With 180,000 lakes and 76% forest, and a small population of 5.5 million, Finland was voted the happiest country in 2021. But it is also home to the European Green Capital in 2021, Lahti.
Standing out for its sustainability, Lahti is the smallest and most northern city to be crowned European Green Capital. Its transition from a traditional, industrial town into a modern green city has become a European success story.
Lahti is a humble city with identical apartment buildings, wide streets and no shortage of cyclists. It’s a city with sustainability at its core – green solutions are plentiful but they exist behind the scenes, embedded into the town planning. From energy-efficient homes and schools and a reliance on 100% renewable sources, to a unique groundwater system resulting in the world’s best drinking water, certified by UNESCO, Lachti seems to have it all.
The city has already slashed its overall emissions by 70%, while 51% of urban travel is done through public transport, cycling and walking. The city completely eliminated the use of coal in 2019, and is currently heated with recycled fuel and local, certified wood from the bioenergy plant.
Recycling is extremely efficient, as 99% of Lahti’s household waste is currently utilised, 46% is used to create recycled materials and 53%t is used to produce energy. The Kujala waste centre is a great example of an innovative environment built together with local people, businesses and public sector waste management companies. Where there used to be a landfill site, is now an open green space left to thrive and grow without any garbage on it. Ultimately, Lahti’s aim is to have a zero waste circular economy by 2050.
One of the most original things about Lahti is its personal carbon trading model. Residents sign up for a mobile app which gives them a CO2 limit, or carbon budget, to stick to each week. If they stay within the limit, they are rewarded, which makes it a big incentive to get the bus to work instead of driving.
Carbon neutrality even seeps into arts, culture and the sporting world in Lahti, as the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and the local ice hockey team, Lahti Pelicans set themselves to become carbon neutral.