Torronsuo national park in the autumn morning sun. Image: Mika Ranta/HS

The HS Ympäristö environmental section in Helsingin Sanomat is celebrating its first anniversary. Launched in the autumn of 2021, HS Ympäristö has done particularly well in reaching readers under the age of 45.

“Judging by the feedback from our readers, the stories on environmental issues have not only raised important points, such as the loss of biodiversity, but also brought people joy and experiences from nature,” says HS Ympäristö producer Piia Elonen.

The goal of HS Ympäristö is to provide readers with reliable and illustrative information on the changes affecting the lives of all Finns. In addition to the traditional text, we wanted to start offering stories by means of visual digital storytelling and data journalism.

Bringing the environment to the forefront of HS’s journalism is reflected in the figures.

  • More than 1,500 articles were published during the first year.
  • Readers have written about 300 environmental opinion pieces on the opinion pages
  • HS Ympäristö stories have been viewed more than 62 million times during the year

Articles have been written by all of the editors of Helsingin Sanomat, and the articles have been published in all sections. The range of topics has varied from informational pieces to incredibly extensive series of articles on subjects such as the drought in Europe. The most popular stories have been downloaded approximately 300,000 times.

“It has been great to see that good news also has appeal in this time, sometimes more so than doomsday scenarios. On the other hand, heavier stories, such as the methane emissions in the Baltic Sea, also have a wide audience. It has also been wonderful to see the enthusiasm of our editors to produce stories. It feels worthwhile investing in environmental topics,” says Piia Elonen.

Elonen’s topics also focus on spending time and hiking in nature. The launch of the HS Ympäristö section coincided with a period when the pandemic had forced people to stay at home and interest in national parks had exploded.

“I have wanted to do my part to help HS readers discover nature. Nature gives a lot of people joy and energy, but our personal relationship with nature may take a backseat in our busy daily lives. In our stories, we have attempted to showcase natural sites also from an urban point of view,” says Elonen.

In the first year, an essential part of HS Ympäristö was Petja Pelli’s correspondence on the loss of biodiversity.

“The focus of my own work has been on the loss of biodiversity, and I have been delighted that so many of our other editors have written environmental articles during the year, emphasising the natural aspect or the links between nature and climate. I hope that it has been one of this year’s achievements to make people realise that, in addition to climate change, there is another major problem, namely the loss of biodiversity, and that it is simultaneously a global issue and one that is tangible here in Finland. Often, it is very closely intertwined with climate change: when ecosystems suffer, carbon sinks and buffers against extreme weather phenomena also suffer. By the same token, when nature is healthy, it is our ally in the fight against climate change,” says Pelli.

Petja Pelli’s role as correspondent on the loss of biodiversity ended in September but Pelli will continue to write articles on the environment as part of the political editorial staff of Helsingin Sanomat.

Pelli’s final essay entitled “Ihminen on suuri, luonto pieni” (Man is great, nature small) received positive feedback from dozens of readers, an indication of the importance of the articles on the loss of biodiversity for readers:

“If anyone, you can tell yourself that you have tried to make the world better. Thanks to you and other people providing studies and information on the environment, no one can claim that there was no information available. If only everyone wanted to know!”

“Thanks to these articles, I took a good look at my daily life and things I could do differently. This summer, we turned our yard into a meadow, and it’s been wonderful to see so many buzzing bugs, butterflies and other insects. I had never imagined that such a small thing as not mowing your lawn could have such a big effect. I was chilling out on my own yard, a couple of steps from my front door, listening to the sound of the insects and snapping pictures for hours on end, and it felt great. It doesn’t feel great to read about the way we are destroying nature but, in my case, accurate information has made me less ignorant of my own actions.”

Putting the environment at the heart of HS’s journalism is evident in the figures: in the first year, more than 1,500 articles were published, and they have been viewed over 62 million times. Our readers have also written about 300 environmental opinion pieces.