How to travel by train – tips and ideas for your next holiday


I’m so jealous at everyone turning 18-year old this year, they get free Interrail tickets this summer! I am trying to go back to my good habits of travelling by train in Europe instead of flying, and I thought I would share some tips with you guys. Summer holidays are coming up and if you are planning a trip anywhere in Europe, why not do it by train? In this post I’ll go through costs, how to plan your route and how much in advance you should book.

Ideally, I would take the train much more. I have high ideals, but I am in no way a “perfect eco citizen”. Because of my flying, my carbon footprint is three times the sustainable level. Many people are true eco-heroes without thinking about it even! They live in a small flat, they buy the food that’s about to go off with the 60% tags and they travel by public transport. Often, the people who spend least money are the one’s we should look up too. Those guys are your real heroes, I’m just a spoiled millennial who want to raise awareness among other spoiled millennials. Enough about that, now to train travel!

Why chose train?

If you want to see many destinations in Europe, train is the obvious choice. If you are going to just one destination, most people I know see flying as the obvious choice but train can offer the benefit of giving you a “bonus destination” on the way. Seeing things on the way and more flexibility are two great aspects about train travelling. Taking the night train is the best. For every night you spend on the train, you gain a day for sightseeing and avoid the cost of a hotel.

The other obvious benefit is that most train companies run on electricity that is largely produced from renewable resources. That means that taking the train can on many routes have zero carbon emissions! A typical flight trip in Europe has at least 500kg of carbon emissions. Just one flight roundtrip is almost 10% of the average EU citizens annual emissions, so taking the train can give you some serious saves. Also, taking the train is a real adventure! You meet people, you explore and you learn to enjoy the little things along the way. Most trains are also very comfortable and if you have the chance to travel by night train, you won’t even notice you spent time travelling.

Where to start planning?

The website shows the best train connections within Europe. I can put in Helsinki to London and it suggests me the quickest route! I keep using that distance as an example because I have made that journey three times but I have also travelled by rail from London to Milan, from Amsterdam to Madrid and obviously the Eurostar routes from London to Paris and Brussells. also have an app called the Rail Planner that I recommend downloading when you start planning your app. Click here to get to the planner. Plan your journey well in advance if you want to travel during popular times and you have to be on certain trains, the most popular routes on the fastest trains can sell out. You can be more relaxed about planning if have all the time in the world during your travels and you don’t mind having a journey by local trains with several small stop overs and occasionally wait even a day extra to catch a cheaper train the next day.

I would suggest planning your route and your timetable before purchasing an Interrail pass, as for some journeys single tickets can be cheaper. To save money,  I really recommend booking the high speed rails such as the Eurostar from London or the Thalys trains in France, Germany, Spain and the Benelux countries well in advance. The prices for these trains tend to go up if you leave booking too late. The Eurostar from London is not included in the Interrail pass but the Interrail pass entitles you to a small discount on your Eurostar ticket price.

When you plan your trip I suggest putting in your starting point and final destination first, just to see which stopover places the app suggests. You want to spend more time than the shortest stopover time in some of these places, so do not religiously follow this first suggested timetable. For example on the journey from Milan to London I decided to have a 13 hours stop over to enjoy a day in Paris, instead of just a 1h stopover where I would have to rush. Search for the timetables of the two journeys separately: Milan-Paris and then Paris-London.

About the cost – Interrail pass or individual train tickets?

An Interrail pass is ideal if your goal is to see as many places as possible and you don’t mind moving from one place to another. They sell both International and one-country passes. I have myself not done a proper Interrail trip with many stops over a month or so, but read a bit further and you’ll see the tips from two of my friends who have done it.

If you are under 27 years old, the price of the Interrail pass is about 25% cheaper. The prices for the International youth passes range from 208€ (£192) to 510€ (£470) depending on if you travel for the minimum of 5 days or up to a whole month. On top of this, many trains charge a seat reservation fee to be allowed travel on that train. Comparing rail travel to flying is very difficult because you can see so much more when you travel by train.

