During December we are going to use some of our manpower and knowledge to raise awareness of the causes, issues and organisations that are important to us. Different people from Valve will be contributing everyday. We are encouraging our friends, colleagues and networks to get involved and help spread the word.
We are starting the month with a random act of kindness. One of the best things about Christmas in Finland is also one of the warmest; Finnish mulled wine a.k.a. Glögi.
On Tuesday, 1st December from 13:00-14:00 some of us will be outside our office at Pieni Roobertinkatu 7 in central Helsinki giving out Glögi to passers by.
Give us your support – become a Facebook fan, follow us on Twitter or get the RSS feed for your favourite reader. Follow our Christmas Stories and share them around – we appreciate all your help, in the virtual world or if you come along and join in…
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s story…
Blood donation is incredibly easy and a very concrete way to help people in need. This autumn the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service (Veripalvelu) has a shortage of blood due to the swine flu epidemic.
Did you know that a single blood donation could save as many as three lives – and that over 1000 blood donors are needed in Finland every day?
We gathered a group of eligible blood donors from Valve and visited Veripalvelu last week. The service was excellent and there were tasty sandwiches – what more could you ask for? Donating blood is worthwhile and almost everyone can do it. Here’s how:
- Check your eligibility online here or call the free helpline on 0800 0 5801.
- If you are busy book a time at Veripalvelu in advance.
- To get future updates become a fan of Veripalvelu on Facebook.
To prepare for tomorrow’s story make sure you don’t throw away any magazines…
Let’s face facts – globally women and girls are still very far from being on an equal footing with men.
- Three out of four of the poorest billion people in the world are women.
- In many countries, women own nothing, inherit nothing and earn nothing.
- Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, receive 10 percent of the world’s income and own 1 percent of the means of production.
At the same time, study after study shows that educated women have fewer children, are wealthier and less likely to accept restrictions from oppressive governments on education for women.
UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for Women) has many innovative projects around the world that foster empowerment and gender equality. We are donating money to UNIFEM Finland’s fund for helping women in Afghanistan.
We are also getting involved in the Read Together (“Luetaan Yhdessä”) campaign that helps immigrant women to learn Finnish and integrate with society – by gathering as much reading material as possible. Luetaan yhdessä works in co-operation with Finland’s UNIFEM and Zonta.
Please join us! There is a very simple and free way to help. Just bring your magazines to our office by Monday 7th December and we’ll deliver them to the UNIFEM coordinator. We have a big start as our friends at Aller Media have donated 3 huge crates of magazines!
Don’t forget to tell your friends!
P.S. According to the UN there is no country in the world where women do not do most of the domestic work. Any ideas for future actions guys…?
Throwing away your clothes because you don’t use them is a bad idea. Recycling clothes is an easy and efficient way to help someone while wasting less.
According to estimates 4-5 million people could be clothed with the clothes thrown away each year in Finland.
Last Friday we set up two piles at the office, one pile for swapping and one for clothes eligible for recycling. The swap pile created a small crowd around lunchtime and a lucky few found themselves with new pieces of clothing. At the end of the day we had gathered roughly 110 kilos of clothes that were delivered to Veikko and Lahja Hursti at Laupeudentyö.
One of the Christmas stories that we have been working on is really taking off. On the Facebook Fan page for “Joululahjoja lastenkodin lapsille” (Christmas presents for children that are being looked after by the social welfare authorities) there are now well over 200 fans.
We were aiming to deliver 25 gifts to kids in Oulunkylä but we already have over 60 volunteers – so we have already got in touch with three different homes so that more people can take more gifts to more children.
Looking for something to do while watching the President of Finland’s Independence Day Reception on TV?
We have the answer – it’s time to make some Gingerbread Cookies!
- 3 dl dark molasses/syrup
- 3 1/2 dl caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon dried, ground Seville orange peel
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
- 300 g butter or margarine
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/4 kg flour
- Set the oven for 175 degrees C.
