiators took part in the climate change negotiations that lasted for a week and a half in Paris, France, in December 2015.

In the film, we get to see the story through the perspectives of several people from both developed and developing nations. Most of the time you feel like a fly on the wall watching things unfold. You get to see and hear the experts, activists, politicians and celebrities arguing their cause. Ultimately the goal has to be, as Laurent Fabius, the president of the summit, points out: there cannot be any country saying ‘no’.

Getting a glimpse of the mechanics of global negotiations was definitely one of the most interesting aspects of the film. If you haven’t been in global negotiations – and I’m pretty sure not many of us have – , you probably have no idea how they work. I had no previous knowledge of them so I didn’t know what to expect. To see the negotiators that represent different countries or groups of countries working towards an agreement, was a revelation of sorts. Still, at times it felt like saving the planet was not at the forefront of the summit. There was a lot of nitpicking over language of the agreement draft which made it look like as if some of the nations were trying to weaken their obligations. On several occasions I wanted to stomp my feet, facepalm or shout at the screen when sitting in the cinema audience.

What countries wanted to achieve, seemed to differ based on their wealth and link to fossil fuel industry. I was surprised that in the talks, the issues circled around economy and national self-interests instead of saving the planet and truly committing to taking action against climate change. You couldn’t be nothing but sympathetic towards the plight of the small island states such as the Seychelles. When your land mass is slowly being devoured by the rising sea level, your concern is not how to keep fossil fuel based economic growth of developed nations intact but how to save your people’s lives. I felt sad that the vulnerability of the nations most affected by global warming appeared to be often overlooked by those whose actions contributed to climate change. At times, solidarity seemed to be trumped by self-interests.

Despite having an aura of seriousness, Guardians of the Earth had its emotional moments. You could see the friendships of people who had worked towards the agreement for years, and you could also see the toll the fight was taking on the participants. Even though climate issues are a big deal for me, I could feel the enormity of the matter in a different manner than before. When the clock ticked forward and only a handful of hours were left to reach an agreement that was going to shape all our futures, the strain was quite visible in the faces we saw on screen. I was only sitting in the audience but at that moment, even for me, any other problem felt trivial in the face of losing our future.

It has been two years since the climate summit and it still feels a bit unreal that the countries actually came together and managed to seal a climate deal. Since then the US withdrawal from the agreement has thrown a shadow over it and it has made me think what it might do to our joint progress in the future if a major polluter of the world is not doing its part for the good of the planet. That being said, Guardians of the Earth left one very thoughtful viewer in its wake – uneasy but hopeful at the same time.

DocPoint 2018 took place from Jan 29th to Feb 4th 2018 in Helsinki, Finland and in Tallinn, Estonia.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno


World Village Festival. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

When you go to a festival, how large is the carbon footprint of the event? I visit World Village Festival in Helsinki every year and sometimes even in the form of an exhibitor. This year I explored the festival as a case study of a green event from the point of view of an ordinary festival-goer. I talked with my contacts and friends, and thought about what kind of discoveries on green experiences and actions towards sustainability I wanted to discuss in the following article.

World Village Festival (Maailma kylässä in Finnish) is a multicultural festival that celebrates the world and shines light on current global issues such as development co-operation, tolerant multiculturalism and sustainability. The festival on 28-29 May 2017 was full of music, talks, sun, food, art, dance, world views, perspectives, discussions about global issues, and smiling festival-goers. The festival has a different theme and regional focus every year. This year’s theme was civil society while the regional focus was on Latin America.


What has the biggest impact on the carbon footprint of a festival? If you think about festivals in general, the most obvious answer for many would probably be transportation. Festivals bring international artists and their gear from abroad by planes, festival organisation transports construction materials, exhibitors bring their goods by car and audience might travel from far away. The next thing that comes to mind is electricity used at the festival by exhibitors, stages, lighting and overall infrastructure. And thirdly, there is food. The whole food production chain from growing all the way to transporting, cooking and possible food waste creates a sizeable carbon footprint. Later in the text, I will take a look at how World Village Festival has approached environmental matters.