Tips for shorter train journeys

When you are travelling less than 5 days during a period of two weeks, which is the smallest international Interrail pass, it might actually become cheaper to book individual train journeys. Sometimes it can be worth paying the little extra with the Interrail pass even if you are travelling a shorter time because it allows for flexibility. The benefit of the Interrail pass is if you miss a train connection, you can just take the next train instead. On some distances, you might also want to take bus or boat instead of train. For example, all my journeys out of Helsinki include a ferry ride. If you travel by the fastest Intercity trains, for example from Paris to Barcelona, you might as well not have an Interrail pass because the mandatory seat reservation fees for these trains can be quite high. I bought most of my individual train tickets from Go Euro because they sell both bus and train tickets from many countries on just one site.

My experience of shorter one-way train journeys in Europe. 1-4 are with individual tickets, nr 5 is with an Interrail pass:

  1. Helsinki to London (via Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussels): 235 euro (£210)
  2. London to Amsterdam (via Brussels): 58 euro (£51)
  3. Amsterdam to Madrid (via Paris): 205 euro (£180)
  4. Milan to London (via Paris): 195 euro (£175)
  5. Helsinki to London in 2016 (via Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg and Brussels) 295 euro (£265). This sum includes the following costs: Interrail ticket 180 euro, ferry to Stockholm from Turku 55 euro and Eurostar ticket 60€. 

Tips for longer Interrailing

My friends who have done some longer Inter railing share their experience here.

Emil: No train no gain

Emil train 2Back in 2013 I went on my first inter rail adventure. I took a three week-ticket and decided to travel as much as I could in three weeks. I remember counting that we travelled through at least 18 countries. We had a quite quick pace, because I was eager to see as much as possible. For me the train rides themselves are the main part of the journey. Different landscapes and countries passing by in the window are the beauties you miss when you take that oil-drinking-Dracula, called an airplane.

I good tip for traveling longer distances with train is to take the local trains. Take your time and skip the superfastultrafancygodzillahyperloop-trains that travel approx. 900 km/h. Use the local trains instead. Because that’s where you find the locals. You’ll see the smiling school kids, the praying nuns, the stressed-out office worker and also the weird people inter railing with a shitty guitar on their backs. Note that I might be that guy.

Sofia: Bring a padlock and a copy of your passport!

SoffiatrainSome years ago I went inter railing for 4 weeks in Europe. It was in August, which is the most busy month in Europe with a lot of tourists. Because of this, I would advise anyone planning an inter rail to go in June or July, since it will be less tourists and also cheaper prices. Plan your route beforehand but account for one extra day or some extra hours at every place you want to visit. Strive for a good balance between planning and being spontaneous. For example, we planned to stay three days in Verona, Italy, but after one day we spontaneously decided to go to Venice since we had seen everything Verona had to offer in one day.

Try to book hostels in those cities you want to spend more time in. Also, if you are travelling in August, book ahead! Otherwise you might find yourself in a difficult situation when arriving in your destination. Me and my friends were forced to spend the night on a beach since the all the cheap hostels were booked and we did not feel like paying for a hotel.

Last tip: look after your stuff and be super careful! Take a copy of your passport and bring a padlock with you.

Felicia’s comment: It sounds like Sofia may or may not have somehow lost her passport haha 😉

How much time to allow for a distance?

If the route you are taking requires changing trains, allowing for some extra time is really the key to enjoyable rail travel. The Interrail planner says it will take me 42 hours to get from Helsinki to London. I have made the journey in that time once, and it was quite stressful. I had 6 stop overs which were all less than 3 hours long, and the worst stop over was in Hamburg at 3.30 am. I do not recommend for anyone to change trains at 3.30 am and I will never do it again. Unless there is a proper night train that allows you to sleep your 8 hours, I really recommend staying at a cheap hostel and just adding 10 hours to your journey time. Believe me, you will be much happier about your journey iof you sleep properly!

In the summertime (May to September) there is a night train from Stockholm to Berlin with a shorter stop in Malmö. Check it out at Snälltå In the wintertime when travelling between Helsinki and London there is no night train, so I have to sleep one night at a hostel in Copenhagen to avoid travelling during the night.

