Climate University goes Aalto: Innovations and Creativity in Climate Education 2-3 March 2020

Welcome to Climate University seminar day 1.

Innovations and Creativity in Climate Education seminar was held in Otaniemi, Espoo, Finland 2.-3.3.2020 as a part of the Climate University project. Climate University is a collaborative project of eleven Finnish universities developing open access online courses to foster climate change and sustainability education in universities. The seminar attracted huge interest with 100+ participants gathering to Aalto University´s main building Dipoli.

“Social intrapreneurs” at Aalto University.

During day one, the theme of innovations and creativity was discussed through sustainability & climate-related showcases from Aalto University. For instance, Aalto School of ARTS has already incorporated sustainability issues thoroughly. SDG labels are being introduced to Aalto´s upcoming 2020-22 courses and appr. 10% of ~3000 courses include climate-related content, SDG#13. 

The concept of social intrapreneurship – acting entrepreneurially inside a large organization to achieve social or environmental aims – was easily recognized by many participants.

Participants analyzing their own carbon footprint.

Monday morning at Aalto University included several hands-on workshops. Participants got a safe space to discuss their anxieties related to climate change, or they learned how awareness-based approach can help in empowering us to transform the higher education, or they analyzed the significance of personal climate actions using D-mat’s 1.5 degree puzzle.

Filming climate challenges.

Monday breaks were utilised for Climate Challenges filming as a continuum to the campaign started at Metropolia workshop last fall. We filmed all together 13 challenges for various actors including Aalto Student Union AYY, Aalto University and Aalto Campus and Real Estate. Follow the climate challenge campaign on Twitter or YouTube.

Playing sustainability board games.

During day two participant had the chance to explore climate actions in Otaniemi high school, play sustainability board games and participate in piloting and developing Climate University course materials. Development concentrated on the following courses:

  • – a Bachelor-level course for sustainable development and climate challenges and solutions
  • – a Master level project course for solving climate and sustainability challenges of companies and organisations
  • – a Master-level course on using systems thinking and multidisciplinary approaches to contribute in societal change
  • for high schools
A surprise performance by Dominante quartet during dinner.

The next steps for the Climate University project community include finalising course materials, piloting courses, and most importantly promoting active integration of courses to current curricula, including lifelong learning for all stakeholders and executive education as well. Hopefully this will proceed as smoothly as the Dominante quartet at Fat Lizard restaurant.

Enjoying vegan breakfast.

The conference organising team was proud about serving fully vegan food at the conference. Besides, food waste was successfully avoided during the conference by informing Aalto students of leftovers through a student held telegram group. 

Participants summary of what they will start doing, stop doing, continue doing and change after the seminar.

To conclude, hopefully the current corona epidemic will improve our behavior and actions drastically to fight the climate crisis as efficiently. Sincere thanks for all participants and colleagues involved in this joint effort!

Speeches from Dipoli auditorium and all seminar materials are available at

Check out the available Climate University online courses:,, Leadership for Sustainable Change.

Read more about the seminar in a more extensive blog post.

Text: Emma Sairanen, Sanna-Liisa Sihto-Nissilä & Meri Löyttyniemi, Aalto University

Photos: Cvijeta Miljak

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ISCN inviting student proposals to 2020 conference

Are you a student or do you know students, who would you be interested in forming part of ISCN 2020’s student-led sessions?

The International Sustainable Campus Network will be hosting its 14th international conference, ISCN 2020: Accelerating Climate Action and Sustainability in Education, in Switzerland on 24-26 June 2020. Since sustainability in education is one of the key topics of the conference, it is truly important to have a strong student representation. Therefore, university students are invite to develop their own sessions for the ISCN Conference. Especially students who have proven records of engagement in sustainability associations are encouraged to apply.

It would be fantastic to have students from NSCN universities to submit their idea for a student-led session!

More information on how students can get involved can be found on the picture below and on the following website:

Post by:

Dario Siegen, Student Coordinator for ISCN Conference 2020

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Turn up the freezer and turn down the energy

Energy savings of 20-22%, longer service life and fewer expenses on new freezers in the laboratory budget – without negative impacts on research. Just by increasing the freezer temperature by 10 degrees. At the University of Copenhagen some institutes have started to raise the temperature of their Ultra-Low-Temperature Freezers.

