TLDR: I have both professional and personal success stories to tell in the field of sustainable development. Still, that’s clearly not enough. I want to promote radical ways to do what needs to be done for the climate and social inequality. See also the Trashalyzer plastic collection app that won the first prize in a hackathon and was pitched at Slush 2018!
I got properly involved with sustainable development as the GLORE Project Manager in 2014-2016.
The GLORE Sustainability Network 2014-2016
GLORE was a research and development network of four Finnish universities of applied sciences aiming at being more competent in global responsibility and sustainable development. The project was funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. The name comes from Global Responsibility and Sustainable Development in Higher Education.
More than two years of activities took us to Nepal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Namibia and India, resulting in over 50 professional exchanges, numerous publications and videos, and a refined understanding of global responsibility and sustainable development in the era of the Sustainable Development Goals or Agenda 2030
The project started in January 2014 and ended in March 2016. The Finnish partners were Diaconia, Humak, Saimaa and Kajaani Universities of Applied Sciences. We learned a lot about the Planetary Boundaries model by Stockholm Resilience Centre and used the Doughnut Economics model by Dr. Kate Raworth as a tool.
Sustainable Citizen of 2017
Working for sustainability and Agenda 2030 made me learn about what Finland does in this field. I became involved in the Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development process, the Finnish national interpretation of the Agenda 2030 goals. I thought the commitment was a great tool for everyone in society, from large organizations to individuals.
There were only a few individual commitments available in early 2017. However, the national goal was to dramatically increase their number. Every commitment needed some measurements but could be about anything.
One Saturday morning I became fed up with my lifestyle and decided to become a vegetarian. This led me to write my personal sustainability commitment called Sami 2.0. My commitment was about
- Becoming a vegetarian
- Using more sustainable sources of electricity in the house and
- Spreading knowledge about sustainability in my daily work as a Senior Lecturer
It was a big surprise to hear that this commitment was chosen as the best individual commitment to sustainability in 2017. I had the honor of claiming the title of Sustainable Citizen of 2017 at Finlandia Hall, Helsinki.
Then for the bad news. I did not keep it up properly. After six hectic months involving one newborn and three separate diets in the family, everyday life just became too complicated to bear and I quit as a vegetarian. It was a tough decision especially as my wife continues to be one.
Our financial situation also seemed so uncertain that we could not make the planned investments to sustainable energy at the time (eg. solar panels). Only in 2019 were we able to renew our electricity deal to one with less CO2 load.
I did continue to promote knowledge on sustainability to higher education students. That was my job and I loved every minute of it.
There were, however, doubts creeping in. During the Paris 2015 climate agreement I was blindly believing that the global UN-led system would get us there if we just believed hard enough. But in the next years nothing really seemed to change and aggregated climate data implied changes for the worse.
I saw the United Nations system itself with more realistic eyes. I saw how power actually works in the world and where many of the real power centres are. I saw new political and economic figures laughing at the UN system.
I saw too many impossibilities. I have to say I became cynical but that has reduced since. However, even though I do feel bad about not sticking to my guns in the Society’s Commitment process, I have also started to demand more from that same society.
The current pace is not enough. The IPCC 2018 report is not being taken as seriously as it should. School strikers and other climate activists are being suppressed.
Long story short, I am not satisfied. Not with myself and not with the way of the world. This discussion will continue.
The Trashalyzer plastic collection project and Slush 2018
In autumn 2018 I went to a local Ethereum meetup in Helsinki. We were chatting this and that on blockchains when a person called Eero Heikkinen introduced his idea of a waste collection app. He was going to a hackathon and looking for partners. As I was really into sustainability and we shared enthusiasm towards Ethereum, we decided to meet again.
And so it went that we spent the days between November and December in the Ultrahack Hackathon at Aalto University, Espoo. We were joined by Mr. Anh Vu Vincent Nguyen who together with Eero spent most of the weekend hacking away while I was mostly attending family matters and brainstorming when possible.
Our challenge was called Hack the global consumption and it was supported by UNTIL (United Nations Technology Innovation Labs), VTT (a top level Finnish technology research center) and Climate KIC Nordic.
And we won the main prize of 7000 €. And got to pitch the app at Slush 2018. And received very skilled mentoring from both VTT and UNTIL.
At the time of writing (early March 2019) our team is exploring possibilities to launch a startup. A demo of the Trashalyzer app/spectrometer is being worked on and the process is led by Eero.
I would very much like to see this take off, as it holds huge possibilities for local waste collectors especially in the Global South. Circular economy is a priority for Finland, and here we have a great innovation doing just that.
Please see the Trashalyzer project page for more details!