Basic tip: allow at least one more day than what the Interrail Planner says is the shortest possible time to travel. The app says it takes 51 hours to go from Helsinki to Madrid but you definitely do not want to make the journey in that time. You can get to Madrid in just two days but it might be a bit stressful. The journey includes stop overs in Copenhagen, Paris and Barcelona and you definitely want to explore at least one of them on the way. Maybe you want to explore them just for a few hours but still, you don’t want to follow the inconvenient suggestions of stop over times that the Railplanner app gives you. Why on earth would you want to be in Lyon between 23:56 and 07:06 for example? You might as well take the later morning train from Lyon to your next destination and enjoy a cute brunch!

I travelled from Arezzo in Italy via Milan and Paris to London in just 24 hours. That was quite good because it included a 40 minute stop over in Milan (time for buying snacks), a night train to Paris, a whole day of museums in Paris and a 2 hour train back to London late in the evening. If you have convenient connections you can make even longer distances in only 24 hours. Short distances like London to Amsterdam take only 4,5 hours. How much time to allow depends on both the distance and the connections, the fewer connections you have, the quicker your journey will be and the less risk there is of missing a connecting train.

The new normal

Recently more and more people in Europe are starting to choose the train over flying. In fact, there are many discussions on political level that some of the night trains that were shut down year’s ago would be brought back. When on holiday, more people are starting to realise that they can enjoy the journey as much as the destination. As for business trips, quick routes like the Eurostar also helps people choose trains over flying. If you are planning your next journey in Europe but you feel unsure about how to join the train-trend, please comment below and ask any question, I will always reply!


It starts with a Spark! The founding of a company

_DSC2957-3 smaller (1).jpgI have co-founded a company called Spark Sustainability! Above, you can see my awesome team: Anna T., Amanda, Anna E. and Johanna. Spark is all about spreading information about how individuals can help stop climate change. It’s about positive encouragement and reminding you that many small actions add up to something big and significant. You can subscribe to our newsletter at  I still think that governments should take more responsibility for stopping climate change, but as long as they just keep being a bit useless, every one of us can do as much as we can by ourselves! After all, 70% of global GHG:s can be linked to individual choice.The website also has a carbon calculator, making it easy for everyone to start seeing where their carbon footprint really comes from. Spark will help everyone make better one’s.

Already a couple years ago, I was writing on different blog pages trying to find someone to keep a sustainability blog together with. I wanted to share my message in a more professional way, but I also did not want to spend 20 hours a week on my personal blog. Back then I did not find anyone, and I kept blogging here. So when Amanda, who has studied environmental and energy technology, asked me last summer if I want to co-found a platform for inspiring positive climate action, I was THRILLED! I get to keep writing about climate change, but I can develop, learn, become better and more professional.

A study by UNEP showed that sometimes environmentalist actually put people off the idea of sustainable lifestyles, because some loud environmentalists act like suffering martyrs who sacrifice a lot. An environmental lifestyle can actually add more happiness too, by increasing health, connection to local community, the joy of learning and being in nature, just to mention a few. While I personally sometimes get angry and annoyed at both myself and the world for not being more sustainable I have realised that negative comments often are a mistake. I recently received a comment on my blog which really criticised me for flying. She was factually 100% correct, but the comment still hurt. Also, I noticed that an angry comment did not increase my motivation for taking the train next time at all.  I am learning more and more that positive encouragement is much more likely to make people change. Tell me that you’ll be proud of me when I take the train, and I will. This attitude is what Spark is all about, telling people how they can do good and making them feel good about themselves. That’s why I am so happy to be a part of this new company!

We will launch in less than a month! Wiihiii!


The Great Barrier reef is not dead – why the exaggerations?




One reason I really wanted to travel to Australia was to see the Great Barrier reef before it is completely gone. All coral, around the world, will suffer and die if waters get warmer and climate change continues. I wanted to see other things and visit my friends but I did really want to see the corals, after reading about them maybe being gone soon. It turned out that the news stories had been exaggerated, it is very threatened but not even nearly gone! The whole tourism of “seeing things before they disappear” is not great, because flying contributes and speeds up that exact disappearing. I know that it was quite selfish of me to fly out all the way but now that I have already been, there is no point regretting it.

