Challenge-makers for Sustainable Development

“It is great to be able to motivate the entire Aalto community to make more sustainable choices”, say Aino Saarelainen and Emma Sairanen, who work with the AaltoSDG application. What else is included in the AaltoSDG work?
A remote meeting screenshot image with Aalto SDG developers Emma Sairanen and Aino Saarelainen
Emma Sairanen and Aino Saarelainen, who work with the AaltoSDG application.


You may have noticed bright yellow ads and a colourful pop up wall across Otaniemi. The ads are marketing the AaltoSDG mobile app, which AYY, Aalto Sustainability Hub, Aalto IT and ACRE have been working on together since the autumn of 2019. But what actually is AaltoSDG? Who are the people behind the app content? These questions are answered by Aalto Sustainability Hub interns Aino Saarelainen from the Creative Sustainability Master’s programme at the School of Business and Emma Sairanen from the Biotechnology Master’s programme at the School of Chemical Engineering.

Work with the mobile app

Emma started as an intern at the Aalto Sustainability Hub in August 2019. Among other work, Emma has worked on the app content and participated in development work. “It’s been great to take responsibility for making content! I have learned so many new things when skimming through sources for content and, of course, I have been able to take advantage of my own first-hand experiences in lifestyle changes,” says Emma.

Aino started as an AaltoSDG intern after the release of the app in February 2020. “I had been looking for a job related to communications and marketing, where I could concretely work on sustainable development. This internship felt so right for me when I found it on the mailing list of creative sustainability students,” says Aino.

Content production, the marketing of AaltoSDG, and the creation of challenges is easy for Aino in her daily life. “I have the radar on all the time, so to speak,” Aino says. “I constantly take notes on interesting topics that come up in lectures, in conversations with my friends and when browsing the web. I consider how to use these ideas and topics as challenges in the AaltoSDG app.”

“Monthly themes, weekly actions, sustainable future!”

The purpose of the AaltoSDG app is to make the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) known, to inform the Aalto community about the SDG work and to motivate everyone in sustainable development actions. AaltoSDG is built around monthly themes and weekly actions, the challenges.

“The purpose is to include all 17 SDGs in 12 months, so the monthly themes are always built around one or two SDGs,” Emma explains. As a climate activist, Emma was particularly excited about the  “Climate action now!” theme in February, which began inspiringly with a quote from Greta Thunberg.

“I am particularly interested in consumer behaviour and therefore the planned over-consumption theme before Christmas is fascinating,” says Aino. “It is exciting to see how people will react to the over-consumption discussion in the abundance of Christmas time.”  

Versatile challenges for the entire Aalto community

“I am motivated by versatile challenges in the app – especially because I have managed to include plenty of challenges that I find interesting,” laughs Emma.

Aino, on the other hand, is interested in changes in human behaviour. ”I think it’s great to be able to motivate the entire Aalto community to make more sustainable choices. It is rewarding to see people who have not been very interested in sustainable development to use the app,” says Aino enthusiastically. In addition to the involvement of the community, figures also give motivation. “I am quite a competitive person, so the concrete targets for the number of users and the received challenges motivate me to develop the marketing and content of the app.”

The AaltoSDG app is currently being developed. The update released during the spring will add content and improve the social aspects of the app.

Remote work during the coronavirus and AaltoSDG’s tips for isolated daily life

When the coronavirus pandemic closed the Aalto University campuses, Emma and Aino started to work remotely. Life at the home office has gone smoothly. Emma has used short exercise breaks to help her to cope, which are also recommended by AaltoSDG. “Because of the prevailing situation, it has been challenging to take care of my own well-being at times,” says Emma. “I usually strongly focus on sustainable development in my daily life but now I have sometimes forgotten about it. That’s why it is so important for AaltoSDG to remind us on a weekly basis how to make good choices for the environment and well-being, even in quarantine.”

“I definitely agree with Emma,” Aino continues. “When we spend more time at home, I think many people will notice small areas for improvement. Now we have plenty of time to develop our daily lives in small steps into a more sustainable direction by improving waste management at home, for example. I have also noticed on social media that people suddenly are enthusiastic about cleaning and interior decoration. When you run out of mess to clean and the furniture to rearrange, you can use your extra energy to reflect on your own carbon footprint.”

Throughout the state of emergency, the AaltoSDG challenges focus on sustainable development challenges that can be done at home. Read more about and download the AaltoSDG app below!

AaltoSDG logo text on yellow background

Building a more sustainable Aalto with the AaltoSDG mobile application

The application supports Aalto University's work on sustainable development goals from the point of view of education, research, art and everyday life at Aalto University.

Building a more sustainable Aalto with the AaltoSDG mobile application
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