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Green Efforts: Helsinki

Finland is a densely wooded land nourished by numerous lakes, with a sparse population that is short of five and half million. Nestled in the southeastern tip of Finland you’ll find Helsinki, the country’s capital and largest city. It is a city once shaped by Russian and Swedish influence, but has a distinctive culture imbued with the Finnish spirit and retains a high quality of life.

As a part of Green Efforts, we will delve into some of the practices, both old and advanced, that reveal the city’s environmental awareness.

Green Agenda
Helsinki’s strength lies in the city’s sheer determination to create a sustainable society that serves the urban and conserves the natural environment. This can be shown in city plans, implementations of the government, and the participation of its citizens, many of who are active in environmental affairs.

In a recent study comparing the politics of European capitals, the European Green City Index awarded Helsinki as the top ranking city for environmental politics. Currently, ten of its parliament seats are occupied by members of the Green league, which is Finland’s green purist political party.

Clean City
Helsinki has been ranked as the seventh cleanest city amongst other European capitals, taking into account air quality, waste utilization, land use and construction. It has also garnered attention in other international studies with good and satisfactory marks on air quality.

How Helsinki Moves
Along with walking, bicycling is a popular means of navigation and accounts for 6 percent of all trips made in the city. Helsinki’s extensive bike path system allows for uninterrupted travel throughout the city, with over meters of . One of newest additions to the cycling network is last year’s Baana. Baana was formerly a harbor railway corridor but was converted into a two-lane route for bike riders and pedestrians.

If you ever want to dismount your wheels and walk, the bicycle service station at the Kamppi Center is a safe place to stow your bike. For those without a bike to ride, they provide bike rentals. Other services include bike repair and information.

Another emphasis in the city’s development  is the advancement made in public transportation. Currently 72 percent of morning commuters use public transportation to reach the city center. Those that still use automobiles will find it pays in Helsinki to invest in a fuel efficient vehicle, as drivers of fuel efficient vehicles receive discounts, including a half price reduction on parking fees.

Urban Density and Helsinki’s Cityscape
While most the world’s housing is being spread out, and resources spread thin, new housing developments in Helsinki emphasize the importance of space utilization and plans center around the construction of apartment blocks and mixed-use buildings rather than single-family domes. This saves on energy use and allows residents easy access to public amenities by foot, cycling, and public transportation. The city’s built environment also makes plenty of room for nature. Parks, forests and other green areas account for 36 percent of Helsinki’s land and Finns, who are passionate about all things outdoors, work to conserve these green sanctuaries.

Other efforts at sustainable housing includes Eco-Viikki, a neighborhood designed with high ecological standards. The Eco-Viikki is located near the University of Helsinki’s Viikki campus. The goal of this neighborhood is to create carbon free living and is the first ecologically designed neighborhood in Finland.

Preparing for Climate Change
As a city cradled by the Baltic ocean, Helsinki runs future risk of flood due to rising sea levels. To lessen damage from climate change, the lowest level of buildings in future waterfront areas will be at least three meters above sea level. Flood embankments are planned for existing buildings that are below 2.5 meters above sea level, which total to 700.

Green Efforts: Intro
Green Efforts: St Louis

http://en.uuttahelsinkia.fi/sections/5/environment, http://www.hel.fi/hki/Ymk/en/Etusivu
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