I saw the Barrier Reef twice. We went to the outer barrier reef outside Port Douglas with a company called Wavelenght that was operated by marine biologists. They were really good about protecting the reef, did not put an anchor down, made sure no one walked on corals or touched fish. They also pointed out that tourism is really important for saving the barrier reef. The flying to Australia part is really bad, but the taking a boat out to the reef part is really not bad at all, especially if you go with a company that has an “Advanced Ecotourism” certificate.

I also went to a lecture about the coral reef at ReefTeach in Cairns. I learned so much! Apparently a few types of coral have already started adapting to climate change and morphed into “super coral”. It is more important than ever that we can protect this new super coral because it is still very rare and only exists in very few places! The coral in Australia also protects cities and agriculture on the coast in the case of storms. Coral is the birthplace of much of the worlds fish, so if you like seafood you better like protecting coral reefs.

Three common misunderstandings about the great barrier reef:

  1. Bleached coral is dead coral. This is false. Coral gets it colour from algae that lives on it. The algae is providing the coral with food and nutrition, but when the water gets too warm the algae starts producing toxins. That makes the coral get rid of the algae by expelling it from its surface. That means that suddenly the coral has no source of food anymore! Bleached coral is not dead, but it will starve to death within a few weeks or up to two months if the water does not get colder. If the water gets colder, it can take the algae back and get back to a healthy life.
  2. 90% of the Great Barrier reef is gone. Completely untrue. 90% of areas of the coral reef have been affected by coral bleaching because of warm water as a result of climate change. As point one states, bleaching does not mean dead. During the warm summer months many corals bleach, but as the waters get colder again a month later or so, they get their colour and their nutrition back. The barrier reef is very threatened. About 30% of corals in the area where the mentioned company operate have died in the past two years. 30% is a lot. But it’s not 90%. The entire Barrier reef is the largest coral reef in the world. It is 348,700 km² big! That means that there is still a lot to save!
  3. Tourism destroys the reef. This is partly true, partly untrue. “Tourists want to see a beautiful barrier reef, and the fact that tourists bring in so much money makes politicians more likely to support efforts of protecting the barrier reef”, says one of the marine biologists on the boat. Then it is another issue that some companies are irresponsible and do not interfere enough when stupid people for example walk on the coral. The coral burns like jellyfish, so the joke is on the people walking on it. Other things tourists do to destroy the reef is by using sunscreen containing Oxybenzone, which unfortunately is most normal sunscreen but there are many reef-friendly alternatives. I bought mine from Feel Good Inc.

It’s not only the Great Barrier reef that is threatened and similar coral bleaching have become more common all over the world. Coral reefs are really important for marine life globally. So the joke is really on me, who flew to the reef furthest away from where I live. Oh well, now I have seen it and it was beautiful. I am more motivated than ever to donate to organisations trying to protect the reef.

So why the exaggerations? As I said it is threatened, and some scientists think that an alarmist message will wake up people to try to protect it. They also think they will get more funding if they point out how bad things are. I think that they need to change the message into something more positive and make people realise that we can and should save the reef. Saying it’s dead will make people give up hope. It’s not dead and it needs your help to protect it! Try to minimise your carbon footprint, support the most sustainable tourism companies, donate money to marine conservation efforts and vote for the politicians who appreciate the enormous positive effects that the coral reef has.


Carbon neutral trip to Australia?

Greetings from Melbourne, Australia!

I have been travelling by Greyhound bus across all of the East Coast, from Port Douglas to Melbourne over the past 3 weeks. 3500 kilometers on a bus in total! It was really cool to see so much of the country. Ancient rainforest, white beaches and yesterday I even saw koalas! I travelled here alone but I am visiting friends. My friend Bridget travelled with me in Queensland and came to the great barrier reef with me, now I’m staying at her place in Melbourne. In Sydney I stayed with my other friend Maggie who showed me around there. Cool cities both of them! This trip has been truly amazing and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to experience this! If you read through all my notes about carbon calculations you will get to my lovely travel photos at the end. They include pictures of a koala if you were not motivated to begin with 😉

Now to the less fun part. I got here from Europe the worst possible way: by flying. I actually looked at taking a freighter cruise but they are damn expensive and with 30 days at sea, I simply would not have made the trip.

