We interviewed Simo Koskinen from Oulu, Finland, who is involved in many activities to create a more sustainable society. Among other things, he has founded the Finnish section of the Trash Hero organization and is one of the founders of Zero Waste Finland. Simo works as a circular economy consultant and is involved in various events and projects related to sustainability. He also does a lot of anti-litter work and collects garbage himself.
What has made you get interested in environmental issues?
It’s pretty hard to name one key moment. Over the years, concerns about people's consumption behaviour and its impact on the environment have grown. As a young man, I worked as a bar assistant and it was my responsibility to take out the trash at the end of the evening. I remember feeling anxious when I heard the glass bottles clinking as I threw the garbage bag into the press. Then, after my shift, I was separating the recyclable fractions from the mixed waste. The idea, that this system is not working as it should, has been simmering in my mind for a very long time. Climate anxiety has driven a change in behaviour, at least for me. In 2017, I heard about World cleanup day and got excited about it. Over the next year, I did quite a bit of work to make the day as visible as possible. I try to be involved in a lot of ecological activities and collect thrash from the streets to get people to start thinking about littering. I was also involved in founding Zero Waste Finland organisation in 2018.
What kinds of eco-deeds you do?
For example, I haven’t bought a plastic bag from a store in 10 years, I take my own bag with me or carry groceries on my lap. The vegetables that need to be weighed can even be put in a cardboard box and labels on the side. No cashier has ever said that this should not be done, rather they have praised me for a good system. I realize that the share of that plastic bag is very small, but I have made the decision not to buy them anymore and I have stuck to it. That is, the avoidance of a plastic bags and the avoidance of plastic as much as possible. The biggest change I’ve made is giving up meat. I make purchases from flea markets, and I like to buy clothes from flea markets, for example, because they are much more personal there. Before flea markets, I never really liked bying clothes. Anyway, I don’t buy a lot of things. In recent years, I have also learned to mend clothes. My mother has helped and advised me a lot. I also fix my own bike and the bikes of my acquaintances, kind of as a hobby. My bike broke once and I didn’t want to take it to a repair shop but I wanted to find out for myself how it works and how to fix it. By doing you will learn as long as you acquire a few tools. However, I think the primary way for me to influence is to talk about environmental issues and raise awareness. Nowadays, I am a circular economy consultant by profession, so also through my profession I strive to inspire companies and people to make more sustainable choices. My company Trashsure oy (which was named after the idea of Trash is Treasure) is an expert on circular economy, that offers education and consulting as well as takes part in the projects of the industry. Our motto is "Don't waste your waste!" and our message is that waste flows should be utilised so that they end up in reuse instead of landfill.
Things need to change, and in that wave of change I want to be actively involved.
Is it easy to live ecologically in Oulu?
Yes, we have a several flea markets and second hand shops here, and there are active people that go there. However, there are no shops here where you could for example buy food without packaging, in your own jar. Of course, you can order certain products and ingredients for DIY projects online. I have made my own deodorant and laundry detergent, for example, so that no plastic waste is generated. It would be nice at some point to have a workshop where people could be taught how to make them.
What is the role of sociability for you?
I have always been a person who thrives in a group and I like to have people around me. That’s why I like to organize different happenings. I have been to Tallinn several years for World Cleanup Day, at the Clean World conference, so there is a great warm-hearted community there. I like to use the word tribe because it’s such a close-knit, meeting place for like-minded people. I kind of don’t have to justify myself to anyone, everyone is automatically on the same line. And everyone is doing the same thing, so it’s a cool feeling. It would be nice to have more gatherings with the Zero Waste Finland members here in Oulu. Even a few times a year somewhere for coffee or a picnic. The pandemic has, of course, brought the activities into a halt.
How the transition to a more circular economy could be accelerated?
We already have the know-how and technology to live in a much more sustainable and sensible world. It feels silly somehow that things won’t change because people are so conservative and stick to their old ways. Things need to change, and in that wave of change I want to be actively involved. As they say, the Stone Age did not end because the stones had run out, but we have to take the attitude that we will change and find new ways.