At the end of 2018 the Baltic Sea Action Group and Valio started collaboration addressing climate change mitigation. During this collaboration BSAG and Valio will organize carbon farming trainings for the Valio’s dairy farmers. The first carbon farming training, organized in Kalajoki on 16-17.4.2019, gathered together 70 representatives from the Valio’s dairy farms.
During a two-day training “From dairy farms to carbon farms” participants got familiar with carbon farming, discussed in groups on the future of carbon dairy farms and planned carbon farming at their own farms. A spa-hotel at the sandbanks of Kalajoki provided the venue for the training as well as a possibility for some relaxing spa-time and outdoor recreation.
The first day started with opening words of Anu Kaukovirta-Norja, SVP, Research and Technology of Valio. She presented to the participants Valio’s CARBO project., aiming a carbon neutral milk chain. This also includes collaboration with BSAG.
Presentation of Jussi Heinonsalo, a researcher of the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the University of Helsinki, explained how carbon sequestration is linked to soil microbes. Participants commented on the presentation, saying that for them cow’s potbelly microbes are already a familiar partner, so cooperation with soil microbes sounds also natural for them. Perttu Virkajärvi, a leading researcher at the Natural Resources Center (LUKE) provided with his presentation a thorough dose of research data on the carbon sequestration for grass farming.
Tuomas Mattila, a researcher from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and a farmer from the Kilpiä farm, told the participants about the holistic management of the farm. He made people consider the future of their own farms, which served as a good introduction to the “Dairy Farm of the Future” groupwork.
The first training day ended with nice relaxation in spa and a walk to the sand dunes in the stunning sunny spring weather.
The most spirited ones stared the second training day with a morning swim. At the beginning of the second day a real grass expert Anu Ellä told about efficient and many-sided grass care. Healthy grass is the foundation for both production and carbon sequestration. Presentation by Kristiina Regina, a research Professor of the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), focused carbon farming on turf soils, ie how to slow down the loss of carbon from turf soils.
After lunch a carbon farmer and Hereford -breeder Johanna Jahkola told about the pasture, sequestrating carbon at its maximum. “A cattle breeder, a grass farmer, a microbial breeder”, described Jahkola many her tasks and roles as a farmer.
In the final presentation of the day Tuomas Mattila emphasized the continuous vegetation coverage as the foundation for carbon sinks in the fields. Increasing photosynthesis in fields provides food to microbes and thus can store carbon in soils in a sustainable way.
In his closing words, Juha Nousiainen, Valio’s director for the carbon neutral milk chain, emphasized that expertise and its development are needed to achieve the goal of a carbon neutral milk chain. At the end participants received certificates of participation in BSAG’s and Valio’s carbon farming training.
In 2015, Metsähallitus, a state enterprise that administers around a third of Finland’s land and water areas, made a Baltic Sea Commitment. The Commitment, which was structured into two parts, has now been completed. As one part of the Commitment, Metsähallitus produced maps, which display sites where the environment is particularly rich but faces great pressure due to heavy use. The maps will help in the conservation of precious environment in sea and coastal areas as the information compiled in them will be a valuable reference in zoning processes and other planning. The maps were produced based on survey data which the organisation collected in the Finnish Inventory Programme for the Underwater Marine Environment.
“The Finnish coastal areas are home to a rich variety of species and their protection should be advanced in every possible manner. Thanks to the surveys and mapping done by Metsähallitus it will now be easier to make protection decisions”, says Johan Schmidt, managing director of BSAG.
“Metsähallitus administers around one third of Finland’s land and water areas, so it is obvious that our actions have a large potential of improving the state of the Baltic Sea and protect biodiversity elsewhere, too”, says Director General Pentti Hyttinen.
The second part of the commitment was aimed at improving the state of lakes and rivers. Metsähallitus sought out areas where the state of nearby lakes and rivers – and in extension the habitat of the species living in them – could be improved. By means of education on sustainable forestry practices and careful planning of drainage basins Metsähallitus worked towards limiting nutrient run-offs from the activities of the forestry sector. Metsähallitus and BSAG are currently discussing new cooperation and a renewal of the commitment.
“It’s important to pay attention to the nutrient loads that enter lakes and rivers. Almost all of Finland is part of the Baltic Sea catchment area, which means that what happens in proximity to our lakes and rivers does not only affect local ecosystems but also the state of the Baltic Sea”, Schmidt concludes.