- Put the dark molasses, sugar, and spices in a saucepan and stir them over a low heat until they have melted. Bring the mixture to full boil and add baking soda.
- Pour the melted mixture from the saucepan into a mixing bowl and add butter. Let the butter melt and add eggs and flour.
- Mix everything together and knead it into a ball. Chill the dough in a plastic bag for 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle some flour on a flat, clean surface. Then roll the dough out until it is about 6mm thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Lift the cookies onto baking sheet, then gather all the leftover dough and cut out more shapes.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until they are golden brown.
Mother Teresa’s blanket knitting program started in the 80’s and still today several thousand blankets are shipped from Finland to Calcutta every year. The Missionaries of Charity use the blankets in orphanages and charity centres all over the world.
The contribution on a personal level might seem insignificant, but little streams make big rivers. The help is more concrete than just donating money, and it goes to people who really desperately need aid.
We challenged everyone at the Valve office to brush up on their knitting skills. We even managed to get some of the guys to stay with us at the office after work and learn some of the basics. Our tally came up to almost 50 patches.
Last Thursday we took them to a knitting circle at Katajanokka Congregation Centre. It was a heart-warming experience. The Missionaries of Charity sisters told us about their work. We also got to sing Christmas carols and were offered some delicious porridge.
How to make your own blanket…
- Use thread containing at least 50% wool
- Knit 18cm x 18cm patches using basic knit stitch
- It’s good to have a cardboard template to make sure you end up with equal size patches
- The blanket is sewn or crocheted together alternating the vertical and horizontal stitch
- Adult size blanket: 7 x 9 = 63 patches
- Children size blanket: 5 x 6 = 30 patches
The blankets can be delivered directly to the Missionaries of Charity in Helsinki (Vironkatu 6 A 12, 00170 Helsinki, 093403795) or you can ask your local congregation whether they deliver blankets.
While you are stitching read more about Missionaries of Charity work around the world…
Over a billion people live in extreme poverty and over 800 million people are malnourished. 70-75 per cent of the malnourished live in rural areas and most of them are subsistence farmers. Lots of the farmers living in developing countries have difficulties in feeding their families with the income that they get from the products that they harvest and sell.
The Fairtrade labeling system was created to improve the position of farmers in international trade. Farmers always get at least the minimum Fairtrade guaranteed price for their products. The price covers production costs, enables sustainable development, and ensures that farmers get a minimum income level that endures even when the world market price of a product is low. The buyer also pays a separate Fairtrade extra on top of the guaranteed price. The extra is for improving the living conditions of the community with e.g. funding for health care and education programs.
Child labour is strictly forbidden in Fairtrade certified production and the origin of all products is known. Strict environmental directives also have to be followed in Fairtrade production.
We order our coffee from a wholesaler because of the large quantities we consume. Quick research showed that the Presidentti (dark roast) we’ve been sipping most at the office costs about the same amount as our new Fair Trade Norqvist’s Classic Reko (dark roast). Also the Fairtrade tea and sugar were only slightly more expensive than our “normal” brands.
Fairtrade products have been in Finland for 10 years now, there are over 1300 Fairtrade products on Finnish supermarket shelves and 90% of people in Finland know what the Fairtrade mark means or guarantees (Dagmar survey November 2008).
It’s basically the same price, arguably tastes better and you support people in poor conditions. Is it time you switched?
High-end work at corporations requires more and more raw computing power and, as time pressures dominate our working lives, the lifecycle for computers is decreasing down to just a few years.
This week we gathered all our non-working machines and took them to the hazardous waste recycling point in Riihimäki.
Almost 95% of materials in computers and over 84% of materials in other electronic devices can be used again in the production of new devices or for spare parts for existing machines.
Fully working computers that are a few years old can also be given a new lease of life.
We collected some Valve computers in good condition that were no longer in use and we tested and installed fresh working systems on them. Then we took them to Uramo Elementary School in Riihimäki.
Putting some effort into helping kids’ education is like money in the bank except it pays off better!