But first some background information. World Village Festival is a green festival. It aims to minimise its carbon footprint in both producing and planning the festival. As I was wondering what kind of measures the festival has taken to ensure environmental sustainability, I found out that they have joined EcoCompass, a Finnish environmental management system, to realise their goals. The festival has been granted the EcoCompass certificate for the first time in 2014.

I learned that EcoCompass has been developed to support small and medium-sized businesses, public events and city administration offices in environmental management. It provides its clients with a ready-made model, tools and a personal adviser to help in setting up an environmental management system of their own.

I have previously been in contact with Julie’s Bicycle, a London-based charity that supports the creative community in environmental efforts. They have a fairly similar kind of system that provides tools, support and advice for festivals, museums and organisations among others which is one of the reasons why I was drawn to learn more about EcoCompass.

The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Okko Meinilä

The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Okko Meinilä

When I started to explore what EcoCompass was all about I assumed that you needed to be already ‘green’ to be eligible for the system but discussing it with Sari Kemppainen from EcoCompass proved me otherwise. You don’t need to be ‘green’ from the beginning. The idea of the system is continuous improvement on environmental matters. You can develop your environmental work towards sustainability or make it even more sustainable if you are already ‘green’. The EcoCompass certificate, which you will receive after creating your environmental management system, will tell your clients, partners and customers that your business or event is committed to protecting the environment.

When you start creating your own EcoCompass system, you will have to do an initial survey on your environmental work and the major environmental impacts of your activities. The EcoCompass adviser will support you on this. Next you will have to identify the legal requirements, i.e. follow the environmental laws. An environmental policy that is the basis of your goals and measures is also needed.

With the adviser’s support, you will make sure that you fulfill the criteria that EcoCompass has set for events. Some of the points in the criteria are, e.g. training in environmental matters, a waste management plan, and preparing a yearly environmental programme which includes several sub-sectors that I want to explore in connection to World Village Festival. Some of these sub-sectors are waste reduction, saving energy and changing to green electricity, optimising logistics, and environmental subcontracting.

When your environmental system is ready, the EcoCompass adviser will give their approval of the finished product. It will be audited by an objective outside auditor. If your event has fulfilled the criteria, you will receive the EcoCompass certificate. Afterwards, the system will be monitored annually and you are also required to report every year. The events that are organised for several consecutive years will be audited every third year. This is also the case with World Village Festival whose certificate has been renewed and audited in 2016.

I wanted to find out how environmental matters stated in the EcoCompass criteria were realised at an event, so I contacted the World Village Festival Team and explored the festival myself.

Next I will examine how the enviromental actions are visible to the festival-goer.


I arrived by foot and the first thing I noticed were the amount of bikes stationed on the outskirts of the festival area. This isn’t a surprise: Helsinki likes to bike. The promiximity to railway station is also a plus since you can arrive right beside the festival area by commuter trains or long-distance trains. Many buses and trams also have their stops on the railway station area so you can easily join in going green with the festival, no matter the public transport of your choice.

One of the sub-sectors of the environmental programme stated in the EcoCompass criteria is the intensification of logistics and commuting. This means that logistics and moving to and from the area will be made more efficient and less straining to the environment.

When I asked about the logistics from Niila Leppänen, the production manager of the festival, he told me that the festival favours local subcontractors and when possible, centralises transportation to one operator which reduces the usage of only partially full cars.

World Village festival also encourages visitors to arrive by public transport, foot or bike to help minimise the impact of CO2 emissions. The festival is held at Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square in downtown Helsinki, both of which are easily accessed by public transport anywhere from Helsinki and surrounding regions.


As I approached the festival area from Railway Square, I took notice of an array of blue solar panels outside the back of a large tent. I watched many passersby stop to check out the panels. I was one of them. This was one of the ways the festival has approached energy efficiency. The solar panels powered the World Books Tent and a solar energy expert, Janne Käpylehto from Solarvoima, talked about renewable energies in the Amazon Stage on World Books Tent on Sunday.

