Going green: Finland’s eco-friendly attitude
Finland topped global news headlines when the southern city of Lahti won the European Green Capital Award in 2021. But the country has been thinking about the environment for a lot longer. Ally Wybrew reports
Cafe Kariranta sits on the southern bank of Lake Vesijärvi, a vast swathe of fresh water flanked by conifers, campsites and picturesque wooden houses. A former train station, this quaint and cosy coffee shop wears its history proudly. Visitors step over original iron tracks to enter, and sip hot chocolate while soaking up the tranquil vista from its porch. Today, it’s an idyllic spot in the city of Lahti, lying alongside a small harbour and the iconic concert venue, Sibelius Hall. But it didn’t always look like this.
In the 1970s, the 110sqkm Lake Vesijärvi was the most polluted in the country (a feat, considering there are more than 187,000 lakes in Finland) and anything but ideal for indulging in the popular pastime of taking an icy dip. Limnologist Juha Keto campaigned successfully in 1976 to have wastewater treated at a plant before heading to the lake. By 1987, the Vesijärvi I project began in earnest and saw the extraction of so-called ‘trash fish’, with more than a million kilos of roach being removed and replaced with roach-eating pike-perch. Stormwater solutions and selective fishing have since helped, creating a lake that is not only clean, bursting with aquatic life and safe for humans to swim in, but a destination in the city and a tale residents are proud to share.