Sustainability is vital for the Helsinki Biennial

A group of people hike across a grassy hill in Vallisaari, sea on the horizon, walking away from the camera and along the trail to the left. The sky is partially cloudy.
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Helsinki Biennial will be organised for the first time ever in summer 2021. An important priority of the visual arts event is to take sustainability and environmental aspects as seriously as possible. The special setting for the event also requires this: the event will be hosted on the island of Vallisaari, which is known for its delicate nature. The island is situated in the sea right in front of downtown Helsinki. It has been kept in a natural state for a long time. The island, now open to visitors, features an exceptional variety of species of butterflies as well as unique groves.

“We are merely visiting Vallisaari, so we need to be careful not to disturb the natural reserve areas. This is why a specific route has been planned together with a conservationist biologist along which which visitors can move to examine the artworks“, Helsinki Biennial’s environmental coordinator Kiira Kivisaari explains. 

Other environmental aspects need to be taken into account. The Helsinki Biennial is organised by HAM Helsinki Art Museum and the event is operated in accordance with the EcoCompass environmental management system. A crucial role is also played by the collaboration with Metsähallitus, the enterprise that manages state-owned lands and waters all over Finland, including Vallisaari, as well as with entrepreneurs on the island.  “Metsähallitus has an environmental programme of their own that helps to take care of many matters in a smooth way. As an example, the electricity used on Vallisaari is 100 percent renewable”, Kivisaari says.

Visitors are advised to take along their own water bottles, and the cafés on the island use biodegradable tableware. Helsinki Biennial also wants to find the  best possible solutions for mobility and waste management. The ferries to the island currently run on diesel but optimising the schedules help to keep them as full as possible. Perhaps we will see electric ferries in the future? 

In terms of waste management, Kivisaari notes that efforts are being made to recycle as much as possible. “Waste management in the archipelago is not as extensive as on the mainland, so we cannot recycle everything perfectly. Hopefully we can expand the recycling possibilities in the future”, Kivisaari says. 

Sustainability and a concern for the environment and climate change lie in the heart of the Biennial. Many artworks are built site-specifically and emphasise the use of recycled materials. Kivisaari says that the production of the event also puts great weight on recycling. 

“We just picked up old refrigerators from the youth centre in Herttoniemi to reuse at the personnel break room. We aim to find a sustainable solution for everything as well as possible.”

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Helsinki Biennial will be organised for the first time ever in summer 2021. An important priority of the visual arts event is to take sustainability and environmental aspects as seriously as possible. The special setting for the event also requires this: the event will be hosted on the island of Vallisaari, which is known for its delicate nature. The island is situated in the sea right in front of downtown Helsinki. It has been kept in a natural state for a long time. The island, now open to visitors, features an exceptional variety of species of butterflies as well as unique groves.