Particularly sensitive biochemical samples are stored in Ultra-low temperature freezers (ULT freezers) at minus 80 degrees Celsius, and that’s it! Or so it was at the University of Copenhagen, but this is now changing to save energy and extend the service life of freezers. The Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences is now setting the freezer temperature at minus 70 degrees rather than minus 80 degrees – for the benefit of the environment as well as the bottom line.

Postdoc Nikolaj Lervad Hansen, Assistant professor Allison Heskes and Precision Engineer Flemming Frederiksen

The Section for Plant Biochemistry has taken the consequences and raised the freezer temperature. 

“It all started when we read in a laboratory magazine that many laboratories are raising their freezer temperatures at present,” says Niels Agerbirk, plant biochemist. 

But it was not an easy path to go from a decision in principle to practice, and that is where laboratory coordinator Tilla Engelsted and precision mechanic Flemming Frederiksen played a key role:

“We could find no evidence supporting either minus 70 or minus 80 over the other,” says Tilla Engelsted. 

Minus 80 degrees is an informal scientific standard for the temperature for storing biochemical samples. The standard has arisen because it is possible to produce freezers with gradually lower temperatures. This is how the temperature landed at minus 80 degrees – or in some cases minus 86 degrees. 

“Since there is no scientific reason to choose minus 80 over minus 70 degrees, we might as well choose the energy and climate-friendly option,” says Tilla Engelsted.

Assistant professor Allison Heskes working with one of UCPH’s many ULT freezers

Through tests, the Green Campus departement has documented energy savings of 20-22% by setting freezers at minus 70 rather than minus 80 degrees. But that’s not the only upside. At minus 70 degrees, less energy is needed to cool the freezer rooms, with substantially less pressure on the compressors. As a result, the expensive freezers will last longer.

“The motivation for the change was driven by climate considerations – and long-term financial considerations, because the freezers last longer,” says Tilla Engelsted. 

The faculty footing the energy bill also obtains substantial savings – in terms of carbon emissions and energy costs. When new freezers are purchased, emphasis is now placed on ensuring that they perform well at minus 70 degrees.

Blog post by:

Tomas Refslund Poulsen

Head of Energy & Sustainability, University of Copenhagen

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AaltoSDG mobile application available

AaltoSDG mobile application is available for download in App Store and Google Play store.

Monthly themes, weekly actions, sustainable future! AaltoSDG mobile application is now available for download.

AaltoSDG is here to inspire everyone interested to switch towards a more sustainable way of living and working. The application was developed and is being further refined by Aalto University and Geniem. You can download the app already today and start participating in challenges. Have fun!

Download AaltoSDG from:
App Store
Google Play

More information at

Feedback and comments: aaltosdg(a)

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The University of Oslo’s climate march towards 2030

Blog by: Øystein Liverød, Environmental director, University of Oslo

As we all know, our greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut in half within 2030. This, obviously, gives us a period of ten years to, first, decide that we actually are aiming for this goal and implement it into the overall strategy of our university. Second, we need to know what our climate footprint is in order to know how much we need to reduce. Lastly, we need to organize a group with enough resources and a mandate to work on reducing our climate footprint. You could call it a sustainability team, and their job is to handle the myriad of questions and problems that are related to reducing our climate footprint. This setup seems like the most natural thing in the world for an engineer but there are a lot of barriers to overcome within the university sphere in order to make this work. In the following paragraphs I will discuss what we are planning at the University of Oslo (UiO), what we have done so far and what remains to be done.

University of Oslo main building. Photo by OiU/Jarli&Jordan

My colleague Christian, wrote a very good piece about the carbon footprint and the Paris agreement last year ( Our work has been heavily influenced by NTNU’s work and I encourage interested readers to dive into this piece on order to know the fundamentals of this topic.

