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Hilja: “Self grown potatoes taste better than store bought"

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

We interviewed 77 year old Hilja, who lives in Jyväskylä, Finland and follows the principles of circular economy in her everyday life as much as possible. She favours locally sourced products, reuses all kinds of materials and preserves foods.

How is the circular economy reflected in your daily life?

I sort all waste fractions and take metal, glass and plastic waste to the recycling point when I go grocery shopping. After the plastic collection started here in Jyväskylä, I noticed that there is clearly less mixed waste. I compost both biowaste and garden waste, and then use them in my own garden as soil. I take old electrical devices and batteries for collection points in electronics stores. Just a while ago, I gave my old phones to my grandchild to be emptied so that they too could be taken to collection and the materials could be recycled. When I buy loose vegetables in the store, I use reusable bags. I have often reused glass jars to preserve various foods. I prefer local foods; in the past I collected a lot of berries, while today I buy berries collected by neighbors. I especially like the new domestic canned fish, which is a great sustainable product. I have an old baking oven in my home, and when I heat it, I also cook the food with the same heat, so it gets utilized. I have also sold unnecessary clothes and goods at flea markets and given them through local Facebook recycling groups. Many of my clothes are also from the flea market. I would like to see the recycling of fabrics and clothing to be organized even better, I believe they currently end up as mixed waste and incinerated. In the old days, there was a rag collection, so that seals were made from fabrics of poor condition. Of course, I also made a lot of rag rugs in my time.

Personally, I actually know by feeling the sheet whether it will last neat and intact or not.

What kind of skills people need in the circular economy?

For example, it is quite difficult to judge which clothes are durable and where they are made. It takes a lot of work to research the information on a garment; where it came from and where it was made. There are still a lot of products that when you look at their seams, for example, you find that they will not last. Not everyone can judge the quality of the seams of a garment or the durability of the fabric. In fabrics, it make a difference whether it is made of long fibers or short fibers in cotton, linen and wool. Personally, I actually know by feeling the sheet whether it will last neat and intact or not. These skills of handling fabrics and knowing materials come from my childhood; we had a big family and we turned adult clothes around and then sewed new clothes for us. Then my mom would always tell me which material is worth sewing and which isn’t and there I got a lot of skills. A greener lifestyle will certainly also require new skills, such as nutritional knowledge in vegetarianism, so as to make sure you get all the nutrients and protein you need.

Have you used services related to the circular economy, such as sewing shops or rental companies?

There has been no need for sewing shops, perhaps I am more of a provider of sewing and knitting services for my family. My grandson then helps me with various IT issues. If something breaks, my son-in-law takes the goods for repair, because he knows the good repair shops. I have rented, for example, a carpet washer and a hedge trimmer, and my children have then helped me find service providers online. However, I like to do quite a lot myself; for example, basic car maintenance and spring and autumn work on a detached house. I’ve actually always liked small repairs and I can handle saws and screwdrivers. Here in Jyväskylä, there are quite good circular economy services. For example, a new store for high-quality women's clothing was opened, which also receives clothes and sells second-hand. There are also active Facebook groups here, where the goods are recycled.

Where do you get motivation to behave in a sustainable way?

I think the motivation has its roots in the childhood home, because that’s when all the materials were composted and reused. Then later, as the media began to talk more about these environmental issues, the same idea arose that this is how it was done before. Of course, there has always been an appreciation for nature and the products it offers, such as berries and mushrooms, in my life. Through that, the idea that you have to use local products has gradually become stronger, and when living in the countryside, you get used to people growing food products in the neighborhood. When we lived in the city, we had vegetable land on the countryside and we got used to harvesting from there. Then the potato bought in a plastic bag no longer tasted as good as your own. I would like today’s children to get a similar feel for where food comes from and how valuable nature is.

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