The emissions from my flights are absolutely crazy. I chose to pay about 150€ more for my flights to get as few stop overs as possible and the straightest possible route. Stop overs make flights even worse, but it is impossible to get to Australia from Europe without one stop over. I am feeling a bit guilty when I am doing these calculations. I have now used three different calculators to get a picture of how much this trip really was in emissions. I am going to compensate my flights, at not one but three different sites, because I really think the idea of compensating for flights emissions is quite problematic. I think prices of CO2 are too low, so therefore I think it is right for me to compensate threefold. Even if CO2 compensation has its problems I do recommend it for anyone who travels by flight! I’m more ambitious than most people when it comes to reducing my carbon footprint and I understand if you cannot afford compensating three times, do it once and it will be better than most people!

Screenshot 2018-02-06 00.33.26

Most sites I used to calculate, said that this amount of international travel emits approximately 4,6 tonnes of CO2, since I travelled about 32000 km. For comparison, ALL my other transport gets to only 2,6 tonnes of CO2 per year. That includes 8 flights within Europe, two long train journeys within Europe, 3 long bus journeys and occasional use of car. The flights within Europe account for 90% of that sum, I better start travelling Helsinki-London by train again. Driving a car to work daily would be about 1-3 tonnes of CO2. My flights here equal 9 years of my occasional driving a car but if you drive a lot in a big car, your car can emit almost 5 tonnes CO2 per year. The same as my Australia trip! The electricity, heating and stuff I buy to keep my flat in shape emits only 2,2 tonnes of CO2 in a year! I could stop using electricity at home completely, live in the forest and still not be able to compensate for this flight in my lifestyle. Being vegetarian and eating mostly vegan saves me 1 tonne of CO2 per year and my food footprint goes from 1,7 tonnes CO2 to 0,7 tonnes CO2. Being vegan could technically afford me an international holiday every 3 years or so, if I choose to go to for example Asia which is a bit closer than Australia. My consumption CO2 is quite low compared to the average western person. I save about 2 tonnes of CO2 per year with buying as little as possible, preferring secondhand, renting, borrowing and repairing. Recycling gets my CO2 footprint down by approximately 0,3 tonnes of CO2. 16 years of recycling can compensate for one holiday to Australia. Thank god I have been recycling all my life!

To sum up, this trip is not great for the environment and my carbon footprint, but I will try to compensate it both in my daily life and by buying carbon offsets. The average EU carbon footprint per year is 7,5 tonnes. On average over the past 5 years, I am slightly above that with approx 9 tonnes of CO2 per year because I travel too much but I am well below the Finnish average of 11 to 13 tonnes or the UK carbon footprint of 10 tonnes per person.  The Aussies have an insane footprint of almost 20 tonnes of carbon per year!

I am also happy to notice through, that with all my lifestyle choices I actually end up earning my flights in CO2 savings. By “earning” I mean that I emit less carbon than the average Brit or Finn despite my travels. That feels good, because I love travelling and this holiday has made me so happy!

Site 1:

This site sells emission compensation very cheaply. It calculated that I have emitted 4.66 tonnes of CO2 for travelling back and forth from London to Cairns via Singapore, and from Melbourne to London via Colombo, Sri Lanka. This compensation cost me 43€ in total. This is nothing, if I compare that my flights were around 800 euro. And if I calculate what I have spent during my holiday, I have even less reason to come with any excuses about not affording to carbon offset.

Recent research shows that offsetting through our Gold Standard safe water projects will not only reduce CO2 emissions. For every tonne of CO2 offset, you will also deliver $117 of health impacts and $1 of employment. Clean cooking projects tell a similar story with $55 of health impacts, $93 of livelihood impacts and $3 of employment delivered for every tonne of CO2 offset.

