What we can learn from the City of Helsinki

TGL News

photo of people at a festival in Helsinki

Ranked the most innovative region in the EU by the European Commission, Finland’s capital has a reputation for experimenting with sustainable policies and initiatives. Its latest initiative gives power to its users to make simple, sustainable decisions. Other cities should take note.

In a 2018 survey conducted by the City of Helsinki, two thirds of its residents identified the climate crisis as their major concern for the city’s future.

Less than a year later, the City responded with Think Sustainably, a program that provides residents, visitors and business owners with practical tools to make more sustainable lifestyle and business decisions.

People can search services such as restaurants, shops, events, experiences and accommodation on the City’s official website, and easily see how each stacks up sustainably.

Using criteria developed by the City in collaboration with an independent think tank, local interest groups and sustainability experts, Think Sustainably makes it clear why each service qualified.

There are different criteria for attractions, events, shops, accommodation and venues, and each has a benchmark it must reach in order to be presented by the Think Sustainably program.

The purpose is not to pinpoint who are the straight-A students but rather to encourage… customers and visitors to engage in more sustainable lifestyles.”

For example, there are 20 criterion within the accommodation category covering things such as energy, food and beverage service, and social sustainability.

Accommodation services are recognised for things such as having LED lights, not using disposable food serving ware, and having systems in place for staff and guests to report and deal with inappropriate behaviour. To be presented by the Think Sustainably program, accommodation services must meet a minimum of 13 criteria.

“The purpose is not to pinpoint who are the straight-A students,” says the website, “but rather to encourage different operators to find an impressive array of solutions that encourage customers and visitors to engage in more sustainable lifestyles.”

A growing experience

There are 81 service providers recognised under the program, including one of the world’s leading carbon neutral music festivals, Flow Festival, and the Nordic region’s first zero waste restaurant, Nolla.

Users of Think Sustainably can bookmark services they like to create their own sustainability experience in Helsinki.

The program includes a route planner that allows users to chose emission-free transportation options between experiences. The planner also details the CO2 emissions in grams per person per trip.

Launched in June, Think Sustainably is free and publicly available. There are plans to roll it out further and its success will be reviewed in 2020.

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