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A five-year journey to carbon neutrality

Becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2025 is a strategic goal for the University of Eastern Finland. Achieving this goal calls for a change in the way we do things, as well as carbon offsetting.

  • Text Jonna Myllykangas
  • Photos Varpu Heiskanen, Bettiina Lievonen and Raija Törrönen

The year 2020 witnessed an analysis of carbon emissions originating from the university's facilities, procurements, travel, campus restaurants, and laboratories. The overall carbon footprint of the University of Eastern Finland amounts to around 16,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (tCO2eqv). The carbon footprint is typically expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents, which besides emissions of carbon dioxide also consider other greenhouse gas emissions.

“We have compared our results against those of the University of Turku, and our distribution of emissions is very similar to theirs. Facilities are the main source of emissions, followed by travel and laboratories,” Coordinator Maiju Eskelinen from the Carbon Neutral UEF 2025 project says.

The University of Turku was the first Finnish university to calculate its carbon footprint. In addition to the University of Eastern Finland, many other Finnish universities are also in the process of calculating their carbon footprint, which means that results can be compared more extensively in 2021. However, making comparisons isn’t that straightforward.

“We were surprised by the multitude of calculation methods. Moreover, there isn’t a single standard to follow and the categories used in the calculations aren’t unambiguous. For instance, our emissions from procurements were greater than those of the University of Turku, but that’s because we have more procurement categories. On the other hand, our carbon footprint per person is 878 kilograms, whereas the University of Turku’s is 1,100 kilograms, despite us having more variables in the calculation.

The carbon footprint per person was calculated by dividing the university’s emissions by the total number of its degree students and staff members.

Eskelinen Maiju in portrait.
“Our goal was to raise awareness of these things among students and to inspire them to become involved in carbon neutrality work through, for example, their personal choices,” Eskelinen says.

Carbon offsetting is not a ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’ that justifies emissions. Preventing and reducing emissions is always more important, and offsetting should be used as a last resort.

Maiju Eskelinen

Coordinator

The calculation of the University of Eastern Finland’s carbon footprint .
The calculation of the UEF’s carbon footprint showed the following distribution of emissions: heating 22%, laboratories 21%, flights 16%, campus restaurants 17%, and procurements 10%. The share of emissions from other sources was 14%.