Metsähallitus is a state enterprise. In addition to the publicly owned land areas it also administers waters and protected areas at sea. The total area of the waters, 27 826 km2, is comparable to the size of the Uusimaa, Varsinais-Suomi and Satakunta regions combined. Metsähallitus attends to and develops these areas in accordance to its responsibility scheme.
TAUKO X GULLKRONA is a sustainable clothing collection, produced by Helsinki-based TAUKO fashion house in collaboration with Saara Kankaanrinta and Ilkka Herlin. Kankaanrinta and Herlin are the co-founders of Baltic Sea Action Group, and the new owners of Gullkrona harbour. All proceeds from the collection will be donated to BSAG’s work for the Baltic Sea.
TAUKO X GULLKRONA collection is designed in Helsinki and manufactured in Loksa, Estonia. TAUKO’s founders Mila Moisio and Kaisa Rissanen have developed an internationally acclaimed process for recycling local textile waste, by which the TAUKO X GULLKRONA collection will also be produced. The shirts and dresses are sewn from Finnish textile industry surplus materials, and their manufacturing utilizes no water or harmful chemicals.
The collection aims to convey how respect and love for the environment can be incorporated into clothing design and production. It also raises awareness of the ways that clothing manufacturing impacts nature, including the fragile ecosystems and species of the Baltic Sea. The items in the collection are named after species native to the Baltic Sea region. This is to stress both the species diversity in the ecosystem, and the fact that many of them are in danger of extinction.
”Conscientious and responsible production has always been one of the key aspects of TAUKO. For this collection we have gathered inspiration from marine archipelago landscapes, their vast horizons and inhabitants”, says Mila Moisio.
”Fashion industry has long-term environmental impacts, for example through cotton farming, monocultures and the use of pesticides. It is especially important to us that this collection recycles existing textile materials, instead of producing new material. We want to be completely transparent in demonstrating what makes up the price of genuinely sustainable and beautiful clothing”, comments Saara Kankaanrinta.
”Through the TAUKO X GULLKRONA collection we want to bring attention to the valuable biodiversity in the Baltic Sea, which is an often overlooked treasure. This is why it was easy to decide that both TAUKO and GULLKRONA will donate all proceeds for the Baltic Sea”, Moisio and Kankaanrinta state.
We recently conducted a survey among companies and our employees about our reputation in the corporate arena. Thanks to all participants!
Overall, companies’ trust towards BSAG is very high. The average score among all company respondents is 4.2 at a scale of 1-5. Those who know us well or very well rate our actions even higher (average 4.4).
Particularly the high impact, quality, innovativeness and societal value in our work is appreciated. This is very important for us as seeking true and systemic change is in the core of our philosophy and our passion. Those who know us better also consider us to be highly capable of working as a strategic partner for business.
I believe that BSAG’s close cooperation with our corporate partners and our constructive approach largely explain the good results. Also, bringing the commitment concept to Finland has been important for BSAG. The Baltic Sea Commitments have indeed been an important tool to implement impactful improvements in business and reach consumers with our important message.
Corporate respondents also consider BSAG as a highly reliable and ethical actor. It is great to see that the strong integrity that we have built into our actions is recognised. We are very mindful not to sacrifice our values for the wrong causes.
The survey demonstrates that there is more work to do, though. BSAG and our actions for the Baltic Sea is not yet sufficiently known among companies. Only 35% of respondents know BSAG “well” or “very well”. One open response says aptly that “higher awareness could support your corporate work as your agenda is really important to all of us”. This encourages us to work even harder on actively communicating about what we do and what we accomplish.
The survey also tells us that we could be even stronger visionaries and show leadership clearer than before. We will put this on our agenda too now.
What do our employees think?
We are very happy to hear that our employees appreciate our foundation so highly. The average score given by employees is as high as 4.5. Particularly general appreciation and trust is strong, and employees are proud of their work and its impact. Understandably, financial considerations receive lower scores as we are so dependent on unpredictable donations and project financing.
With this encouraging feedback from the survey we enthusiastically continue our work for the Baltic Sea.
S-group will partner up with Baltic Sea Action Group in funding BSAG’s Carbon Action -pilot project. The project researches ways to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and store it into soil. The goal is to mitigate climate change.
Over 100 Finnish farms are involved in the Carbon Action -project, testing practical carbon farming measures in their fields. S-group’s funding will enable soil sampling from deeper layers of the soil in the test parcel. This will give the researchers information on the layers of soil that are the most relevant as a carbon storage.
