We interviewed Elina Aaltonen from Helsinki about everyday choices that support circular economy and what motivates her to live sustainably. Elina shares on her Instagram account @ekoelina recycling tips, easy vegan recipes and ideas on sustainable travel and responsible consumption, among other things.
How did you start changing your habits more sustainable? About three years ago, encouraged by a friend, I experimented with a vegan challenge where I followed a vegan diet for a month. At the same time, I became more interested in environmental and animal rights issues; I watched environmental documents and got acquainted with the Zero Waste principles. Overall, the change in my values happened pretty quickly. It feels like I’ve experienced an ‘awakening’ to the environmental crisis and started to question my consumption habits.
What kind of challenges have you faced when changing your everyday actio Initially, obtaining information on recycling, for example, was a challenge. I feel like I had to do a huge amount of research on how to minimise the amount of mixed waste and how different individual garbage needs to be recycled. Recycling continues to be a headache sometimes, as packaging for example, may consist of different materials, making it more difficult to recycle. I may have a slight tendency to strive for perfection and take ecological solutions to such extremes that I had to give in on certain things and start to make the ecological lifestyle more suitable for me. The surrounding consumer culture also contributes to making ecological choices difficult, as we are constantly being promoted new goods, fast fashion and encouraged to buy everything. In my opinion, a big change to a more sustainable direction is needed there.
What motivates you to make ecological choices? Concern for the environment and the future, as well as appreciation for nature and animals, motivates to take action. The current direction of development and the consumer society are concerning, and I want to do my utmost to ensure that something good also happens. By doing my part, I get a little peace of mind. At times, I feel like I should be able to do even more, but I’ve tried to do my best. With my own enthusiasm, I have tried to motivate and inspire others to make more ecological choices as well. I have also sought to discuss these topics with co-workers and friends, as well as share information and tips on my Instagram account.
The current direction of development and the consumer society are concerning, and I want to do my utmost to ensure that something good also happens.
What kind of eco- and circular practices you engage in? I recycle accurately and try to minimise the amount of waste. I also try to reuse the goods and think before throwing them in the trash if they could still be useful. For example, I save glass jars for different purposes and I save packaging materials for reuse. I carry my own bottle of water and reusable bags and, for example, I have asked the restaurant to pack food into my own containers. I have also used repair services for my clothes and borrowed various items from the library. I try to buy the things I need primarily used. For example, I searched for one particular cabinet on tori.fi for six months until I found it used. I use public transport and bicycle. When choosing an apartment, we paid attention to environmental friendliness and the fact that the apartment is not too large. Of course, vegan diet is also one of the most important eco-deeds.
What skills have you needed to engage in circular practices? I have learned to repair clothes and repurpose old textiles, I have made for example washing bags. Sewing on a sewing machine has required some learning, as the last time I used one was in middle school. I have been knitting and crocheting for a long time and I have crocheted for example reusable cotton pads. I also think recycling is its own skill that should almost be taught somewhere, as learning it has taken time and effort. It's probably also a skill to be able to question one's habits and attitudes and learn new ways.