While the solar panels obviously did not power the whole festival, I was glad to see that solar power had been taken into consideration. World Village Festival has stated that it is committed to enhancing energy efficiency and green electricity production (World Village Festival, Environment and responsibility). So if not solar power, what kind of electricity does the festival use?

“The electricity for the festival is renewably produced wind power from Helen Ltd,” says Niila Leppänen. During the night the festival switches into so-called night electricity. This means that when electricity consumption is low during the nighttime, smaller generators will be in use and some of them will be shut down completely for the night. Saving energy by consuming it less when it is not needed goes along the lines of the environmental programme requirements of the EcoCompass criteria.


When you are with more than 70 000 people on a limited area during a weekend, there is bound to be waste. The ways recycling is organised and an event’s commitment to waste management is something I always pay attention to. The EcoCompass criteria includes a waste management plan, and reducing waste is also one of the environmental programme sub-sectors in the criteria.

The festival’s environmental programme includes developing waste management and recycling practices as one of its goals. There were seven recycling points around the festival area and recycling assistants helped the festival-goers in putting the waste in the right bins. Since the festival offers a large selection of food vendors, I was glad to find out that also the disposable tableware was biodegradable.

If someone wonders where all that waste will go, the festival gives you the answer. Energy waste produces recycled fuel to replace fossil fuels. Recycled metal can be used for making new metal products. Glass produces glass wool and glass packages. Biodegradable waste turns into compost soil. Recycled paper turns into newsprint paper and recycled cardboard is used in making carton. And on top of it, by recycling paper, carton and cardboard, you can save trees. (World Village Festival, Environment and responsibility)


The international kitchens offer something for everyone. According to some food vendors I talked to, festival-goers were eager to try new tastes. One of the new experiences for me was Finnish fresh vegetable chips in the form of spirals made of potatoes, beetroots and sweet potatoes. These chips with an artesan feel were produced by Spiraaliperuna. Very tasty with little salt on top. And very messy by the looks of all of us trying to balance a large paper cone of vegetable spirals on our hands. But the taste was delicious so a little mess didn’t matter. And it didn’t hurt that the recycling bins were close by too.

World Village Festival. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

World Village Festival. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

World Village Festival is a great place to explore foods you’ve never tasted before. Since food production in all its stages from growing to transport to preparing it causes strain to the environment, the festival has committed to taking environmental issues into account also in products and services acquired through subcontracting as stated in the EcoCompass environmental programme requirements. This means that the food vendors at the festival are committed to offer at least one vegetarian option in their menu and that they are encouraged to use local and organic products as well as fair trade.

I think vegetarian options should be self-evident. After all, vegetarian food puts considerably less strain on the environment than meat. I am glad that using organic and local ingredients is encouraged. Organic is healthier for us humans and for the environment where the food is grown. Also, transportation from local producers causes less emissions. For the goods you cannot grow in Finland, the favourable alternative is, of course, fair trade.

Festival-goers were also encouraged to bring their own water bottles which is what I had with me too. Especially Sunday’s sunny weather demanded that everyone took action in hydrating themselves. You could refill your bottle at one of the three water points at the festival.


I used to work in fair trade, and since this was a festival for the whole world, fair trade was well represented. Talking with my former colleagues and friends at fair trade stands assured me that fair trade continues to draw people in. From past experiences I know that environment and sustainability are important to consumers of fair trade.

One of the 10 fair trade principles is respect for the environment which goes well with the idea of a green festival. This means that in fair trade you are committed to use materials from sustainably managed sources, to reduce energy consumption, to use renewable energy if possible, to minimise the impact of waste and to use organic or low pesticide production methods. (World Fair Trade Organization)

Nowadays fair trade is accessible through supermarkets, online stores and many big sellers which means that all the more people are able to support fair trade producers and also environmentally friendly production methods. To me that feels like a win-win situation.