Site 2:

A Finnish company that buys EU emission rights and sells them to individual. According to them, an average, roundtrip international flight between two continents emits 1,5 ton CO2. Since my flights to Australia consist of flying over two continents, from Europe to Asia to Australia, I simply doubled this sum. According to them my trip to Australia would have emitted only approximately 3 tonnes of CO2. Since this is just an approximation, it makes sense that the estimation is somewhat lower than for the other two calculators. This cost me in total 40€. Again, quite affordable. If you can afford to travel internationally, surely you can afford to offset.

Site 3:

According to my journey emitted 4,8 tonnes of CO2. This number is slightly higher than the first calculator, because they include something called radiative forcing. “Carbon emissions from planes at high altitude have an increased effect on global warming. Tick the box if you would like to multiply aviation emissions by DEFRA’s recommended Radiative Forcing factor of 1.891.” gives me different options to offset my flights, ranging from UK tree planting for £64 (approx 75€) to a “global portfolio” for only £26 (approx. 30€). I chose to compensate by buying a “Certified Emissions Reduction” for £36, which is about 42€.

Your funding supports Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects that have generated Certified Emission Reductions (CERs). CDM was defined by the Kyoto Protocol to promote clean development in developing countries. This offsetting portfolio supports sustainable development through a range of projects such as Wind Energy, Small Hydro Power, Efficient Cookstoves and Biomass.

So, now I am about 120€ poorer but at least I feel less bad about my flights. Also, this is less than 10% of my total travel budget so really not that much. What do you guys think, can I claim my Australia holiday is carbon neutral now? Time for pictures!






  1. I used the three sites mentioned above and also a carbon calculator by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The average emissions for consumption, driving a car and recycling are from SYKE.
  2. Statistics about European carbon footprints:
  3. Statistics about European carbon footprints:
  4. About Finnish carbon footprints:
  5. Australian carbon footprint: Carbon emissions per country:



Examples of when we succeed at saving the environment

Some people are just tired of hearing about environmental disasters. It’s just easier to live in one’s own bubble of happiness and not worry too much about the wider world, right? Media has a tendency to write more negative news than positive one’s. “No news is good news”. Well, luckily there are many stories of success when it comes to environmental protection. Maybe if we did a better job of spreading those stories, people would find it easier to stay engaged with the wider world? I just found an example of how the actions of an individual can make a great difference. I found another example that gives me hope that the world can come together and make decisions that benefit the greater good.

When I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis about how climate change is portrayed in the media, I came across many articles saying that people suffered from “climate fatigue”, that is, they were tired of hearing about the disasters of climate change. I have heard many of my friends saying similar things too. “Why bother when everything is going wrong anyways?”. I think there should be more positive news that show people that change is possible, and disasters can be avoided.

I just watched this short documentary about a man in India who single handedly planted a forest larger than New York’s central park and saved his home-island from an environmental disaster. I also read about how the Montreal protocol, forbidding chemicals that cause the ozon layer to diminish, has had an effect. The hole in the ozone layer is now smaller than it was in 2005! The chemicals, called chlorofluorocarbons used to be found in refrigerators and hairsprays but their use was restricted in an agreement made in Montreal in 1987. The ozone layer in the stratosphere helps catch harmful UV radiation. The destruction of the ozone layer lead to increased rates of skin cancer in Australia. Now the problem is being reversed and I am so happy! It is perfect news since I am going to Australia on Monday.


Eco Edit online shopping

Looking pretty or saving the planet? There can be a balance. Whereas I would prefer not to encourage anyone to consume more, I am also a realist. Most readers of this blog will buy consumer products such as clothes at some point.

68% of all Finnish Carbon footprints are directly a consequence of personal choices. My choice of consumption, and yours. Globally, this number is quite similar: around 70%. In Finland, about 25% of this goes to goods and services. Like clothes and travelling. It’s easy to complain about industry emissions but in fact, if all Finnish people stopped buying new clothes and flying, the impact on the national carbon footprint would be fantastic. The study I am talking about, estimated that it would be fully possible to reduce this type of consumption by a third!! They said the best way is to extend the lifespan of products.

