Schoolchildren are building a circular economy at Lappeenranta Junior University

News 2020-06-15 at 12:29
Kindergarteners at LUT Junior University © City of Lappeenranta

The theme of circular economy is strongly involved in environmental education at Lappeenranta Junior University, also known as Uniori. Uniori is part of LUT University's unique learning and teaching package, which was awarded the best cooperation model of the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) in 2020.

At Uniori, the circular economy theme is examined and studied by pre-schoolers, 3rd graders, 8th graders and high school students. Cooperation is established with, among others, the Lappeenranta Regional Environmental Authority and Etelä-Karjalan Jätehuolto Oy.

Getting to know the life cycle of a mobile phone

At Uniori, fourth graders get acquainted with the secrets of the circular economy during four lessons based on learning material prepared by Etelä-Karjalan Jätehuolto Oy (EKJH). Children learn, for example, about the materials used to make a mobile phone, the life cycle of a mobile phone, and how materials can be recycled.

“For the circular economy to happen, it needs to be made interesting and well-known. Education and training have an important role to play here. For example, the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra believes that at the time when today's schoolchildren graduate and enter working life, the circular economy is no longer just talked about, it is the only way to act,” says Ilkka Räsänen, Environmental Manager at Lappeenranta Region’s Environmental Office.

Lightening the environmental load of your own living

Eighth graders focus on reflecting on their own consumption and opportunities for influence as well as building a sustainable future based on the circular economy. They study the themes of clean energy and sustainable living in a variety of disciplines. In addition to the circular economy, the learning package includes energy efficiency, wastewater treatment, intelligent systems and automation and sustainable construction.

The multidisciplinary learning package includes project work related to own living, which allows children and their homes to participate in Greenreality Homes activities by exploring their own home's carbon footprint and ways to reduce it. In this way, Greenreality Homes activities reach the entire age group every year, meaning about 700 homes.

In addition, all eighth graders have the opportunity to visit LUT University, where various companies and degree programmes conduct workshops for children. As part of the Circwaste project, the regional coordinator for the circular economy conducted a workshop in which children considered the possibilities of sharing economy and circular economy in a future residential area.

Uniori 8th graders studying together with technology university students © City of Lappeenranta

High school students work with companies

A voluntary sustainable business and entrepreneurship theme course has been built for high school students as part of Uniori. Also linked to the course, Greenreality partner activities have been developed for downtown shops and companies.

During the course, high school students become familiar with conducting environmental surveys and managing the basics of environmental issues in SMEs. They then set out to help downtown shops and companies make Greenreality commitments and prepare initial assessments to support their commitments. Among other things, energy consumption, waste management and recycling, responsible procurement and mobility are surveyed. Based on the surveys, environmental targets are drawn up for companies for the following year. When companies commit to the goals, they receive Greenreality partner status.

Unique cooperation between research and schools

“Through Uniori activities, LUT University's circular economy expertise and the latest research results are made available to local children, young people and their teachers. With the help of our partners, we have created interesting age-appropriate learning packages for children and young people, the teachings of which we believe will affect the families of these children as well. Based on the feedback, especially our recycling-literate pre-schoolers are challenging their parents and grandparents to sort waste correctly!” says Kati Koikkalainen, Coordinator at LUT Junior University.

Lappeenranta is one of the pioneers of the circular economy of the Circwaste project. In the Lappeenranta 2033 strategy, both circular economy and educational work emphasising green values play an important role. The circular economy also plays a key role in the strategy of Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT University). The aim of the cooperation between the city and the university is to strengthen students' interest in science, research and university studies following the principles of sustainable development.

Salme Muurikka, Environmental Inspector, City of Lappeenranta

More on the topic

Further information

Coordinator for LUT Junior University Kati Koikkalainen, kati.koikkalainen@lut.fi, LUT University