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May Day! May Day! Vappu is coming!

April 29, 2016

The official kick-off to spring will be celebrated in Finland this weekend – Vappu, or Labour Day. The Mr. went shopping yesterday and said the store was a zoo, so I can image it will be the same today as people go and pick up all sorts of goodies for the weekend.

And since Vappu falls on a weekend this year, it means people will probably start celebrating today as soon as the workday is over. I just overheard someone here at work telling a visitor that Vappu is a pretty student-centred event. Asked whether the visitor would venture into the (Helsinki) city centre, he responded, “No maybe not.” Maybe not, indeed. If you do not like large crowds – then do not go into Helsinki on the weekend! I can assure you that there will be plenty of people out and about celebrating. You’ll also likely find a lot of people out and about taking part in outdoors activities over the weekend too. Now is the time to get outside!

The weather forecast is looking good with drier weather moving in on the weekend, although the chnace of showers still exists in many areas. Temperatures in many areas will be in the double digits.

So, enjoy the weather, enjoy the weekend, eat good food, have fun and most of all – don’t drink and drive and arrive alive!

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The war on litter: cigarette butts

April 13, 2016

I’ve long been picking up litter while out and about in public, but I have recently become rather fed up with how many cigarette butts there are out there. It’s down right shocking!

We got a dog last year, so we spend a lot of time walking. Since I poop and scoop anyways, I have also decided to start picking up cigarette butts at the same time. Since that time (just in the last few weeks since the snow melted here in Espoo), I have picked up hundreds of them.

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I wonder what smokers would do if they realized just how toxic the effects their littering are. It is purported by several sources that cigarette butts are the most littered item on earth, with some 4.5 TRILLION discarded by people around the world every year.

This is something that has just caught my attention, so it is new topic for me. I’m investigating what the issue is in Finland, whether there are any statistics on cigarette butt pollution and if there are any groups specifically taking aim at it. I’ll try and follow-up when I can. I have to find the right vocabulary to search for information in Finnish. If you can help, let me know!

We should all do our piece. If you see litter and a garbage can nearby, please do the environment a favour and pick it up.

I hope this will be the only time I will “preach” at people. We can do better, really. We’re litterally (spelling mistake intentional) killing ourselves with garbage.

Picture of the Day

April 7, 2016
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Yesterday I found myself in downtown Helsinki for the first time in a long time. I hopped on the metro and got off at Helsinki University (formerly known as Kaisaniemi) and headed up the escalator. This was too good to pass up as a photo op!

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Structural changes to recycling services in Finland

March 27, 2016

A fresh study on waste management in Europe showed that Finns throw out an average of 482kg of waste per year, which is slightly more than the European average of 475kg. In Finland 18 percent of waster is recycled (EU 28%), 17 ends up in a landfill (EU 28 %), 50 percent is incinerated (EU 27%) and 15 percent is composted (EU 16%). So with that here is some food for thought on the current state of recycling in Finland.

Some big changes have come into effect with regards to recycling in Finland this year. I haven’t taken much time up until this point to discover what the changes really mean for my household, except that we do not have to collect so-called “energy waste” anymore.

It is also against the law to discard organic biowaste into landfills as of the beginning of 2016 under the new Waste Act. Yet the media reports that people appear to remain skeptical about sorting their waste because they often believe it was all just end up at the landfill anyways.

Plastic recycling, however, will take on a different tone and be collected at the same recycling points as other recyclables like paper, carton (cardboard and tetra paks), glass and metal.

Despite the change, plastic recycling has yet to be deployed widely in the capital region and apparently will only be done on a trial basis. So far I have only found location for plastic recycling that is relatively convenient. So it means lugging our recycling around, but it is not too much of a headache fortunately.

We drop a lot of our stuff off at receptacles like these.

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So what happens to the rest of the household waste we produce if it is not recycled?

When I tried to get answers from Helsinki Regional via Facebook in asking questions about the changes to recycling (in English), they basically copied and pasted their answers from the web pages. So a couple questions remain:

  • What happens when people just throw everything in the garbage (including problem waster like PVC (number 3) plastic, which is not supposed to be burned, or pressure treated wood, batteries…?
  • How about garbage from public places like parks and bus stops – what happens to that?

The bottom line is, the onus is still on us as consumers, communities and individuals to sort our waste properly.