S-group’s decision to join Carbon Action is a part of the group’s larger climate campaign, according to SOK’s Responsibility Manager Lea Rankinen.
– We have already promised to cut our own climate emissions by 60 % between years 2015 and 2030. Additionally, we have challenged our suppliers to cut their combined emissions by one million tons in the same time period.
In January S-group announced that they will begin futures coaching for agricultural producers together with agricultural advisory organization ProAgria. The coaching will provide farmers with information on consumer behavior, but also encourage them to become climate entrepreneurs. Farms could receive additional income by sequestering carbon.
– We must be able to reliably verify how different farming and tilling practices affect the soil carbon storage. Additionally, a marketplace for carbon is needed, making it possible to trade with carbon sequestration and storage, says Rankinen.
Carbon Action is a joint project between farmers, research facilities, universities and businesses. The core of the project is to verify the effects of carbon farming by interdiscplinary top research.
– Farmers are central participants in this project. Research and development must be done in collaboration with the farmers for it to benefit the actual agricultural work, highlights BSAG’s Content director Laura Höijer.
– Storing carbon into arable land mitigates climate change. Healthy soil produces better crop yields, reduces nutrient loads to the Baltic Sea and other water systems, and promotes biodiversity. Farmers also benefit as the fields’ resilience to extreme weather conditions increases.
During the project, basic measurements and soil samples are taken in the test fields. Different farming methods’ effects on soil carbon storage are examined by analyzing the samples. The project will also reveal areas that require further research.
– There is little information on carbon storage and its changes in the deeper layers of soil. However, deeper soil layers may be very significant for the total carbon storage. We can produce valuable new information on this subject, thanks to S-group’s funding, says Höijer.
Through the collaboration with S-group, Carbon Action will be able to utilise ProAgria’s data and interviews on long term cultivation history.
BSAG hopes is that the knowledge produced in Carbon Action would be utilized as widely as possible. The future objective is to produce so called carbon negative products, and thus promote carbon sequestration by commercial means. S-group will chart ways to further this goal in collaboration with BSAG.
DROPP Water donated 10 000 euros of their 2018 sales to the Baltic Sea. 5000 euros were donated to BSAG and 5000 euros to the University of Helsinki’s MONICOAST -research project. BSAG also received additional donations from Partioaitta-store (1181 euros) and Ruohonjuuri-store (660 euros) for the sales of 427 SIGG x DROPP reusable water bottles.
DROPP’s collaboration with BSAG has continued for five years. DROPP offers a sustainable option for soft drinks and other mineral waters. Profits are donated to help the Baltic Sea.
”In 2019 BSAG will continue working with sustainable agriculture and nutrient cycling, fighting against climate change, and strive for a healthier Baltic Sea and stronger biodiversity. DROPP’s donation contributes to this work”, says BSAG’s Managing Director Johan Schmidt.
”We at DROPP are happy to be able to support the work of BSAG and the MONICOAST-project. This year our selection includes both still and sparkling DROPP mineral water. We are also aimig to create solutions that enable us to offer refreshing beverages in an even more sustainable way”, says Heidi Nielsen, DROPP’s Commercial Manager.
UPM continues its long-standing co-operation with the Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) to prevent eutrophication in the Baltic Sea and in Finnish waters. This work is part of UPM’s Baltic Sea Commitment.
“Preventing eutrophication requires collaboration between various parties. We are able to utilise nutritious sidestreams from other operators at our biological treatment plants. This way, we can replace nutrients essential to industrial treatment plants and reduce the amount of nutrients ending up into waters at a local level”, explains Eerik Ojala, Director, Responsibility, Production support.
UPM made their third Commitment to BSAG in 2016, and set a responsibility target to use only recycled nutrients at its wastewater treatment plants by 2030. “So far, our work has progressed well: in 2018, already 22 per cent of all nutrients used by us were recycled. In other words, we are utilising nutritious sidestreams from other local operators in our operations”, Eerik Ojala clarifies.
“The most severe problems threatening the Baltic Sea are eutrophication and reduction in biodiversity. UPM has the challenge of finding suitable resources of recycled nutrients for its operations, and finding solutions for recycling nutrients originating from its own operations. This is a challenge that we can take together”, says Johan Schmidt, the Managing Director of the Baltic Sea Action Group.
