Solving the Baltic Sea Seminar

26.09.2016

Baltic Sea needs active people and innovative solutions. Submit your project proposals for the Baltic Sea Project by 30th of September and share!

A few weeks ago Solved and the Bank of Åland organised Solving the Baltic Sea Seminar at Allas Sea Pool. The aim of the seminar was to discuss ways of working together in combating the various challenges facing the Baltic Sea. The multidisciplinary crowd of participants included experts and enthusiast from companies, R&D institutions, governmental organisations and the third sector alike.

The evening began with Anne-Maria Salonius giving an introduction to the work that the Bank of Åland has done for more than two decades for the Baltic Sea. The bank has funded environmental projects and organisations through proceeds from their Nature Account and in 2014 they launched the Baltic Sea Project, which allows anyone living or operating in Finland to apply for funding for projects that help the Baltic Sea. The Bank of Åland has already distributed 1.3M€ to the important environmental efforts of both large and small organisations.

This June The Bank of Åland also launched the Baltic Sea Card, which is the world’s first biodegradable debit and credit card. The card enables its users to track the CO2 emissions of their consumption online. The Åland index is available for any bank in the world that wants to use it and the vision is to create a totally new banking standard in Finland and globally. “It’s important for us that we do this with our clients. People want to use this card to show they support this cause!”

Next up, Mathias Bergman from Baltic Sea Action Group shared his views on the state of the Baltic Sea. BSAG views limiting excess nutrients and oxygen deprivation in the Baltic Sea as the most crucial goal that governments and businesses within the region should focus on.”The answer is circular economy, nutrient cycling. Nutrients are valuable resources and yet we let them trickle away into the environment”.

BSAG has encouraged more than 250 organisations to make commitments that state the concrete actions they are taking to protect the Baltic Sea. Bergman believes that in order to create real impact in the state of the Baltic Sea we should aim to identify the best way that each and every organisation can do better in their operations and then monitor and help them succeed in meeting their goals.

Last year’s Baltic Sea Project winner Pekka Vieno offered his tips for making a successful application: “You should make a really clear and compact application. It’s much harder to write a short application than a long one, but it helps to clarify what it is that you’re really doing. And of course - use social media to promote your project!” Vieno has worked to introduce a new technology to water treatment plants that helps remove more nitrogen from wastewater while using less energy. Their project was audience’s favourite and was granted 40.000€.

The evening included also a lot of discussion about how ordinary citizens can improve the state of the Baltic Sea. Engaging people in conservation activities and raising awareness is central to the way WWF works highlights Conservation Director Jari Luukkonen. Daily choices from diet to usage of plastic bags influences not only the CO2 emissions but also the amount of nutrients released into the sea. There is clearly a need for people to get precise information about their environmental impact and tips for making better choices. The Åland index is one exciting step towards educating users and influencing their choices without guilt. Conscious consumers also are able to influence companies from below.

But how to create business from protecting the Baltic Sea? Mathias Bergman proposes a radical rethink to the way we think about nutrients: for example water treatment plants should be seen as factories for raw materials! Developing new technology for efficient nutrient cycling can be expensive, but if a real business case can be made then nothing will stand in the way.

New business cases can also be searched from outside Finland, as there are many countries battling with badly polluted groundwater reserves and other water-related issues. Laura Nevatalofrom Outotec: “We need to be able to make such solutions for these issues that can be sold at an affordable cost. That’s the only way to export Finnish water technology in large scale”. The head of the State of the Baltic Sea Unit at Finnish Environment Institute Laura Uusitalo in turn suggests exporting Finnish environmental expertise over technology: “We could develop totally novel and functioning models for the co-governance of natural resources, and then export those all over the world”.

The end note of the seminar was duly delivered by Pekka Vieno“We should think we’re entitled rather than obliged to help the Baltic Sea. We should demand better solutions and the companies - well they’ll eventually have to offer what people want!”

For everyone who has a good project idea that can help save the Baltic Sea, please submit your application by 30th September at: http://www.balticseaproject.org/en/ and share!

With all the best,

Solved Team & The Bank of Åland