The way the world is developing is almost solely built on growth; economic growth in manufacturing, and buying and selling physical goods. Growth as such is generally good as it tends to give more and more people higher quality of life (like having access to food, water, housing, or leisure and culture).
The World Watch Institute has suggested that “If the levels of consumption that…the most affluent people enjoy today were replicated across even half of the roughly 9 billion people projected to be on the planet in 2050, the impact on our water supply, air quality, forests, climate, biological diversity, and human health would be severe.”
The fact that our growth is still predominantly based on material growth, is creating a side effect; the better the economy is doing, the worse our one and only earth is doing. Over-consuming the earth’s resources, especially in connection with climate discussions, is now the greatest global issue.
There is still a huge need for material growth in developing countries but in developed countries things look quite a bit different. If you have internet access you probably have a pretty good standard of living already. You also have access to an amazing amount of global information, and that means you probably have a sense of the growing crisis in global sustainability. We are simply consuming too much and it is time to think about going back to when we did services for each other.
For the Helsinki area YTV has a fantastic list of different ideas and tips ranging from Do It Yourself to concerts and dinners, and loads of other non-material gift ideas for men, women, kids, families etc…
Besides “real world” services we also have economical growth potential in virtual or digital services. We are familiar with the idea of “free” on the Internet but can free be sustainable and help improve quality of life?
Media, content, software and services are struggling to adapt in a fiercely competitive digital world. Innovative new donation, subscription, and other payment models are being invented daily. The opportunity is there to start changing perceptions and to develop internet services as part of “real” growth. Can the digital economy help us reach a sustainable future?
Of course this is close to our hearts and close to our business – it is what we are passionate about – it is good for the soul to look on the bright side of economic growth sometimes.
A happy non-material Christmas is just around the corner!
(This Christmas story was prepared by Tumppi.)
You may know that producing vegetarian food requires a lot less energy and other resources than producing meat. For example, the amount of land needed to feed and grow enough beef to feed 10 people could produce enough wheat to feed 120 people. Over 20,000 litres of fresh water is needed to grow just one kilo of meat!
As it is, many developing countries are exporting soya and grain to feed cattle in developed countries – while people there are suffering food shortages. It doesn’t take much to figure out that switching from a mixed diet to a vegetarian one could help ease the global food shortage, starvation and drought.
Imagine if developing countries alter their diets in the direction of industrial countries while their populations continue to grow. Where will all that food be grown, when the amount of arable land is simultaneously declining?
Actually, this is a win-win situation: while helping the environment, you actually also help yourself. Vegetarian food is generally healthier, and vegetarians are slimmer than their omnivorous counterparts (who also consume 18% more energy). There are also many other benefits of having a vegetarian diet.
I dare you to join us, take on the challenge, and become vegetarian for a week!
Feel free to join the Facebook event if you just want to cut back on your meat consumption, or if you are already are a full-time veggie. Every contribution counts!
Finding and cooking vegetarian food is easy. Most restaurants offer veggie alternatives, and at Eat.fi you can select ”Vegetarian friendly” from the ”Restaurant type” menu to see recommended places. HOT TIP: Most ethnic restaurants (except the Scottish McD…) offer great vegetarian dishes!
The countdown to Christmas is on – less than two weeks and still so much to do. Have you done all your Christmas shopping yet? Some deadlines to meet, working from home this weekend?
The penultimate weekend before the holidays is also a good time to remember to enjoy some slower moments too. Why not visit one of the Christmas markets in town? Enjoy the smell of honey-spiced gingerbread and warm mulled wine, listen to the jingle bells ring and watch the kids’ wide eyes in front of the big store windows. And, since you shouldn’t go to a Christmas market alone, why not call a friend you haven’t seen in a while?
Sometimes it’s the small things that make us happy. If you’ve been following our Christmas stories you know we have been trying to find small ways that we can do some good and bring some happiness.
