BIODIVERSITY SUPPORTS NATURELush forests of pine and spruce, broad lakes, deep glacial depressions and breathtaking ridges – Lahti’s natural heritage needs understanding and protection.
Grandmothers and grandfathers in Lahti are teaching children about the environment and how to create a life-long bond with the nature.
Helena Juutilainen is an environmental grandmother. She has always appreciated nature and worked on many environmental projects locally in Lahti. For example, in the 1990s she organised an organic fair that grew to be the biggest annual organic event in Finland at the time.
“Back then I was active in a local football club. Me and some other parents got together to think about what we could do for our environment. We created a programme for young footballers that would encourage kids to make choices that were good for the environment. For example, we taught the kids to not waste water when filling their bottles during matches and training”, Juutilainen says.
Now she visits children in kindergartens as an “environmental grandmother” with other seniors. Lahti’s environmental grandparents are voluntary workers that teach children about today’s environmental issues and the importance of protecting nature.
“As I retired, I tried to think of a way to continue using the skills I gained while I was still working. Through spending time with my grandchildren, I noticed how open and quick to learn they were. This gave me the idea of being an environmental granny”, Juutilainen says.
Bringing generations together
Environmental grandparents organise memorable and educational activities for children. Nurturing interest in nature helps children to understand how nature works, and how human action affects animals and plants. The seniors have gained valuable knowledge over the decades and passing this information on to the youth is important.
“I hope that my visits bring the kids joy. I want the kids to get inspired to better care of our nature. With the youngest ones we do day trips to local forests, and with the older kids we explore things that require a bit more skill and know-how”, Juutilainen says.
Thanks to the grannies and grandpas, children become familiar with different bugs and insects, mushrooms, plants and fish. They learn how to build birdhouses and brushwood huts, how to do pottery, and how to recycle. This has connected children and older generations across Lahti now for more than eight years.
“It means the world to me that the city has always been enthusiastic about listening to people’s suggestions. I’ve really enjoyed creating and participating in different environmental projects in Lahti”, says Juutilainen.