Rukan Salonki talvella, kuva Harri Tarvainen

Sustainability efforts surprised the veterans at Rukan Salonki and Rukan Kuksa

Rukan Salonki and Rukan Kuksa's sustainability veterans surprised: "It's nice to look at the bill when you see those numbers!"

Tourism in Ruka-Kuusamo is founded upon the region’s magnificent natural attractions. Hence, the promotion of responsible tourism is especially important for local tourism businesses. Through the Sustainable Travel Finland program by Visit Finland, companies can incorporate sustainable practices and responsible choices into their daily operations.

At Rukan Salonki and Rukan Kuksa, sustainability was a core value even before it became mainstream. The Visit Finland's Sustainable Travel Finland program encouraged the company to especially develop their waste management and the monitoring of energy and water consumption.

When Rukan Salonki's cabins began to be built nearly 30 years ago, the Määttä family owners didn't even consider alternatives: the lodgings would be built from deadwood, using local labor.

Marjo and Vesa Määttä, entrepreneurs of the lodging and restaurant business at Rukan Salonki and Rukan Kuksa, have continued on the same path. Over the years, they have purchased a lot of wood from Kuusamo. Both are raised by entrepreneurial families, and Vesa is also a farm boy. They are accustomed to the principle that nothing is thrown away; everything possible is utilized, repaired, and recycled.

– Paying taxes and statutory fees, using local produce and labor has always been a matter of honor for us. Initially, we didn't realize that all these actions represent responsibility, Marjo Määttä explains.

In the early 2000s, Rukan Salonki joined the travel industry-specific quality improvement program Laatutonni Q1000 launched by Perho PRO. The Laatutonni diploma also gave the company credibility in international markets.

– It was a great thing. Although we were engaged in sustainability practices, we hadn't documented them. We still receive feedback about not detailing what we do daily, Määttä comments.

Thanks to environmentally responsible actions, Rukan Salonki was also awarded the international Green Key environmental certificate in 2022. A natural continuation was to join the Sustainable Travel Finland (STF) program developed by Visit Finland for travel companies and regions as one of the first.

Significant savings from water and energy monitoring

Restaurant Rukan Kuksa already operated under the Wild Food Kuusamo - the local food brand. Major investments for obtaining the STF label required the development of waste management as well as monitoring of water and energy consumption on the part of Rukan Salonki lodging services.

The company now has cardboard and plastic balers that compact waste into a small volume. Waste fees are reduced as compacted material qualifies for a rebate. Waste balers reduce material volume by up to 95 percent, which means fewer transport instances and a smaller carbon footprint.

- We always took organic waste in the restaurant and at home to the compost. Now, our entire cabin village has sorted waste bins, and even the guests have learned to recycle, Määttä rejoices.

Ihanaa mökkimajoitusta Rukan Salongissa ja varusteet Outdoorpassion Finland. Kuva Harri Tarvainen.

When water consumption began to be measured and documented, and water flows reduced with new faucets, Määttä could hardly believe the results. At most, customers used 22 liters per minute. It turned out they managed with only 8,5 liters or less!

– With over 300 faucets, it certainly shows in the wallet. The local energy and water cooperative Kuusamon Evo has done great work with its Consumption Web service.

Implementing a heating control system produced equally delightful results. Nowadays, cabin temperatures are adjusted remotely, and the system alerts if the temperature suddenly drops, for example, if a customer inadvertently leaves a window open. The temperature can also be adjusted based on electricity prices.

Sauna heating is limited to two hours at a time in some lodging places, and hot water storage tanks can also be managed remotely according to customer needs.

When appliances break, they are replaced with energy-saving alternatives. Although the initial purchase price is daunting, in the long run, they turn out to be significantly cheaper than cheaper options. The next change needed is to switch to more energy-efficient sauna heaters.

STF label encourages nature conservation

Määttä feels that the STF label is beneficial for marketing and sales, especially to international customers. Although saving money is an obvious bonus, Määttä believes that travel industry entrepreneurs must also contribute to combating climate change – for the sake of snowy winters.

– We must ensure that we have great winters in the future. If we spoil nature, we spoil winter. It's important for the entire region that everyone joins in the change.

In conclusion, Määttä reminds that achieving the STF label is not rocket science and not everything needs to be done at once. LED bulbs can be replaced as old ones burn out. Cleaning agents can be replaced with environmentally friendly ones, one jar at a time.

Although training and committing the entire staff to the change and documentation take time, it's all worth it.

– It's so nice to look at the bill when you also see those numbers! You don't need to do crazy things for the changes to be noticeable, Marjo Määttä smiles.

Read more:
Sustainability in Ruka-Kuusamo
Rukan Salonki
Rukan Kuksa

Published: 12.4.2024
Text: Pauliina Toivanen
Images: Rukan Salonki, Rukan Kuksa and Ruka-Kuusamo Tourist Association