Giving nature a seat at the table

European Green Capital invites nature to all video meetings

Nature is a part of all decision-making in the city of Lahti, Finland. A new service created by the city connects nature cameras placed in the local wilderness to Microsoft Teams meetings. Lahti, the European Green Capital of 2021, hopes this virtual connection to nature will help reduce stress and promote environmental values.

In Finland, the city of Lahti’s employees can now invite nature to participate in their Microsoft Teams meetings. Two nature cameras offering both forest and lake views have been placed into the local woodland. The Lahti Green Screen is a service developed by the city to test how nature’s presence affects employees’ workdays.

– Studies have shown that spending time in nature improves mood and lessens anxiety and negative feelings. Time spent in nature can help improve concentration, memory and the ability to perform challenging tasks, says Dr. Riikka Puhakka, a scientist in the University of Helsinki’s Nature-based solutions research group at the Lahti University Campus.

The service is available to all city employees, so in addition to everyday meetings, nature might even get a seat at the City Council. A strong connection to nature has been proven to influence decision-making: people who spend more time in nature are more likely to make sustainable choices and be more environmentally conscious.*

Lahti, the European Green Capital for 2021, has already made significant commitments to nature and environmental values, which can be seen in the former industrial city’s ambitious conservation goals, the role of nature in urban planning, active restoration of lakes and marshland, and the implementation of sustainable forestry in forests owned by the city.

Lahti’s green values make an EU-level splash

Lahti has used the remote connection to include its local nature in events of the Green Capital year. A lake from Lahti featured in a water-themed panel discussion held during EU Green Week, as a part of the European Dialogue for Sustainable Cities discussion series.

– We like to bring lots of local flavour into our Green Capital events. Finnish nature is unique and preserving it is the driver behind our environmental action, says Saara Vauramo, the program director of Lahti European Green Capital.

The nature cameras have been set up in collaboration with renowned nature documentarist Petteri Saario, who is also originally from Lahti. The nature cameras will remain in place until the end of October, so users can enjoy the changing seasons.

– Popular nature cameras have created new ways of observing nature. People may think that spending working hours watching online videos is inappropriate, but with Lahti Green Screen the video stream is integrated into your working environment, says Saario.

Virtual nature boosts wellbeing at work

Vauramo says, that the idea for the service came when the city was planning activities for the Green Capital year in remote meetings.

– During the pandemic, nature has been an important source of wellbeing for many: so why not bring it to our employees’ screens in remote meetings? Virtual nature experiences have been shown to have similar stress-reducing and wellness-boosting effects as spending time in nature.

As remote work increasingly becomes the norm, Lahti hopes that services like the Green Screen become a part of workdays spent in front of the screen.

– In Lahti, we’re never far from nature, but solutions like this can increase wellbeing in places and situations where access to nature isn’t a given. And when we take care of our connection to nature, we make it easier for ourselves to be more sustainable in our actions, Vauramo says.

Watch nature participate in a meeting here (campaign site).
Access the mediakit from here.

More information on Lahti Green Screen:

Saara Vauramo
Programme director, Lahti European Green Capital
p. 044 716 1585

More information on the health benefits of spending time in nature: 

Riikka Puhakka
Adjunct Professor
University of Helsinki (Lahti University Campus)
Faculty of biological and environmental sciences

Lahti – The European Green Capital of 2021

Lahti is the first Finnish city to win the European Green Capital Award. A sustainable future calls for action, which is why Lahti will achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.  Lahti sees its year as the European Green Capital as an opportunity to showcase the best of European green innovation, promote Finland’s climate targets, launch a range of ambitious partnership projects and make life better for local residents. Lahti is a City of Makers that tackles future challenges together. Lahti – Enduring change.

*Study by University of Exeter: