Estonia – Sustainable Naturally
In the race to achieve sustainability, Estonia has a gigantic head start. The country’s tiny population of just 1.3 million is spread over a territory larger than the Netherlands (or Belgium or Switzerland). Of that territory, as much as 70 percent is covered by forests and bogs. This dynamic not only contributes to the amazingly clean air – among the cleanest in the world, according to the WHO – it also means that wilderness is never far away, either physically or spiritually, from the people. It’s part of what gives Estonians that nature-loving, Nordic mindset that makes them hyper-aware of the impact they’re having on the environment.
- How Green? Estonia ranks among the eight greenest countries in the world, according to Yale University’s 2016 Environmental Performance Index.
- Untouched nature. As much as 50% of Estonia is covered by forests. Add the peat bogs and other nature areas and the wilderness coverage goes up to 70%. The average population density is just 29 people per km2, among the lowest in Europe.
- Walkable cities. Estonia’s primary conference cities, Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu, are all cosy and compact, making it easy to get from place to place by foot. Instead of burning fossil fuels, not to mention time and money, travelling from hotel to meeting venue to restaurant, delegates will be enjoying quick strolls, typically around 10-15 minutes long. For delegates meeting in Tallinn, the distance from the airport to the city centre is just 4km, and a direct tram connection means it’s reasonable to skip the transfer bus entirely. The short-distance advantage works outside the city as well. For example, organisers who want to add an even larger green element to their conferences by incorporating nature walks, tree planting or cleanup activities (all of which can easily be arranged) will find that nature areas are never far away.
- Take a deep breath. The World Health Organization has rated Estonia’s air quality as the 7th best in the world. The tap water is also pure and drinkable.
- Be part of nature. Estonia is surrounded by beautiful nature, there is no need for long drive in order to feel and experience the fragile but breath-taking Estonian nature.
- Enjoy the quietness. Estonia has a low level of noise pollution, which gives a great possibility to enjoy the calmness and greenery of the surrounding.
Local & Organic Food
One of the fundamentals of sustainability, especially where conferences are concerned, is using locally-sourced products. In catering, the recommendation is to keep ingredients as local, organic and seasonal as possible. As luck would have it, the dining trend in Estonia is a perfect fit for this strategy. The emphasis among the country’s chefs and catering companies is on Nordic Cuisine, which emphasises use of local and seasonal products. These might be berries and mushrooms from the forrest, domestically farmed herbs and grain, or fish and game from local suppliers. It won’t be hard, therefore, to find dining options that fit sustainability criteria.
On a similar note, the tap water throughout the country is pure enough to be served in restaurants, which negletes the need for bottled water during meetings, and the waste and pollution associated with plastic containers.
In the early 2000s, Estonia made world headlines by being the first country to adopt online, paperless government, a move that saved several hectares of forest and a good chunk of money annually. For two decades now, paperless business operation has been the norm in the country.
- It’s all online. Estonia is one of the most advanced e-societies in the world. Work and data have largely moved to cyberspace, drastically reducing the use of paper. The same trend means that bank card payment is accepted pretty much everywhere.
- Free Wi-Fi. It’s easy to stay connected and go paperless in Estonia by using the free, reliable internet connections that are available in all hotels and meeting places.
- Green Key: Estonia offers a variety of hotels, venues and restaurants carrying the international Green-key certificate. The Green Key award is a leading standard of excellence in the field of environmental responsibility and sustainable operation within the tourism industry. Green Key stands for an establishment’s promise to its guests that by opting to stay with such an establishment, they are helping to make a difference on an environmental and sustainability level.
- Several Estonian DMCs carry TraveLife Certification. Travelife is the leading international sustainability certification for the travel sector.
- Walk in the bog
- Make yourself a souvenir of leftovers with famous Estonian designer
- Zero waste fine dining
- Meet a designer and upcycle a T-shirt
- Plant a tree
- Lend a helping hand
- Foraging with a local chef
See our recent blog post Tips for Green Meetings for practical advise.