At the end of 2018 our rector agreed to calculate UiO’s carbon footprint and in the beginning of 2019 a group, consisting of representatives from different administrative departments, began calculating in close collaboration with a consultancy firm. The group worked closely with the consultancy firm over a course of two months and the key takeaway was that the strength of the group was that it consisted of people who quickly could collect the data needed for the calculations (flight traffic, energy consumption, financial records, fuels etc.). Locating the right data when you’re not familiar with where to look in a large organization can be a pain in the ass. UiO’s carbon footprint can be found at (only in Norwegian at the moment). The carbon footprint was then presented at an internal meeting where the rector and the top management participated, among students and employees. We also included the group who had lead a petition with the goal of reducing air travels and they delivered their signatories to the rector. Also, one of Norway’s top climate researchers (Bjørn Samset at CICERO) held a presentation and the rector, a student representative and other employees participated in a panel discussion about what to do with our knowledge about our carbon footprint. This gave the presentation of our very first(!) carbon footprint a nice frame and sparked an overall discussion at the university about what we should do with our knew knowledge.

After the summer vacation we continued the work and are now working on creating a sustainability team who can work on all subjects related to reducing our carbon footprint. Hopefully we’ll also decide on an ambitious climate goal before Christmas. Both actions are slow and difficult processes that needs to be discussed by the administration, the faculties, the University board and the top management before reaching a conclusion. We have an exciting journey in front of us and hopefully many universities are in the process of doing the same. We are happy to share our experiences and to learn from others. If this sounds intriguing, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Decision tree – a helpful tool when deciding whether to fly or not.

Blog by Sigurlaug I. Lövdahl, University of Iceland

The decision tree – Should I fly?

The decision tree is a tool intended to help people determine, whether they should fly to a meeting, event, or whatever it is they are planning to take part in.    

The first question posed is, whether it would be possible to take part in the event online. If so, this is a positive result for the environment.

If the answer is no, the issue becomes more complicated and we ask ourselves whether it is important for us to take part in the event. If the answer is no then we simply abandon the plan.

If the answer is yes, the next step is to ask, whether we could take a train or a bus for at least a part of the journey (remembering that from Iceland, we always need to fly the first leg). At this stage we could also consider whether it would be possible to use the trip for another purpose as well.

If the answer is yes, perhaps we can take one flight instead of two and therefore reduce our carbon emissions. We might also think about whether we should offset our carbon emissions.

If the answer is no, then we should still think about the possibility of offsetting carbon emissions.

After using the tree, we should have received the encouragement we need, to think carefully before taking our next flight.

If this is really going to function, then some fundamental questions need to be answered like: who should pay for carbon offsetting, the employee or the uni? And what needs to be changed in the promotion system of the uni that makes it more attractive to stay at home instead of flying?

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Nordic-Baltic multidisciplinary course on sustainable urban development

Nordplus Horizontal has provided funding for arranging a multidisciplinary course on sustainable urban development each autumn during 2019-2021. The course is based on the successful Nordic City Challenge design and is coordinated by Hanasaari – the Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre in collaboration with partners, including Aalto University, Urban Academy Network, University of Tallinn, University of Latvia, and Stockholm University (Stockholm Resilience Centre). Nordic Sustainable Campus Network is a supporter of the course. See below for the course description.

This year the Sustainable Cities in the Nordic-Baltic Region -course is arranged in Tallinn on Oct 31st – Nov 3rd 2019. The themes of the year are mobility, well-being and seasonality. The following courses will take place in Riga, Latvia 2020 and Stockholm, Sweden 2021.

The call for Master’s level students from all the Nordic and Baltic universities is open until September 8th 2019. The applicants may represent different urban development –related fields, such as geography, environmental sciences, social sciences, environmental engineering or urban planning. The course covers students’ travel costs and accommodation. See here for the application form.

Pictures: Salla Jokela, Meeri Karvinen, Älvstaden AB.

About the course

Sustainable Cities in the Nordic-Baltic Region (SuCiNoBaRe) is a new innovative multidisciplinary 5 ECTS course that brings together master and doctoral students together with postdocs, academic professionals and local experts and stakeholders from the Nordic and Baltic cities. The purpose of the course is to engage students in real life urban challenges and problem solving processes. During 4 days circa 25 Nordic-Baltic master students, divided into multidisciplinary teams, face a real-life case for which they create sustainable solutions, and take part in inspiring lectures. Doctoral students from Nordic and Baltic universities supervise the student teams. The course highlights a social-ecological approach to urban planning, based on the understanding that people, communities, economies, societies, cultures are embedded parts of the biosphere.

Course contact:

Jonna Similä, Project leader, Sustainable Cities in the Nordic-Baltic Region

Hanasaari – the Swedish-Finnish Cultural Center, jonna.simila(at),

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