Environmental awareness and responsibility

The City of Helsinki’s ambitious climate and environment objectives are also heavily featured in early childhood education, schools, and services aimed at young people and adults. Helsinki wants to be a pioneer in environmental education and support a sustainable lifestyle for its residents. According to the City Strategy, Helsinki will also commit to facilitate residents’ personal opportunities to make environmentally friendly choices in their everyday lives.

Sustainable future as a key theme in education

The Education Division of the City of Helsinki implemented a study path on sustainable development, which means that learners of all ages can learn about climate change and sustainable development in early childhood education, basic education, upper secondary education and non-formal education. The study path became reality in 2021 through various models and measures that combine climate and environmental education, futures literacy and design-based learning.

Through the ‘KETTU – Sustainable future in early childhood education and basic education’ model, 350 professionals in the early childhood education sector were trained to become experts in climate responsibility and sustainable development. A ‘KETTU’ (‘fox’) book was also published to support the sustainability topics in early childhood education. In 2021, it was decided that the KETTU model would be selected as a binding objective across Helsinki’s early childhood education. This means that, in 2022, over 30,000 children will learn about climate change mitigation, circular economy and environmental skills with the help of fox characters.

For basic education, study modules related to dealing with climate change were developed. In addition to this, a pilot course was implemented with the University of Helsinki with the theme of ‘circular economy competencies through invention pedagogics.’ A cross-curricular course called Carbon-neutral Helsinki became a mandatory course for all first year students of general upper secondary schools starting from August 2021. Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute decided to apply for the OKKA certificate for sustainable development in educational institutions.

Young people moved about in nature actively

The Youth Services’ work with the EcoCompass environmental management system achieved a milestone last year when the services received the EcoCompass certificate as acknowledgement of their determined efforts for the environment. The environmental programme and EcoCompass process of the Youth Services was a significant and ambitious endeavour to take eco-friendly choices and methods into account in youth work. They aim to continue this work. 

Despite the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, it was possible to organise several activities around the city, including nature excursions, camps, shore cleaning campaigns, vegetarian cooking sessions, recycling and crafts activities, flea markets and cultivation activities. 

In the Ruutibudjetti data collection project implemented at all youth work units, young people were asked how the pandemic had affected their leisure time. The young people were also asked about their environmental concerns and desire to take action for the environment. Many of the respondents said their leisure activities had decreased or stopped altogether. Young people expressed thoughts about sustainable fashion and food waste, but also their own health and friendships. The responses highlighted their desire to move about in local nature, do good to others by donating clothes and other items, change their own consumption habits and discuss them with friends, and volunteer for activities related to the environment and animal protection. Based on the responses, the local youth work units will develop their activities, together with young people. 

In 2021, the Environmental Youth Work Unit participated in the virtual World Village Festival together with the Youth Services’ partnership unit and theSatakolkyt project. In the summer, the stables on the Vartiosaari island hosted the Youth Island Gallery for the second time. The unit was also connected to the Edible Park, a community garden in Mustikkamaa. With the support of the Herttoniemi unit, the park was used for open workshops on environmental art, the garden and chickens were taken care of, volunteer work was organised, and participants joined the Satakolkyt coastal trips. The urban environment of the park provided a setting for creative work and nature-themed workshops. Like in previous years, events related to the Baltic Sea Day were organised in the autumn in cooperation with the Satakolkyt project. This time, the venue for this was set up in Mustikkamaa. 

On the Bengtsår camping island in Hanko, a ‘Climate Menu’ video was filmed in cooperation with the City’s seasonal media workers and the Ilmastomenu association. Ilmastomenu is an organisation that promotes a sustainable diet in terms of climate. In addition to the above, a record-breaking number of camping supplies for young people’s independent trips were borrowed from the camping gear centre Wempaimisto. 

Lessons and materials to support environmental education

Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) and its partner Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre offered environmental education services free of charge to daycare centres and educational institutions. Because of the pandemic, the aim was to extend the outdoor season to last the whole year by making changes to the programme. The order volumes and demand for distance lessons also grew steadily and became an established part of the guidance services. For students in lower and general upper secondary school, in particular, distance lessons seemed to work even better that conventional school visits.

In 2021, a total of 6,418 children and young people in Helsinki attended the environmental education lessons offered by HSY. A total of 410.5 hours of lessons were offered. However, due to the pandemic, the total number of lessons did not resume the normal level after the collapse in 2020. Among children aged 5–6, the most popular lessons were the ‘Running tap water’ outdoor adventure, the ‘Let’s conserve nature!’ outdoor play session on circular economy, and the ‘Rojupöhö’ puppet theatre show. In addition to these, children in pre-primary school attended remotely guided digital gaming sessions on circular economy and everyday water management. Educational institutions were offered outdoor lessons, distance lessons and remotely guided digital gaming sessions. The most popular lessons for educational institutions took place outdoors: ‘Let’s study local water,’ ‘Circular Economy ABC,’ and the ‘Running tap water’ outdoor adventure. In addition to these, several distance lessons and remotely guided gaming sessions were held on the themes of sustainable consumption, circular economy and vital water.

In 2021, HSY’s Twin School Programme involved three twin schools from Helsinki: Karviaistie School, Siltamäki Primary School and Poikkilaakso Primary School. The free-of-charge Twin School Programme includes lessons, learning materials and training for teachers that support environmental education. The schools selected to the programme have access to an environmental educator assigned to them and a twin school programme that is adapted to their needs.