So guys, buy quality, not quantity. Expanding the lifetime of products can either be done by expanding the lifetime of the product itself, or by it’s materials. I buy about 2 pieces of new clothing and probably one pair of new shoes per year. In 2017 I bought zero new shoes, I’m so proud of myself because I used to be a major shoefreak! It would of course be better to buy nothing, but sometimes even sustainability-freaks like me love treating ourselves. I just bought this swimming suit made from recycled yarn, expanding the lifetime of the oil-based material of polyester. The world is becoming a better place when even companies like Asos start using recycled materials for their clothes! I will have to wash it carefully so that it does not shred micro plastics into the ocean, but as long as I take good care of it and do not slide on rocks, it should be fine. Now we really have the option of choosing better, which means there is no good excuse to ever again buy a swimming suit that is not either the most durable thing you have ever seen, designed to last forever, or then made from recycled yarn.








A book about economics for a better world

I started studying Economics in 2014 at Hanken in Helsinki. Motivated to understand what it actually means when people say “money runs the world”, I hoped to learn about the economy in order to one day be able to affect it and use it to make the world a better place. But what is the economy really even trying to achieve? I was still a bit confused after 3 years of studying. Economics has an important role in our society, but the way it is taught to undergraduate students is too simplified and does not challenge them to think for themselves enough. I recently finished reading “Doughnut Economics”, a book that discusses other, more sustainable ways of organising our economy. I am still not sure I can ever understand all aspects of the global economy, but I really learned what economics could achieve from reading this book.

The Doughnut is an economy with two boundaries: a minimal social boundary that we hope everyone can be above, and an ecological boundary that we can not exceed without seriously harming ourselves long term. This is so self evident to me. Economics is all about making sure that people have a tolerable life, while making sure we do not overuse natural resources.

But studying economics, no one ever said this was the goal or purpose of economics. Instead, the goal was said to maximise “utility”. Micro economics assuming that people’s behaviour is driven by only a strive for “utility” left me not knowing whether I should laugh or cry, because it just seemed so absurd. Utility, things that are good only for oneself. Research show that people who have studied Economics tend to be more selfish than people who have not studied the discipline. More money and more things.  Do we really want to teach young people that good behaviour is to be motivated only by money? I certainly don’t think we should. Therefore, whenever I hear a politician justify something by talking about economic theory, I instantly become very sceptical of whether they are just quoting 200 year old ideas of Adam Smith, without really reflecting on what kind of world she or he is advocating to create. There have been many really interesting economic theorists since Adam Smith but it seems like the stuff they teach at undergraduate is stuck in history. Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes are studied but really not much more, the discipline need more debate and more opinions.

My favourite Economics teacher at university said it very well “Economics is mathematics of social science”. Mathematics is great for understanding large concepts and simplifying is not always wrong but I think it is wrong to calculate based on false assumptions, assumptions that also teach people to behave in ways that can lead to inequality and environmental destruction. There has been ideas in my studies of Economics that I have found very interesting. The discipline has provided me with quite interesting tools to think about the world in. I however disagree with many of the values that underpin current economics taught at undergraduate level of university and repeated by 60-year old top-bankers. Most of all, the notion of eternal economic growth is just absurd. My first lesson in economics taught me that “economics is how to manage finite and scarce resources”. If resources are scarce, how on earth can the economy keep growing?

So I was thrilled when I finally discovered a book that offered an alternative to the current economics that is being misused by politicians. Raworth talks about why many economic theories that are taught to undergraduate students are just plain wrong. She envisions a future where economies are “growth agnostic”, where the goal of the economy is not growth. She talks about how different currencies, such as time banks, can promote a non-growth economy. She talks about how it is damaging to have a system that rewards people for being selfish and unsustainable.Inequality pushes for growth, because the poorest aspire to become more like the richest. If we share more, we don’t need growth to take care of the weakest in society. Finance does not have to be built to make the richest even richer.

She does not offer the perfect solution of how to get to this sustainable, equal dream-economy. But I think she does a lot more than most economic policy makers who are currently given a voice in media.


Christmas trees – plastic or real?

