Tips for the friends of water from the Finnish Environment Institute


Use the Baltic Sea Calculator to find out your nutrient footprint

Use the calculator to find out how your habits as a consumer affect the nutrient load of the Baltic Sea. Finland accounts for roughly 10% of the nutrient load of the Baltic Sea. Food production accounts for around 60% of the nutrient footprint of an average Finn. Adding up to roughly 25%, wastewater also has a significant impact on the Baltic Sea. The easiest way to decrease your nutrient load is to increase the amount of Finnish wild fish and plant-based ingredients in your diet.

Eat more plant-based foods

An environmentally friendly diet includes more vegetables and fish and fewer livestock products. Finnish agriculture is largely based on milk and meat production. Roughly 80% of the entire cultivated area is used for growing forage plants. Most of the nutrient load of agricultural land comes from the production of milk, meat, and other animal produce. Overconsumption of protein is also reflected in higher nitrogen loads in wastewater treatment plants and leads to an increased need for wastewater treatment. The excess protein in wastewater mainly comes from animal protein consumption.

Reducing the consumption of animal products also helps reduce the negative effects of diet on the climate. Livestock production accounts for almost 90% of the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. In Finland, meat consumption has still continued to increase by around 20% in the 21st century. Even small changes in consumption habits make a difference. For example, you can reduce your meat consumption by one third or eat vegetarian food one or two days a week.

Pick up litter on land and shores

Littering is a global problem. Litter finds it way from land to water. Litter makes our surroundings less enjoyable and poses a threat to animals and the environment. Some of the microplastics in seas and inland waters come from the breakdown of larger plastic items. Microplastics are understood to collect environmental toxins. Microplastics can find their way through the food cycle, all the way from zooplankton and bivalves to fish. In principle, they can even affect the people who eat seafood.

Choose eco-labelled products and services (Nordic Ecolabel)

Eco-labelled household chemicals include cleaning products, laundry detergents, and dishwashing liquids. Mild detergents are usually effective enough to achieve the desired result. Everyday services that use a lot of water include car wash services. The ecolabel guarantees that none of the most harmful chemicals have been used in the service process or in the manufacture of products.

Avoid single-use plastics and packaging

Single-use plastics and packaging are a burden on waste management. They also end up in nature. Different plastics account for a significant part of beach litter. Plastic items and microplastics are harmful to the environment and animals.

Take expired or unneeded medicines to a pharmacy

Only use human and veterinary medicines, antibiotics in particular, as necessary and in accordance with your physician’s orders or as instructed on the packaging. Check with your treating physician or a medication assessment expert at your pharmacy to make sure that you don’t have any unnecessary, harmful, or overlapping medications. Bear in mind that over-the-counter medicines can also interact with prescription medications.

Take pharmaceutical waste to the dedicated pharmaceutical waste containers in pharmacies. Follow the pharmacy’s sorting instructions. Don’t put pharmaceutical waste in household waste or flush it down the toilet. Some of the pharmaceutical waste is transported through wastewater treatment plants and into seas and lakes, where it poses a threat to aquatic organisms. Another concern is the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains, which means that antibiotics will become less effective in treating bacterial diseases.

Recycle old clothes and consider clothing purchases carefully

When buying new clothes, opt for products that come from the EU or are eco-labelled (e.g. Oeko-Tex or Nordic Ecolabel). In developing countries, textile production involves high water consumption, various dangerous chemicals, and poor wastewater management. When clothes and household textiles are washed, they may give off harmful nonylphenol and per- and polyfluorinated alkylated substances (PFASs). This is why clothes should not be washed excessively. Stain removal is often enough. The above-mentioned chemicals are permanent environmental toxins that cannot be removed from wastewater.

Use water sensibly

Don’t leave the tap to run unnecessarily. Water supply, purification, pumping, distribution, and wastewater management cost money and energy. In addition, wastewater almost always increases the nutrient load of nearby waters. When making purchases, opt for water and energy-efficient plumbing fixtures.

Use warm water in moderation

Warm water accounts roughly for a staggering one third of the total consumption of thermal energy.

Use tap water

Finland is one of the few countries with clean and high-quality tap water. Bottled water consumes energy and raw materials.

Ensure wastewater purification in your house and summer house

Wastewater purification reduces sanitary nuisances, slows down eutrophication, and reduces the risks of groundwater pollution in residential environments and on shores. Poor wastewater management results in groundwater pollution, which can reduce the quality of well water for you or your neighbours.

Wash rugs and carpets on land, absorb sauna water in the ground or convey it into the sewer system of the local water services

While rug washing and sauna water may not be a significant threat to our waters, they can locally contribute to eutrophication, make the algae situation worse, and increase litter.

Contribute to the improvement and restoration of your local waters

There are many ways to improve the state of lakes, rivers, and small water bodies. The restoration of local waters can contribute to the state of the entire catchment area and help decrease external pollution. Local residents’ efforts and local cooperation are the key tools to ensure the success of water restoration projects. The restoration process starts by monitoring the waters, gathering data, and finding cooperation partners. Finnish water restoration and management network provides information on water restoration.

Contribute to Järvi-meriwiki, the network for the friends of our lakes and the Baltic Sea

Get to know your local waters better. Contribute to the project by sharing facts and myths about your local waters. Start observing the local algae and ice situation, either just for fun or to help others, or launch a more large-scale citizen science project to observe the state of local waters.

Enjoy Finland’s clean waters

The ecological status of most of Finland’s surface waters is excellent or good: for lakes, the percentage is 86% of the surface area; for rivers, 65% of their total length.

For further information, contact

Ulla Ala-Ketola, Communications Specialist, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. 050 465 5883,

Source: Finnish Environment Institute

Published 2021-05-03 at 11:34, updated 2021-05-04 at 11:13