Football star sets an example by eating vegetarian food and living sustainably - Lahti
1,5 degree lifestyle

Football star sets an example by eating vegetarian food and living sustainably

Vegetarian food helps Teemu Penninkangas win on the football field, and the 1.5-degree lifestyle is always with him in everyday life. As a football player, he can also influence others to make sustainable choices.

Towering at 194 centimetres, the football player Teemu Penninkangas is a notable and frequent sight in the outdoor areas of Lahti. He draws strength and refreshment from the region’s nature together with his girlfriend Laura Karppinen and the couple’s Shiba Inu dog, Sulo.

The Penninkangas family has earned a reputation as far as in Ireland for their love of the environment as well as for their excursions by bike and on foot. Penninkangas is known to wider sports audiences from the ranks of FC Lahti, which he has been part of as a defender since the beginning of 2019.

“We have had to travel around because of football, but Lahti has become a place where we feel at home. On walks with Sulo, the area has become more familiar than it is to many locals even. The best parts of the city are the nearby beautiful nature with its peaceful forest trails and the good cycling opportunities”, Penninkangas says.

Almost every Lahti resident lives within 300 metres of a recreation area. The nature around Lahti features everything from lake scenery to the hilly terrain of the Salpausselkä ridge, marshes, and forests in their natural state. The diversity of urban nature can be enjoyed close to the city centre and it is easy to visit cross-country trails to experience the peace of the forest.

Finnish champion makes sustainable choices

Penninkangas has achieved a lot in his career: a Finnish championship with the football club SJK, a double victory in the Finnish Cup, and winning the Finnish League Cup. He has also played for the Irish club Sligo Rovers.

“I am grateful and proud of my achievements. I have had the opportunity to represent many great clubs”, he emphasises.

Penninkangas is not only ambitious in sports, but also in his personal life. The family strives to tend to the environment and climate by making sustainable choices.

“In our everyday lives, we only buy what we need and do not partake in unnecessary consumption. We favour good, sustainable and domestic brands. For example, Sulo’s new running harness has been manufactured by a Finnish company from marine plastic waste.”

“We own a car but do not use it much, especially in the summer; instead, we mostly walk or cycle everywhere. With the other players, we usually carpool to practice.”

Vegetarian food is good for both the climate and the athlete

One-fifth of the climate load of Finns is caused by food. The most effective way to reduce the climate impact of one’s meals is to avoid meat and cheese, as well as food waste. Climate-friendly food also promotes the health of the person eating it.

The sustainable lifestyle of the Penninkangas family also culminates in food. The couple strives for every other day to be meat-free, and in their home kitchen, they almost always replace meat with vegetable protein or fish. They stress that vegetarian food is an easy choice, as there are many good plant protein products available today.

For Penninkangas, reducing meat is a healthy choice for an athlete: “People eat far too much meat. Reducing meat does not impair performance; on the contrary, you feel lighter after a vegetarian meal.”

Football can make an impact

Penninkangas emphasises that sports can make a major positive impact on the environment and climate.

“If football can help athletes, enthusiasts and consumers reduce other activities that degrade and burden the environment, that is a good thing.”

“The biggest impact may come from individual players. Players can be role models for young people by setting an example of small everyday sustainable choices that then become routine. Small things make a big impact.”

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