Interview with Pirkko Melville from the city of Jyväskylä

The next UBC Sustainable Cities Commission Meeting will be taking place in Jyväskylä, Finland on 16 - 18 May 2017 with the thematic focus on resource wisdom and circular economy. Therefore, we have conducted an interview with a sustainability expert from the City of Jyväskylä R&D Manager, Strategy and Urban Development Ms. Pirkko Melville. We interviewed Ms. Pirkko Melville for concrete examples and insights regarding resource wisdom, as well as motivation for the cities to join our Commission Meeting this spring.

What to expect from the Commission Meeting that will take place in your city in May 2017?

Meetings with the experts from the UBC network, sharing common things and of course a chance to present know-how and activities from Jyväskylä area. The member cities of the UBC will get an opportunity to listen and see the examples from Jyväskylä region from different areas of resource wisdom (energy, mobility, food, cycle of materials, water and sustainable communities).

"Resource wisdom could be implemented best in a new city area."

Do you have any particular cases that the City of Jyväskylä would like to share with the UBC community?

The overall concept of Resource Wisdom: it is a regional operative model with what one can achieve sustainable wellbeing, add employment and strengthen regional economy via circular economy and carbon neutrality. The wise use of resources is also the spearhead theme of Jyväskylä’s strategy and it has been integrated into city administration - being an integral part of Jyväskylä's financial and operational yearly calendar and implementation of resource wisdom is being observed through city's environmental systems. Resource wisdom could be implemented best in a new city area. In Jyväskylä, we have new urban area called Kangas in a close proximity to the city centre - implementation of resource wisdom in living and working was included in the design processes of the urban area from the very beginning. Thus, resource wisdom is a scalable operating model for cities and regions to create sustainable well-being from a circular and carbon neutral economy.

How do you do define circular economy/resource wisdom? Which term would you prefer to use?

Resource wisdom is a scalable operating model for cities and regions to create sustainable well-being from a circular and carbon neutral economy. We use the term resource wisdom, but nowadays more and more often speak at the same time about circular economy. Though, resource wisdom is also about carbon neutrality, which enlarges the idea of circular economy a bit.

How do you implement resource wisdom? Do you have any concrete examples from Jyväskylä?

Since resource wisdom is integrated into Jyväskylä's city administration, the resources needed for implementation activities are reserved in the city's yearly budgets. We have formed the Resource Wisdom Group made up of experts that is responsible for the implementation whereas the City Administration guides it activities. Other more practical and concrete examples of building resource wisdom in Jyväskylä are among other things, building of the biogas ecosystem, the facility for producing biogas, creation of biogas' distribution network, Jyväskylä's urban mobility policies related to the use of biogas, the use of local food in public kitchens, replacing of the imported tuna fish with roach from local lakes, solar energy solutions and bike rentals. There would be many other examples but these present our work the best.

What were the first steps in implementing resource wisdom in the City of Jyväskylä, how did the implementation begin?

Our journey started from a joint project “Towards Resource Wisdom (2013-2015)" of Sitra and the City of Jyväskylä. Back then we created a roadmap of reaching wasteless, emissionless and sustainably consuming life for our area by 2050 with the group of 30 local representatives from different parts of the society. So we got plenty of people and organizations to understand and commit to resource wisdom development and implementation from the very beginning. The most central aspect regarding the continuation was still that our city council committed to the goals and chose resource wisdom as one of the spearheads of Jyväskylä’s Strategy. National FISU-network (Finnish Sustainable Communities) and its service centre (Motiva +Syke) among other things helps cities to monitor their progress. Currently, the eight cities belonging to the network actively collaborate through sharing good practices and conducting joint projects.

What has been the biggest challenge when implementing resource wisdom?

It would be the terminological difficulties complicating implementiation: resource wisdom is a tricky concept to understand. Resource efficiency and sustainable development as more widely known terms and lately active use of the terms carbon neutrality and circular economy in one hand help and in the other hand implicate common understanding. So we have started to think of resource wisdom as branding these same things in a new way.

Have the general public been involved in the decision making regarding resource wise activities? How?

We have aimed to enable testing of the ideas gotten from residents in practice - after all, culture of experimenting has been our tool for implementing resource wisdom from the very beginning. In the newly kicked off EU’s Life Circwaste project we will continue the collection and testing the ideas as an activity funded by the EU.

What have you achieved so far through resource wisdom that the City of Jyväskylä is especially proud of?

The biggest source of joy right now is the building of biogas facility and biogas distribution network’s creation in Central Finland. We are also delighted that the city has outlined biogas as always being the first choice of power source when city’s vehicle fleet will be renewed and in competitive biddings involving transportation (already completed competitive bidding of waste transportation had a precondition of biogas). Resource wise Kangas area as the central developmental platform for the City of Jyväskylä is also a continuous source of pride.

Will the importance of belonging to the UBC grow in the future?

I would believe that the importance of network-related collaboration will grow in the future, but ways of operating will change. Digitalization is offering different opportunities for working and collaborating in networks that can bring physically distant members together as well as make the collaboration much easier and faster than before.

The question of importance of Jyväskylä belonging to the Union of the Baltic Cities was also addressed to another expert from the city and UBC contact person, the Environmental Director Ms. Päivi Pietarinen. She comments on the value of being a member of our network:

Utilizing experiences and good practices from other cities in our own daily work and common benefits received through joint project might be the biggest advantages of belonging to a network. Also the fact that you will get to know your colleagues from other cities and as a result, the barrier for contacting and peer consulting will lower.