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Aalto's alumni developed a solution for reducing consumers’ carbon footprint

Colour coding the packaging material of daily consumer goods would facilitate recycling but a cleaner and homogeneous recycling fraction would also enhance the opportunity for waste reuse.
Kuvassa ylhäältä vasemmalta Ernesto Hartikainen, Nina Borger, Jussi Kallio, Jasmin Järvinen, Rosa Väisänen, Eetu Ahonen ja Erkki Aalto. Kuva: Hanna Wikström/ Aalto-yliopisto
From top left to right in the image: Ernesto Hartikainen, Nina Borger, Jussi Kallio, Jasmin Järvinen, Rosa Väisänen, Eetu Ahonen and Erkki Aalto. Image: Hanna Wikström/ Aalto University

’What kind of scalable everyday solutions could efficiently reduce climate and biodiversity impacts of consumption and at the same time create business opportunities for companies?’ Mari Pantsar asks in a challenge video.

Pantsar who is in charge of a theme entitled ’Carbon-neutral circular economy’ at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, is addressing a highly topical theme. The carbon footprint of a Finn is 10.4 tonnes, while that of a citizen from Brazil, the seventh largest economy in the world, is only 2.8 tonnes. Most emissions are generated by everyday life: mobility, shopping and food.

Although there is certainly no lack of challenges, such challenges may also have potential.

’Finland could be lead market for a circular economy. We could be a pioneer, one who leaves the linear take-make-waste economic model behind and because we are a small country, we stand a better chance of tackling and implementing changes than a larger country, says Mikko Kosonen, Chair of the Board of Aalto University, who now works for Sitra at the Aalto Alumni Impact event. In the Aalto Alumni Impact event, Aalto’s alumni solve the challenges presented to them by ten Finnish influencers.

The proposal, made by the cross-disciplinary alumni team for adopting a colour coding scheme for the packaging of daily consumer goods, and extending such a system to cover the entire EU area, is praised by Jouni Juntunen, Professor of Practice of Sustainable Production and Consumption at Aalto University.

’This is a real problem and if anything, the volume of packing material in the world is increasing. We have also noticed that providing more education and information does not automatically increase recycling.’

’The great thing about the solution is that it is affordable and low-tech and although we in Finland are already doing a great deal to advance recycling, good ideas spread. Therefore, we could also standardize recycling markings used by different countries,’ Juntunen says.

To be continued

Nina Borger enrolled for the Aalto Alumni Impact event because she wanted to learn more about impact. Uniqan oy, a company led by Borger, is launching products that warm up when exposed to the sun.

’The workshop gave me new perspectives on impact. Our group was heterogeneous and generated a lot of different ideas, and you had permission to toss ideas around. I even got a new business idea during the workshop,’ she says. 

Eetu Ahonen, who works at STUK, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland, says that the event was better than he had expected.                 

’At first, I thought that what is this, is this going to develop into some crazy esoteric show, but no, the workshop resulted in a low-tech solution that gets close to the consumer.’

Ernesto Hartikainen, Leading Specialist and Sitra's representative at the workshop, is satisfied with the result.

’The idea was very concrete. I’ll be glad to take it to Sitra. Sitra's circular economy team already collaborates with Finnish companies representing the food sector and package manufacturers, as well as the ministries. This being the case, we can pursue the matter further, present it to the right parties, and pilot it.

 Sitra’s challenge video

Text: Hanna Wikström

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