The most sustainable student life in the world? 

According to AYY’s strategy, the Student Union will strive for carbon neutrality by 2030, but is the pursuit of carbon neutrality enough? We cannot measure the sustainability of our activities with just one metric.
Sampo Sainio

AYY is a special kind of organization among student unions, since we build and own apartments on a large scale. In addition, Teekkari Village with its open courtyards forms a significant part of the urban green spaces of the campus. Residential properties include both old and new production, which poses its own challenges to the development of the property stock. Especially with old properties, we have to balance constantly with modern methods and building historical values, which is frustrating at times. 

In 2019, AYY assessed its own carbon footprint for the first time, and the study revealed that 97.8 percent of the Student Union’s emissions come from the purchased energy of properties. After this observation, the property section switched to renewable electricity and heating in all the properties. As a result of this transition, the calculated carbon footprint of our property stock collapsed, which is excellent. However, the journey towards a genuinely carbon-neutral student union is still a long way off. 

The development of the property stock is part of AYY’s continuous operations. In the spring of 2022, AYY implemented building automation improvement projects on Atlantinkatu and Rummunlyöjänkatu. As a result, the heat consumption of the sites decreased by approximately 15 percent compared to the previous year. AYY introduced water-saving fittings in all residential properties already ten years ago and is currently developing the campus environment through an ongoing meadow project in four different properties. Diverse projects are important and, at best, improve the comfort of living environments. Thus, it is good to remember that we cannot measure sustainable lifestyle only in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, but we must consider biodiversity and the sustainable use of resources when developing operations.  

This spring, the Student Union launched a study in collaboration with Green Building Partners (GBP). The purpose is to create a broader picture of the areas of development in our property stock from a viewpoint of long-term sustainable development. Discussions with GBP have brought up various opportunities to increase local energy production in our properties. In practice, this would mean solar panels and various heat pump systems. 

The Student Union must continue to promote ambitiously the will of its members and become increasingly active in creating more sustainable practices. However, AYY’s resources are restricted, so it also comes down to money. In the end, the value choices of our community direct the use of scarce resources. With these choices, the membership – eventually the Representative Council – must decide what the Student Union should prioritize in its real estate operations and demand information to support its decisions. We must monitor the achievement of the goals more closely and review them if necessary. The Student Union must redeem its social responsibility through actions and use compensation only as a last resort. We cannot build the best student life in the world at the expense of future student generations. 

Sampo Sainio 

Board Member: Real Estates, Housing, Campus, Sustainability

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