We’re half way through the Christmas calendar and today we’re taking a break. With all the rush, it’s good to calm down a bit and have some gingerbread cookies (that we picked up at the Christmas market yesterday) and something warm to drink. This is also the time to write the rest of the Christmas cards to get them in the mail by Tuesday!
The weeks of grey and dark weather are slowly falling behind us and tonight Santa Lucia will bring some light into the city. It’s Saint Lucy’s Day and, if you would like to enjoy some light and a joyful parade, Lucia will receive her crown of candles in Helsinki’s Senate Square at 5pm, followed by a light parade through the city centre, starting at 6pm.
Stay tuned for more Christmas stories starting tomorrow…
(Sebastian provided this weekend’s soothing words and images.)
To continue on from day 3, when we looked at how our own small actions can affect people on the other side of the world, we decided to try out a micro-lending service. Micro-credit is a very small loan to someone in poverty designed to spur entrepreneurship. Micro-credit as such is a very controversial issue and there are plenty of opinions for and against. However, we decided to give it a go – nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Kiva Microfunds is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website. It allows people to lend money via the internet to microfinance institutions in developing countries around the world, which in turn lend the money to small businesses.
The total value of all loans made through Kiva at the moment is 106,701,760$ – that’s an amazing 106 million dollars lent by 610,748 different lenders. These are loans not gifts – the current Kiva loan repayment rate is 98.07% – Kiva has an incredible network of Field Partners that facilitate payment and repayment.
For many people micro-lending is the only way of getting finance for entrepreneurial activities as they cannot access banking services or secure loans. Is microfinance the solution to poverty? No. Microfinance is only one strategy for battling an immense global problem.
(Today’s story was put together by Kaisa.)
Yesterday we visited the Fire Station at Erottaja. It is the oldest and most beautiful fire station in Finland and handles over 1700 emergency situations every year.
We wanted to thank the Fire Brigade for their valuable work so we decided to pay them a visit and gave them a nice big cake. We had a look around the station, (even got to climb up on the fire engine!) and we chatted about general safety issues. Here’s their advice on being safe this Christmas:
- Be careful with fire. Keep candles away from kids, pets and anything flammable and make sure the candle holder is safe. Most importantly, never leave candles unattended.
- Check the electric wires on all Christmas lights. It’s not a good idea to have an extension cord plugged into another extension cord.
- If the worst happened and a fire did break out, make sure you know what to do and have some equipment ready. For the price of a night out, you can get a proper fire extinguisher and fire blanket for your home.
- When rushing around with Christmas food and cooking, make sure kids keep away from hot dishes, the oven and hobs.
- If this Christmas is very cold, there is an increased risk from fires when people extensively warm houses and saunas. Take care when warming up a chimney that has been cold for a while.
We learned that most accidents happen when people are too busy or have perhaps had too much eggnog. The most important advice is to take it steady and enjoy the holidays. That way maybe the people at the fire station can have a peaceful Christmas as well.
In earlier Christmas stories we looked at ways to recycle clothes and computers. Recycling feels so good – we have to do more! We sent out a recycling task force to explore the weak spots in our recycling management.
Here at the Valve office, we are sorting our waste according to common guidelines. Still, we quickly spotted a series of possible improvements; in particular in regard to paper waste, which accounts for 80-90% of office waste. While we do have both paper recycling containers and data protected paper containers on each floor, a lot of recyclable paper ends up in the regular trash bins in every room.
We decided to make sorting even easier by adding some extra bins:
- Every room received two bins and a guidelines poster: a re-usable paper bin for collecting all the paper which can still be used for sketching and scribbling, and a second bin that is regularly emptied into the data-safe paper waste container.
- On every floor, we created collection spots for cardboard, and the kitchen received a guide to instruct that milk containers and other cardboard waste should no longer end up in general waste.
Looking up the amount of printing paper used, we were positively surprised. According to statistics the average Finnish office worker produces approximately 7000 sheets and 60kg of paper waste every year. The average Valvenian uses just about 400 sheets of A4 paper annually. However, there’s always room for improvement. We started an initiative to change the default printer settings for all staff to two-sided printing, and to two pages per sheet for those who feel comfortable with it.
