By Anders Lorenzen
In Finland, the impacts of climate change are there for everyone they see. One sports club sees this as an opportunity to play their part to raise awareness on the issue.
Lahti Pelicans, a Finnish ice hockey club, celebrated their hometown, Lahti, been awarded the European Green Capital (ECG) for 2021 by showcasing new player numbers which highlighted environmental facts about the city. This detail was picked up by the national broadcasters which in turn told the story behind the numbers and sparked a conversation about sustainability.
With ice hockey being the most popular sport in the Scandinavian country and Lahti Pelicans playing in the top professional league, this could have a significant sustainability awareness impact.
Additionally, the club is striving to be the world’s first carbon-neutral ice hockey club hence one of the reasons they decided to partner with their hometown to showcase what they’re both doing to mark the title as ECG. In their efforts to become carbon-neutral, the club has taken advice from Lappeenranta–Lahti University of Technology (LUT) to find ways to reduce emissions. Additionally, the team has given up air travel and are encouraging their fans to come to see their games by public transport, bike or on foot. The club’s home arena also utilizes green energy and the restaurants at the arena offer locally produced food, packaged plastic-free. Casimir Jürgens, the defenseman of Lahti Pelicans said: “Lahti Pelicans wants to be a pioneer both in the rink and outside of it. We believe that action against climate change plays a decisive role in the future existence of our planet”.
While in general ice hockey players often have high numbers on their jerseys, these player jersey numbers presented something not shown in ice hockey previously, or any other professional sport for that matter, with the jersey numbers ranging from ‘8%’ to ‘650 GWh’ presenting key facts about the city’s climate and environmental credentials. For instance, Jasper Patrikainen’s #70% highlighted the 70% of emissions cut since 1990, Ryan Lasch’s, #2019 highlighted that the city has been a coal-free city since 2019 and Niclas Almari’s, #2025 highlighted that Lahti will be climate neutral by 2025.
Everyone plays for the environment
Saara Vauramo, the Programme Director of Lahti European Green Capital said about the initiative: “In our city, everyone plays for the environment, including the Lahti Pelicans. We all can make a difference: action against climate change plays a decisive role in the future existence of our planet”.
The PR agency TBWA\Helsinki is the creative partner behind the initiative. Creative Director Markus Nieminen explained about their involvement: “Too often, sustainability communications is preaching to the choir. The City of Lahti is doing a great job in engaging different groups in its environmental work. By collaborating with the local hockey team, we were able to take Lahti’s message to a new kind of audience, give new reasons for hometown pride, and inspire interest in Lahti as a green city”.
Even though the city stopped using coal in energy production in 2019, saving 600,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, both Lahti Pelicans and the city of Lahti’s sustainability efforts will live on long after this year as EGC hosts with much to do to meet their ambitious sustainability targets.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the next time Lahti Pelicans fans will be able to see the players in action in the stadium will be in March when restrictions are expected to be lifted.
With a population of just 120,000 Lahti is the smallest city, and the city located furthest to the north be awarded the EGC title.