Environmental awareness and sustainable movement in nature were promoted

Harakka Nature Centre was not opened to the public until the start of June due to the COVID-19 restrictions. During its operating period, the ferry to Harakka Island carried about 6,000 visitors. A total of 37 nature study days were organised, and 41 environment study days. For daycare centres, 44 island adventure days were organised, some of which were implemented as forest adventure trips in the daycare centres’ surroundings since some groups were unable to use public transport. In total, 2612 children and young people with their teachers participated in the nature school and island adventures.

A total of 23 persons attended the Baltic Sea Camp for young people and the archipelago nature camp. Five environmental education courses were organised, with a total of 51 participants. The public events and guided weekend tours of Harakka Nature Centre were attended by 412 persons. 9 themed trips open to all and island adventure trips for children were organised, with 244 visitors attending. 35 private excursions were held, and they were attended by 384 visitors.

Harakka Nature Centre and Annantalo joined forces to organise the Kalliolla exhibition inspired by Helsinki Biennial and the richness of archipelago nature. The exhibition included various activities for visitors, and it was available from Helsinki Day to late August, reaching a total pf 7,162 visitors. In connection with the exhibition, Annantalo organised themed workshops and open activities which were attended by 143 children and adults in total.

The nature excursions intended for city residents did not start until the beginning of June because of the pandemic. The total number of excursions held was 19, and they had 527 participants. Participants had to sign up in advance for all of these excursions. City residents were encouraged to observe the nature and engage in citizen science as a part of the nature excursions, courses, the nature school and the observation challenge implemented via the iNaturalist application. The ‘Wanted: the comma and Camberwell beauty butterflies’ gained the interest of 146 persons, but due to rainy weather, only 20 photographic observations of these species were made.

Responsible movement in nature was promoted through new materials and with signs set up in nature. Instructions on responsible movement on the water were shared via the Luontoviisas website and boat rental companies, canoeing clubs and yacht clubs. The ‘Stay on the Trail’ communication campaign instructed people on how to behave responsibly in nature and in nature reserves through a website, a video on nature excursions with a focus on responsibility, and invitation cards to nature trips distributed in libraries. To reduce wear, signs that encouraged visitors to stay on the trail and reminded them of the sensitive wildlife were set up in the nature reserves. The new signs were well received. The final seminar of the Urban Eco Islands project, the ‘Nature boom – sustainable movement in urban nature’ event was attended by 510 persons via remote connections. 

A group of children on a trip to the forest.
Image 17. Forest adventure trips were organised in the surroundings of daycare centres. Photograph by Raisa Ranta.

Korkeasaari Zoo inspired children and young people to learn about animals and nature conservation 

In 2021, the operations of Korkeasaari Zoo were adapted to the pandemic and partially organised online. The selection of online learning games was expanded. The nature school activities were carried out in both the spring term and autumn term. The distance nature school was attended by 24 classes in total, while the contact teaching in the nature school in the autumn term was attended by 28 classes. The conference for students in lower and general upper secondary schools was organised in spring, for the first time as an online event, which allowed schools from all over Finland to be invited. The Baltic Sea Day was celebrated in August together with the Baltic Sea Action Group and Keep the Archipelago Tidy Association. The Baltic Sea Day was attended by 737 pupils in total. The summer camps for children of primary school age were attended by 59 children. A total of 9,800 schoolchildren and about 1,400 children attending early childhood education visited Korkeasaari, either on-site or through guided distance learning programmes. 

Residents took part in taking care of their own environment

The Park Pal activities include important actions such as volunteers picking up litter from their own local environment, and the activities received several new volunteers. The total number of Park Palas grew by almost 500 new pals. Some of the registered pals were groups, such as school classes or daycare groups. By the end of 2021, about 2,000 Park Pals had registered. 

The number of environmental volunteer projects, such as cleaning campaigns and projects on combatting invasive alien species, resumed to the pre-pandemic levels. Residents, residents’ associations and schools organised 166 environmental cleaning sessions in total, in which over 22,400 volunteers participated. Due to the pandemic, the volunteer cleaning campaign with the City as the main organiser was not organised, similarly to 2020. 

The City of Helsinki, WWF Finland and Helsingin luonnonsuojeluyhdistys nature conservation association organised 12 volunteer work sessions to remove invasive alien plant species from Pornaistenniemi, Lammasaari, Uutela, Fastholma,  Kallahdenniemi, Mustikkamaa and Lauttasaari in June–October. A total of 161 volunteers participated, along with companies. The species that were combatted were the Himalayan balsam and the rugosa rose. The residents also organised their own projects for combatting invasive alien species, and many residents stated that they remove invasive alien species independently during their leisure time. 

Ilmastoinfo communicated and provided training actively

During the second year of the pandemic, the Ilmastoinfo campaign of HSY reached residents through webinars and the Koutsi online courses. The Koutsi.hsy.fi online training platform offers courses free of charge to all residents who are interested in the aspects of a sustainable lifestyle. The popular ‘energy expert’ course for housing companies was organised twice during the year, in addition to which an energy efficiency course designated for housing managers was organised for the first time. In 2021, 504 new users registered on the online education platform.

Over 600 Helsinki residents attended the webinars by Ilmastoinfo in 2021. The webinars focused on topics such as the charging of electric cars, using solar power in housing companies, moving from oil heating to renewable energy sources and energy conservation actions in detached houses. Ilmastoinfo communicated actively via various channels throughout the year and participated in various themed days and weeks. The #lähdinkäveleen social media campaign organised in spring 2021 highlighted the climate impact of movement and the benefits of walking. Furthermore, Ilmastoinfo also communicated about the effect of consuming excessive protein on wastewater treatment plants and the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. The theme of sustainable consumption was highlighted in the Tap Water Bar, which was accessible to visitors at Helsinki Biennial throughout the summer.