By signing an organ donor card you can give someone a second chance to live – probably the greatest gift you can give. An organ donor card is small, fits into your wallet, and is easy to always carry with you. About 18 percent of Finns have already signed and carry the card.
We ordered some donor cards so that they are available at the Valve office, and we have been spreading the word to our friends online and offline.
We are challenging everyone to participate. Sign the card if you haven’t already done so, tell your friends and family, and order organ donor cards for free to your office or home. To help spread the word you can also join the Finnish Facebook group.
Dan Ariely’s video on TED discusses our decision making about organ donation and how easy it is when you don’t have to opt-in. Different European countries have different donation systems. The EU is seeking to harmonise the system, partly to increase donation rates in the 12 new member states and also to decrease organ trafficking and transplant tourism.
Finland and the UK have opt-in donation, whereas Belgium and Spain presume consent unless you opt-out. Maybe this has something to do with Spain holding the world record in organ donation with more than 34 donors per one million residents.
(Jani gave us the cards and the facts for today’s story.)
Our office is filled with creative minds, visual geniuses and 3D gurus… but what happens when you put them in the kitchen and throw in a pile of gingerbread dough?
We spent a couple evenings at the office designing, baking and decorating a gingerbread house. And not just any house but a real castle!
The castle was taken to Ruusula, the Mehiläinen pediatric clinic in Töölö, to cheer up the brave little patients there. It was warmly welcomed and we understand that the castle walls were pulled down in double quick time, which must be a good sign!
(Let’s see… Saku, Anniina, Aaro, Pertti, Kaisa, Pekka, Marius, Jarno, Leo, Mari, JussiS, Miia, JaniM, Susanna, Santtu… and probably more Valvenians got involved… and no one ate any left over M&Ms, honestly. And Marius claims the moat was his idea but we are not so sure…)
A week ago, we ran a story daring people go vegetarian for a week. Currently there are over 100 participants in the Facebook event that was used to spread the word. We even managed to persuade a few die-hard carnivores to try out how it feels!
We interviewed some of the adventurous participants to get first hand views:
“The only thing different this week is that I’ve had a huge craving for some good salami after having something sweet – probably only because I know I’m not allowed to have it.”
“You’re left with a short straw in the hand trying to find vegetarian food at the supermarket convenience food section, as well as at all the fast food joints.”
“The general lunch places all too often only offer one vegetarian alternative, so if you don’t have a say on the place, that’s what you’ll end up eating. However, eating seafood will broaden the selection considerably.”
“This hasn’t really been that much of a change, as I’ve unconsciously ended up cutting back on meat and chicken anyway. I’ll probably stay mostly this way.”
There’s also been a lot of discussion on what’s allowed and what’s not. The original dare was intentionally left quite open to make it easier to jump in and give it a try. Trying out pescetarianism and lacto-ovo vegetarianism are both equally qualified. We did though pass close to the subject of whether salmon is an animal, or in fact a vegetable. The distinction seems not always so clear even to people serving food professionally.
(This update came from Leo, who will stick with just veggies now that he’s started.)
It’s Sunday and you should rest, but with only a few days to go you are probably already focusing on food – buying it, preparing it – maybe even eating it already!
If you are in Finland you might be thinking about rosolli, the delightful Finnish mixed vegetable salad with beetroot, potato, carrot and plenty more, that graces every Finnish Christmas table.
There is some debate over whether rosolli should have apple, or if it should even be prepared with a piece of Baltic herring fillet for extra flavour. What is certain is that, as well as Vitamin A, Rosolli has plenty of carbs and calories, so make sure you burn off that energy with a good walk in the snow!
We decided to participate in the battle against mental health problems and their negative effect on the working capabilities of young Finns. Last year, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) compensated workers under the age of 30 for over 400,000 sick days due to mental health problems. The number has risen by 44 percent in the past few years.