IMG_7794 jul2

Last week I bought a little Christmas tree and of course did some research before. What Christmas tree is the most eco-friendly? I went for a little potted, living tree and it is definitely the best option according to my research. If you live in Finland or somewhere else in Scandinavia – the real tree wins for sure, even if it is chopped down. A study from Canada showed that you need to use the same plastic Christmas tree for at least 20 years before it’s environmental impact becomes smaller than an annual real tree. However, if you live somewhere where spruces don’t grow as abundantly as in Finland, a plastic tree might be slightly better. Five years of plastic-tree use beats real Christmas trees in places like London, where I currently live. The potted tree is still better.

I refuse to buy a plastic tree through. PVC plastic, which these trees are made of, is essentially the worst type of plastic. It’s not widely recycled at all and it contains chemicals with negative health impacts. Plastic Christmas trees shred “needles” and these tiny plastic pieces can end up in nature where they cause much harm. For example, our tap water already contains micro-plastics which has negative long-term health implications. Most plastic trees are also shipped from China so actually they don’t come from very near either.

So if you live somewhere really far from where Christmas trees grow, you intend to use your plastic tree for at least 10 years and your first and foremost concern is climate change – then maybe consider the plastic option. I personally went for a tiny, potted Christmas tree. A potted tree can be kept alive and hopefully I can use the same tree again next year! We will put it in the garden and keep watering it over the summer. If we are lucky, it might stay alive for one or two seasons more but to be honest: after that it will grow too big to like living in a little pot anymore. Getting a new Christmas tree only every second year means a 50% lower carbon footprint which is not bad.

Have a lovely Christmas and New Year all, I’ll be back writing more after the holidays!

IMG_7901 jul.jpg


Protected: Finland 100 years and my national identity

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:


Annoyed at politician


I am now on the train back from Amsterdam to London. I have spent the past for days on the European ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) Party Congress in Amsterdam. I agree to a certain extent with liberal ideas about free choice and wholeheartedly embrace liberal values such as LGBT rights. However, I was quite annoyed at some of the politicians. During a panel discussion about the EU Common Agriculture Policy and the future of sustainable agriculture, I asked the politicians what they thought would be good solutions to decrease meat consumption. One of the politicians, MEP Jan Huitema from VVD replied that as a liberal, he is opposed to anyone else interfering with his free choice of what to eat. He also said that even though meat consumption does have a high environmental footprint, so does flying to Japan and the government should not restrict that either.

I think his reply showed that he completely missed the point. People can only have a free choice if they are offered an alternative. At the ALDE Congress, there was one evening NO meatless food available. The only meatless option was tiny pieces of cheese, and then I got offered a chicken sandwich from which they had removed the chicken. If the choice people are offered is between plain bread and a chicken sandwich, I do not blame people for choosing to eat the meat. To be honest, I do not care so much that I did not have food to eat, I just went to the supermarket and problem solved. However, I do really care about this on a larger scale. How can we encourage people to make the free choice of eating less meat, if you literally do not offer them any vegetarian food? How can we expect people to choose vegetarian food, if we do not make sure that our chefs are trained to be able to prepare delicious vegetarian food?

As for his comment about flights to Japan. I do not believe the government should fully forbid that either, but I do believe the government can play an important role in decreasing flight emissions too. If people are presented with a good choice, they will sometimes also choose not to fly. At the moment, I am sitting on the Eurostar train. I went to the conference with a team of four and can proudly say that we all took the train there and back, instead of flying. I was very active in buying the train tickets for my whole team. Luckily I have a manager who was very supportive of us taking the train, once I had showed her that it would not take more time and it would not cost more money. This shows that by being proactive, you can also impact your workplace to become more sustainable! Don’t just blame bad practices on your workplace, your manmagers or your colleagues. You can take initiatives to decrease paper use, take trains instead of flights for business trips and recycle at work.

Most people will choose to good if you give them a good choice, the right price and the motivation. But that better choice needs to be provided, one way or another. Offering people better alternatives is what gives them a real choice, it is not in any way restricting. That is what MEP Jan Huitema clearly fails to understand.