But how much of our waste is still ending up in the landfill? I’m skeptical that everything is being burned or recycled properly…

Think about it, we can do better!

P.S. Here is a sobering statistic: Did you know that Finns throw out / discard an estimated 70 million kilograms of clothing every year??

P.S.S Did you know that every year the bigger retail chains (Kesko and S-group) run a recycling campaign for old frying pans and pots? Every February, you can bring in old pots and pans to the stores that participate in the campaign and get a discount on the purchase of a new one. I think this is a fabulous idea and the fact that it is run year after year is probably a testament to its popularity.

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Espoo is like a big hole in the ground

March 18, 2016

These days you can hardly move around the city without running into a major construction project.

The Mr. and I were rattling off locations in Espoo where there are major construction and infrastructure projects underway (or soon to be underway):

  • the west metro (Länsimetro, due to open in August 2016 and change the face of public transit in Espoo)
  • Otaniemi (Aalto University campus construction and renovations)
  • Keilaniemi (major reorganization of the roads and construction huge apartment buildings)
  • Tapiola (it’s been a huge hole in the ground for the last two years, and due to be like that for the next two years!)
  • Suomenoja (road construction, still being fixed and worked on, residential housing for 20 000 people due to start)
  • Leppävaara (due to undergo a major residential construction face lift soon)
  • Vermo (road construction in and around the area)
  • Lippulaiva (shopping centre due to be closed and renovated – I am actually unsure of the status of this, I have not been down there lately)
  • Saunalahti and Kurttila (major residential construction)
  • Suurpelto (residential contruction)
  • Espoon Keskus (major residential construction)
  • Matinkylä (provisional approval to demolish the moldy arena and build a new 4-pad complex)
  • Numerous schools are being renovated and built because of mold problems (an unacceptable situation – if they were built properly in the first place, mold would not be an issue!)
  • District heating and water distribution infrastructure being installed as well

There are others I have missed, but for now, Espoo is like a giant hole in the ground. It’s a real headache in fact, and makes bike riding and being a pedestrian a real pain – gravel, detours… Not fun. It’ll probably be nice when it’s done, but as with construction in Espoo, it’s a never ending thing these days.

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Food favourites on a regional level

March 4, 2016

I ran across an interesting article in Helsingin Sanomat on February 25. The S-group (one of the big retail chains in Finland) analyzed 70 million purchases made in 2015. Based on those purchases they were able to determine regional food favourites and there were differences in the results.* You’ll have to forgive me – in some cases I have to add the Finnish word for the food because I couldn’t find a translation for it.

In the south, people are partial to specialty cheeses, dark roasted coffee and noodles.

In the north, pork, flat breads, fresh fish and Edam cheese are favourites.

In the east, people favour pork, Edam cheese, buttermilk, rye bread, so-called “post-oven breads (jälkiuunileipä) and sour dough-type and oat breads. People also use more of the butter / margarine spreads that have been shown to have positive effects on lowering bad cholesterol levels (i.e Becel).

In the west, people purchase a lot of sandwich breads and “varrasleipä”, beef, pulla, doughnuts and bread cheese (leipäjuusto)

It was also reported that chicken wings are a particular favourite in the Tampere region. There is also a clear distinction in the taste for food in the east vs. west. Research showed that people in eastern Finland clearly favour sour dough-type breads and people in the west have more of a sweet tooth, favouring pulla and other coffee breads. People in eastern and northern regions purchase more flour than the rest of the country as they are still partial to making their own food more than people in the south and the west. People living in southern Finland also have more exposure to specialty shops that offer products from other parts of the world.

Are you in Finland? Do you have any food favourites? Do you find yourself liking a lot of the same foods as your regional counterparts?

I definitely favour pulla – in ANY part of Finland.:)

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*The Jyväskylä region was left out of the analysis.

The baffling can opener

March 1, 2016

There is one kitchen implement that I have never learned how to use here in Finland and that is the old style can opener.

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The Mr. broke our can opener a few weeks ago, so he went to borrow one from our neighbours. He needed to open a huge can of duck that I got from my work place as a Christmas present. Needless to say his fingers were feeling it afterwards.

I’ll stick with this version – more ergonomically friendly and not so hard on the hands!

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This is a reminder however, it’s not bad to have a back-up, I better go get one of the old-style can openers…

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