“We bring together scientists, industrial operators and decision-makers, and, thus, enable a model of supply, demand and legislation that can be used to promote the wellbeing of the Baltic Sea as efficiently as possible”, Johan Schmidt summarises.
Promoting the recycled nutrients target is already the third joint project between UPM and the BSAG. The project is part of UPM’s Biofore Share and Care programme, which promotes operations and projects that are relevant to UPM’s business and support innovation and sustainability values or promote local vitality and wellbeing. Responsible water use is one of the programme’s focus areas.
MTK Foundation has approved funding for analyzing the Carbon Action – pilot project’s soil samples. Each one of the 100 carbon farms, participating in the Carbon Action project, has selected an approximately 3 hectares test plot from their fields for testing carbon farming practices. Farmers test new methods as a part of their usual farming cycles during a five-year period. This way the differences in implementation between farms can be seen. The soils samples will be taken at the very beginning and after 5 years from test plots of each farm, as well as from the control plots cultivated with previous farming methods.
Farmers take soil samples themselves according to the instructions, and send them to the Carbon Action -project, from where the soil samples go to a laboratory for analyses. The amount of carbon in the soil is examined on the basis of the annealing loss. Some of the soil samples were already taken last fall, but most of the farmers go to their fields with core drills this spring.. The soil samples are handled by Jenni Jääskeläinen, a soil science student working at BSAG.
With the funding from MTK Foundation, soil samples can be also analyzed for their nutrient values and other properties, such as pH and cation exchange capacity. The aim of increasing the soil carbon storage in the fields can succeed, when the fields are in a good condition and there is a good nutrient balance. Otherwise the plant growth will be weak, and thus less photosynthesis takes place.
Taking soil samples is a familiar procedure for all farmers, as it has to be done every 5 years as a part of the environmental compensation program. Soil sampling in the Carbon Action -project is a different task, and it does not cause costs to the carbon farmers. The soil samples are taken as from exact spots at the depth of 0-20 cm., as soil samples in general. In 2019 soil samples from some Carbon Action farms will be taken at the depth of one meter. For this purpose special core drill has been developed. It will be interesting to see how the levels of nutrients and carbon will change depending on the depth of the soil.
The Carbon Action pilot project was started at the end of 2017 by Baltic Sea Action Group and the Finnish Meteorological Institute and funded by Sitra. The project is researching ways to accelerate the storage of carbon from the atmosphere to farmlands, to scientifically verify the carbon storage, while also advancing carbon storing farming practices (or carbon farming) on Finnish farms. In addition to managing the Carbon Action project as a whole, BSAG is responsible for the collaboration with and the training of the over one hundred farmers who participate in the project. The role of the Meteorological Institute is to not only carry out research on carbon storage, but also to coordinate scientific collaboration between many parties.
INNOVATIVE EXPERTS IN ILORANTA
Over one hundred farms from all over Finland participate in Carbon Action. The project now receives funding from new partners, such as the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation. With funding from the Foundation, training was organized for carbon farmers in Hauho Iloranta during some of the most beautiful winter days in February 2019. The training at Iloranta was continuation of some training events organized in 2018, which provided basic information on carbon storage and farming methods.
In Iloranta, carbon farmers gathered to deepen their knowledge of measures to further carbon storage and to meet other carbon farmers. The two-day training included expert lectures and work in small groups. More than half of Carbon Action’s 110 carbon farmers came to Iloranta and the rest were offered an opportunity to follow the first day online.
The atmosphere at Iloranta was intense and enthusiastic. The farmers, who had already studied many aspects of carbon sequestration, were looking for more knowledge and did not hesitate to challenge the experts with tricky questions. One of the most popular parts of the program was the whole hour set aside for any and all questions the farmers may have. Even after the Q&A session many questions were left, and participants would have liked to go deeper into the soil microbiology, carbon storage and processing methods. The challenge for future training is to satisfy the hunger for knowledge in a sufficiently deep and concrete way. Fortunately, the carbon farmers are active and search for knowledge themselves, also sharing their experiences and learning together in small groups.
FRESH RESEARCH FROM NEAR AND FAR
Jussi Heinonsalo, a Senior Researcher from the Finnish Meteorological Institute, kicked off the first day by introducing the latest research data from both the world and the test facility Qvidja, which is located in Parainen in Southwestern Finland. Interesting results on measuring carbon release have already been obtained during the first year of Carbon Action.
