Zero carbon footprint by 2035

Climate change is the global challenge of our era, with an effect on Finland and its people as well. Through our own actions, however, we can help to make things better. We are aware of the environmental impacts of our operations, and we want to be part of the solution. Our goal is not just to reduce milk’s carbon footprint, it’s to cut it completely by 2035.

The first 250 dairy farms have already been trained in carbon farming – to bind more atmospheric carbon into fields. We feed our cows mainly with grass – there is no soy in their food. Plastic has been given a new life in cheese packaging, and our first biogas fuelled milk truck took to Finland's roads in winter 2019.

Our greatest challenges have to do with recycling manure into fuel, as well as reducing emissions from fields that have been cleared on dried swampland. We are working hard to find solutions to these issues with our partners. Our work is already well under way, but sustainable solutions are not made overnight.

Track our progress here!

Finland produces milk in a different manner than many other countries. Our cows mainly eat grass instead of soy. Perennial grass, out of all cultivated plants, is the best at binding carbon. Fields are tilled roughly every four years, which means photosynthesis and carbon binding to the soil begins immediately once the snow has melted. Grass is also needed for crop rotation: growing grass on grain fields during gap years helps keep the soil rich.

Binding carbon to the soil!

We are training all our dairy farmers in carbon farming

Smart farming can help fields to absorb more carbon. In April 2019, we held the first carbon farmer course in cooperation with the Baltic Sea Action Group. Already 250 milk producers have participated in the training.

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One of our greatest challenges is related to the larger volume of emissions in fields that are on dried peatlands. In December 2019, we held a hackathon to find new ideas for reducing emissions. Farmers, start-up companies, agriculture students and researchers were invited to take part. In summer 2020, new pilot projects will be starting at the farms.

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Biogas-fuelled milk truck rolls out

Since February 2019, Valio Luomu™ milk is transported from the farm to the dairy under the power of liquid biogas, or LBG. This biogas truck reduces the carbon footprint of milk collection and is the perfect example of the circular economy: Biogas is, after all, made from Valio plant waste.

Poo-power!

Roughly one third of the energy in the grass cows eat is made into manure. It’s possible to use the manure to make biogas to replace fossil fuels. Manure also contains valuable nutrients that plants need: nitrogen and phosphorus. We have developed technology to recycle the dairy farms’ nutrients to, for instance, organic grain farms. We are currently planning to implement practical manure recycling.

Starlings and bumblebees spotted! Cows help to increase biodiversity

Food production is impossible without a high level of biodiversity. Having an abundance of species is good, as different plants tolerate cold, dry, and heat in different ways. Did you know that clover, a staple of cow diets, attracts pollinators, and that the manure on the pastures attracts insects, which feed local birds?

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There are two paths to cutting food’s carbon footprint, a fast one and a slow one. “We have chosen the longer path, as we believe that only by challenging ourselves and the entire milk chain can we make permanent, sustainable change and reach carbon neutrality for milk by 2035,” says Juha Nousiainen.

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Top climate and grass research teams together

This goal is only achievable through cooperation. Our CARBO partnership network is specifically focusing on studying carbon binding for grass. Participants include the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Natural Resources Institute Luke, the University of Eastern Finland, Yara, and Atria Tuottajat. We have also engaged various smaller companies and research groups.

Riihimäki dairy and snack plant shine in environmental matters

Yoghurt manufacturing at Riihimäki’s Herajoki began in 1968. The 50-year-old plant got a new companion in 2017 in the form of a new snack plant. The energy-efficient plant also manages its waste well: “For many years now, we have not sent any waste to the landfill. Production side flows that we can’t use end up, for example, as raw material for biofuel,” says shift supervisor Minna Ranta.

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The ABCs of carbon footprint calculation

Cows convert the energy in grass into milk. This is called rumination, and its price is methane, generated in the animal’s rumen. The second largest part of milk's carbon footprint is in feed production. “Carbon footprint calculations are required to verify and guide emission reductions. What’s more important than individual figures are the acts that can reduce climate impacts.” Researcher Aleksi Astaptsev’s job is to calculate milk’s carbon footprint.

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Tuuli Hakala’s job is to reduce milk’s carbon footprint

Tuuli Hakala has spent her whole life advocating for the wellbeing of animals, nature and people, and would prefer to figure out new things than to be always right.

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What is milk needed for?

“It’s great that so many people are thinking about their diet’s climate impact. Nutrition is something you should always consider when looking at the climate impacts. That makes it easier to compare different products to each other,” says nutrition specialist and researcher Tuula Tuure.

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Simply start recycling!

Plastic, and especially plastic packaging, is a concern for many – including Valio’s packaging development manager Juhana Pilkama. “Start with the simplest things to recycle, like cardboard or paper. Then expand to more types – soon you’ll notice that you’re recycling most of your waste.”

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Wood pellets for kettles and more wind power for plants

“Our plants manufacture thousands of tonnes of different products every day. Most of the power is needed for cooling and cold storage. Milk pasteurising requires first heat, and then cold immediately after. The share of renewable fuels is already close to 60 percent,” says Energy Manager Peter Fabritius.

Recycled plastic cheese packaging and plant-based milk cartons – reducing the use of fossil plastic

We were among the first food companies to begin using recycled plastic. In addition to cheeses, we’ve also given Mifu products recycled plastic packaging.

Towards carbon-neutral dairy

  • Dairy farmers help to slow climate change: carbon farmers store carbon dioxide in soil. Watch this video and learn more with Valio’s carbon farmer Anu Ellä.

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