The University of Helsinki has become the first university in Finland to offset all carbon emissions from employee flights.
The university is also updating guidelines for staff to encourage them to cut down on air travel and participate in events via video conferencing instead.
“Work-related travel in Finland should be conducted by train, and we are also investigating the possibility of substituting transit flights abroad with journeys by train. Compensating for the climate effects of travel is only used as a last resort” says Tom Böhling, the university’s vice-rector in charge of sustainability and responsibility.
Helsinki University is trying to change the way staff think about air travel, and get employees to consider carbon emissions throughout the process of booking their travel and deciding which modes of transport to take.
The university will pay approximately 1% of airline ticket purchases to schemes that off-set carbon emissions.
Investing in Africa projects
In 2018 university employees flew around 52.3 million kilometres which, generated 4,503 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
These air travel emissions have been compensated by supporting the Shimba Hills Improved Cookstoves project carried out in Kenya, which aimed at purchasing efficient stoves for local families.
The new stoves are said to halve the consumption of firewood, leaving more time for other household work as well as childcare and education instead of gathering wood.
The project has received the Gold Standard certification, an internationally accredited certification also approved by the World Wide Fund for Nature Finland (WWF).
The certification guarantees that emission compensations are permanent and genuinely brought about by compensation activity and not through legislation, taxation or subsidies.
Emission compensation is part of the new sustainability and responsibility policy of the University of Helsinki, which is currently being drawn up.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), aviation contributes about 2% of the world’s global emissions.