Two of our graphic designers, Saku and Jussi, designed T-shirt prints for the Finnish Mental Health Union internet shop. The funds raised through the sales go to the union’s volunteer mental health work. We think the shirts are pretty awesome, what do you think?
Go and get yours for the good cause!
There are differing opinions about climate change and man’s part in it, but one thing is sure: wasting energy is stupid. Not only is it wasting nature’s resources but it also costs you money every day.
The first step in reducing energy usage is to measure it. A study from the University of Oxford found that just having an energy monitor around helped reduce energy usage by 5 – 15%.
An energy monitor like those from Wattson, Owl or Eco-Eye can display real time electricity usage in your office or apartment via a sensor attached to your mains supply. Single socket meters are also available and useful for measuring the consumption of a single device. Helsingin Energia loaned us a meter which we used to measure the power hungriness of a personal computer.
An iMac with an external display uses around 3,6 kWh of energy in a day. Enabling power saving mode and hibernation reduced the consumption to only 0,8 kWh a day. With current energy prices this makes a saving of roughly 65 euros a year. This might not sound that big of a deal, but with the 50+ computers in our office it starts to add up.
Another source of savings is eliminating the waste of standby power. Studies have estimated that standby modes on electronic devices account for 7-8% of residential power consumption. Using standby mode is something that has become second nature. It is over two years since Live Earth, when over 150 acts on 11 stages around the world tried to celebrate energy saving and inform about standby amongst other things. Unfortunately, it doesn’t see like too much has changed since then.
We bought some cheap 2.95€ switchable power bars which cut the standby power to zero when switched off. Some people prefer to keep their machines running overnight for technical reasons but usually everything else can be switched off: monitors, lamps, cell phone chargers etc. Even with such a simple “one touch” solution, we have still found it hard to break the standby habit and we have promised to keep monitoring each other!
Do you know how eco-friendly your energy provider is? A great way to find out is to check out this price comparison tool (in Finnish). As it turned out, we could actually buy energy from 100% renewable sources and still save 250 euros a year! There’s also a list of providers who sell renewable energy at ekoenergia.fi.
A couple weeks ago we told you about one of the Christmas stories that we have been working on: we asked people on Facebook to get Christmas presents for 25 children that are being looked after by the social welfare authorities.
It turned out to be a real success! There are over 1600 fans on the Facebook fan page for “Joululahjoja lastenkodin lapsille” and we got more than 220 people volunteering, plus toy company Norstar provided us with a huge box of over 22 kg of toys and games.
In total we managed to put together well over 200 presents for kids ranging from 2 months to 17 years of age in eight children’s homes! Pretty incredible, huh?
When the presents started pouring in, our office doorbell was ringing so furiously that it actually broke! At times we were drowning in presents, and when starting the rounds, fitting all the gifts in the company minivan was really a task. And getting it all done took some long nights of wrapping and packaging.
We’ve received loads of positive feedback and people are asking us if we’re going to do it again next year. Hopefully we will. This truly was a project of sharing and caring, for all of us.
Santa’s little helpers in this project were Leo and Mari, who (fortunately!) received lot of help from all the other Valvenians and, of course, all of the gift-givers – the closest ones came from our neighbouring police station, and the longest distance was covered by someone from Hong Kong!
Check the Flickr stream to see how so many presents were handled and finally delivered.
Hot glögi, hundreds of gifts for children in homes in Helsinki, a ginger bread house for the hospital, some funky T-shirt designs, a little bit of FairTrade, some needlework, happy Firemen, and plenty more ideas for a happier Christmas.
The Christmas Calendar has been great fun and really rewarding for all of us at Valve. We are a small company and proud to have been able to look outwards and find the potential to do some good, in addition to our daily work. It has showed us that if you have the will there is a lot of good old Christmas spirit out there.
Thanks to Miia for driving the whole calendar, and to JaniMe, Kaisa, James and Sebu for the nuts and bolts. And special thanks to everyone who participated.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
On behalf of the Valvenians