I had a really good time exploring the festival this year. Festival Saturday was a bit chilly but Sunday welcomed festival-goers with a sunny forecast. The surrounding park lawns were filled with people having picnics, relaxing and watching the comings and goings of the festival area. Talking with friends and people I used to work with in previous festival years revealed that people were a little disappointed that there had been some cancellations in the music programme but other than that, everyone seemed to be happy to be taking part in the festival.

These days audiences at festivals are increasingly aware of environmental issues and sustainability. When their favourite festival can show that it has been verified a green festival by an external reviewer, it can raise the festival’s ranking in their eyes. Many aspects of a festival are relatively easy to develop towards a sustainable direction when you have the right tools and support such as EcoCompass.

The one thing that is generally difficult to carry out environmentally friendly, is the transportation across borders. Distances can be huge and in many cases flying is the only reasonable transportation mode. In the long term, sustainable transportation needs to be accelerated worldwide. I have high hopes that the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement will push this matter forwards in the future.

From Global Senses’ point of view, the festival’s mission to increase environmental awareness and challenge festival-goers and exhibitioners to go green with them seems effective. Along with doing your share on keeping the area clean, recycling and making your own carbon footprints smaller, you could get to know environmental organisations, get involved in their activities and look for new ideas on how to be (even more) environmentally sustainable in the festival and in your own life. It certainly worked for me so maybe it worked for my fellow festival-goers as well.

World Village Festival will be held again on May 2018 with a focus on the sustainable development goals of 2030 Agenda.

Written for Global Senses
Text by Tiina Junno

The festival is organised by Kepa, an umbrella organisation for development co-operation with main partners the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union, Ben & Jerry’s and Maailman Kuvalehti – a magazine with stories from around the world.

EcoCompass was created by the municipalities of Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen, Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY), Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) and Helen Ltd. The system is based on Nordic environmental management systems and on international standards on environmental management. EcoCompass has approximately 100 clients among events, businesses and city offices. At the moment, it offers services in a few areas in Finland.

Sources: World Village Festival, EcoCompass, World Fair Trade Organization, The United Nations







Chili sin carne with spicy bulgur and cucumber strips. The photo was taken with solar powered camera. Photo: Tiina Junno

Can you make gourmet meals out of food waste? Eating at a restaurant where lunch is made of surplus food is a new experience to many. I explored this uncharted territory at Loop, the first food waste restaurant in Finland. If you are a person who lives sustainably but hasn’t really thought about the effects of food waste, you might be in for a surprise – and guilty conscience – when you find out that there is more food in the world than ever before but massive amounts of it still go to waste, overload our environment and accelerate climate change.

Food waste or surplus food is perfectly good edible food that ends up in trash. In grocery stores, it is not just food that has passed best-before dates but also weird-shaped and funny-looking vegetables, a little darkened fruits, or ingredients that consumers do no want. In Helsinki, these unpopular foods are turned into delicious restaurant meals at food waste restaurant Loop.

Loop is located in the idyllic, parklike surroundings of the former Lapinlahti Hospital in Helsinki. It came about as a part of a circular economy project, From Waste to Taste, that fights against climate change and food waste. The restaurant was created with the help of a crowdfunding campaign and it opened its doors in 2016. Since then it has turned surplus food into gourmet lunches, dinners and brunches.

Every morning From Waste to Taste project’s Food Resque car makes rounds at grocery stores in the neighbourhood and collects surplus food for Loop restaurant. Approximately 70-80% of the saved food is delivered to food charities. The meals at Loop are prepared by professional cooks, but following the aims of From Waste to Taste project, the restaurant also provides job opportunities for young people, refugees and others with difficulties in finding a job.

The restaurant offers lunch on weekdays, dinner on Friday nights and brunch on weekends. Some of the brunches are theme brunches. And here’s some good news to vegans: A vegan brunch has a permanent spot on the first and the third weekends of the month.

When I visited Loop, I chose a lunch called Waste du Jour. It includes a soup, a salad buffet, a warm main course and a dessert with coffee or tea. The other lunch choice is Soup du Jour which is the same except it does not include the warm main course. After paying for lunch and getting my food reservation number, I sat down and started with the salad buffet and soup.