The data reveals that the grassy field as a whole was a carbon sink, that is captured more carbon than it released, but overall the sink was quite small in the summer of 2018. “It’s likely that the carbon sink was modest because of the dry summer”, Heinonsalo reflected and added: “new measurement methods are being developed to detect even minor differences.”
The first day also included a lecture about soil microbes by Ansa Palojärvi, Research Scientist from the Natural Resources Institute Finland Luke, a presentation about deep-rooted plants by the carbon farmer Jussi Talvitie, and the Carbon Action trainers and farmers Juuso Joona and Tuomas Mattila instructed the participants in how to get the most out of the work they’d do in small groups.
In addition to being fed by new information participants at Iloranta also enjoyed tasty organic food, produced and foraged as close by as possible. In the evening the smoke sauna was heated, and the first training day was rounded off with a shared evening programme.
IN SMALL GROUPS
According to the feedback, most participants agreed that the greatest thing about the Carbon Action project was the possibility to meet and exchange experiences with other carbon farmers. To this end, the two-day training meeting was just what was needed. The participation of experts in the debate also brought fruitful content to the training, and the dialogue between researchers and farmers not only fed farmers’ hunger for knowledge, but also provided researchers with perspectives on practical farming.
The exchange of knowledge between the various actors at the meeting at Iloranta has further expanded. One of the purposes of the event was to form small groups around different carbon storage methods, and on the second day to seriously focus on the implementation of those methods. Agronomy students from the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences also participated in the work in the small groups as part of their studies. In addition to farmers and students, agricultural advisors also participated, so there were many sources for sharing expertise and exchanging information.
Small group activities raise the know-how of carbon farmers to new levels, as sharing expertise improves the skills of each group member. There is no sense in making the same mistakes as others have already made and sharing experiences of failure is particularly useful when practical methods are being piloted and researched, but results need to be achieved quickly. In addition, sharing your own mistakes and hearing about the ones others have made can be extremely funny and encouraging, as was proved at the evening event Mess up battle organized by Juuso Joona and Tuomas Mattila. But that’s another story, a very hilarious one.
Baltic Sea Action Group’s Christmas campaign for the year 2018 collected a record-breaking 220 600 euros from 152 businesses and organizations. The campaign drew attention to the poor oxygen conditions at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, also known as hypoxia.
BSAG executed and devised the campaign in collaboration with design company Taivas, who did the work pro bono. Four videos were filmed to support the campaign, featuring BSAG’s founders Ilkka Herlin and Saara Kankaanrinta, actor Tommi Korpela and former U.S. Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck, who all dived under water to hold their breath. The dramatic videos highlighted the suffocating conditions at the oxygen-depleted sea floor.
”Oxygen-depleted areas at the bottom of the sea are almost completely devoid of life. The campaign videos alerted us humans to imagine how these conditions feel like to the sea’s animal life. We were glad that in addition to Ilkka and Saara, Tommi Korpela and Bruce Oreck also dared to take a dive for the Baltic Sea”, says BSAG’s Managing Director Johan Schmidt.
BSAG’s christmas campaign has traditionally been aimed at companies, giving them the opportunity to donate money for the Baltic Sea instead of spending it on physical Christmas presents. In exchange they received communications material, with which to inform their associates of the donation. The donors can be found at the campaign page www.joululahjaitamerelle.fi.
”The record-breaking sum not only shows that the campaign was succesfully executed, but also demonstrates that companies have a desire to help the Baltic Sea. The sea is important to many people and they want to help saving it”, says Schmidt.
The most obvious sign of the Baltic Sea’s poor condition is eutrophication, that manifests itself as yearly algal blooms. Masses of cyanobacterial blooms on the surface of the sea make headlines every summer. Hypoxia is the less visible result of eutrophication. Decomposing massive amounts of dead algae at the sea floor consumes oxygen, and at the moment the hypoxic area in the Baltic Sea is the size of Ireland. Eutrophication is accelerated because sediments at the sea floor will not be able to retain old, stored nutrients in poor oxygen conditions.
Although nutrients leaking from the bottom sediments play a significant role in eutrophcation, nutrient loads from land are still considerably too big. They are also the main reason for eutrophication in the Baltic Sea archipelago. BSAG works to decrease nutrient loads by helping develop sustainable farming practices. In addition to eutrophication, climate change is a major threat to the Batic Sea. During 2019 BSAG’s work will include for example carrying on the work to further advance nutrient cycling, as well as continuing the Carbon Action -pilot project, which aims to mitigate climate change and nutrient loads through agricultural methods.