The buffet had several choices. You could choose to have purely green salad, cabbage and cauliflower salad or pasta salad with tomatoes and pepper. Or you could have it all. This was my first food waste lunch so I decided to taste everything and have some bread on the side. All the salads as well as the bread were delicious. The pureed carrot soup brought the desired warmth with its gentle taste free of spice overload. I would guess that pureed soups are easier to make when you have limited amount of ingredients but I am hoping to get a chance to taste different kinds of soups on my next visits to Loop.

The main course for the day was chili sin carne with spicy bulgur. The food was beautifully laid out with bulgur on the bottom and cucumber strips resembling fettucine with basil leaves on top. It was fantastic. Onions, tomatoes and black beans infused with spices together with mild cucumber strips were a lovely balanced combination. Before the main course was delivered to the table, the waitress asked me if I was ready for it to be brought to me from the kitchen. Being taken care of in such a way was a nice touch to my lunch experience.

After indulging myself with my chili sin carne, I was curious to find out what was next. The dessert of the day was a pear pie, small croissants with jam, and a collection of fruits that could be enjoyed with tea or coffee. The pie and croissants were delightful and the fruits were fresh and not at all something that might be considered food waste. For beverage I chose tea since I am an afternoon tea and a morning coffee kind of person. On my visit, the tea served was black tea. There might be different sort of teas on different dates depending on the ingredients available. I hope one of my future visits to Loop will include green tea which is my favourite of all teas.

While eating my lunch at Loop, I thought about food waste. In Finland, grocery stores throw away more than 65 million kilos of food per year and the whole food chain produces as much as 400-500 million kilos of food waste. These numbers are rather breathtaking. And the burden on the environment is huge since a lot of resources throughout the production chain have already been invested in making food that now goes to waste.

Food waste has an impact on climate change which isn’t necessarily thought about often. Natural Resources Institute Finland reveals that yearly food wastage of Finnish households corresponds to the emissions of approximately 100 000 passenger cars. That is one massive carbon footprint made of food.

One could argue that all the food that is destined to go to waste should be transported to the countries that suffer from famine. The thought is wonderful, of course, but the reality is not as simple as that. A recent article on the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, points out that it is often countries facing war that suffer from famine. When countries are not at peace, it may be impossible to produce food amidst fighting or food aid may be blocked or sold by someone who benefits from it monetarily.

It is not easy to reduce food waste when more food than can be consumed is produced every year. Some food waste is inevitable but there are still heaps of food being unnecessarily thrown away. The connection between climate change and food waste should also be more clear. On a smaller scale, using surplus food to create new kinds of restaurant experiences and going on in an adventure as a customer to those restaurants are a couple of ways to make a difference.

On my daily life I often buy food that is in danger of getting thrown to the trash and use everything in my kitchen as best as I can. I know what I am eating and how old my food is. But eating in a food waste restaurant was a different experience. Before my lunch at Loop I got asked by a friend if I was sure I wasn’t going to get sick. It’s food waste after all. And I haven’t selected the ingredients myself as I do at home. I was not worried: I was thrilled! Yes, finally I am going to see and taste what Loop is all about. I am probably more adventurous with foods that have passed best-before dates all by myself than any restaurant so I was just happy to go and discover what Loop had to offer. And what I’ve learned from From Waste to Taste, only the ingredients that are suitable for eating will be used in Loop which is the same for any restaurant.

The food was delicious. I was completely taken by my lunch and woved to return. I hope Loop will attract new customers and just by its existence encourage people to rethink the way they see food waste and its significance for climate change. And did the food help me to have a better conscience compared to other lunches I’ve had? Well, yes it did. I also found myself thinking about my next grocery store run and how I would raid the store of red-labelled foods that are about to go to waste.

Ps. The newest from From Waste to Taste project is a crowdfunding campaign for Wasted beer that will be made from surplus bread. Check it out!

Written for Global  Senses
Text by Tiina Junno

Sources: Loop restaurant, From Waste to Taste, The Globe and Mail, Natural Resources Institute Finland