Aki Soudunsaari

Aki Soudunsaari is the co-founder & strategy director of Naava, a company based in Finland that creates air filtering indoor green walls. The company won the the Contract Best of NeoCon Silver Award in 2019, the Fennia Prize in 2017, and was an Honoree for the Interior Design Best of the Year in 2017.

After working as a teacher of physical education and health sciences, Aki worked on his PhD in the Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics and was a visiting scholar in Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship at San Jose State University. He ran Global Venture Labs' growth venturing programs for a few years, where multidisciplinary students solved companies problems and learned entrepreneurial thinking and processes.

Aki was nominated for EY's Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017, PWC’s Most Valuable Entrepreneur in 2015, Young Academic Entrepreneur in 2014 and was invited by the President of Finland to join the Finland's 100-year ceremonies in 2017.

3 words to describe Nature?

Life. Flow. Responsibility

3 things Nature taught you?

Respect for others and the environment

Healthy humility

The impact our surroundings have on us, biological creatures

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Korouoma. 30 minutes away from my childhood home in Posio, Lapland, Finland, is a natural-born canyon which in the winter times, ices into one of the biggest iced waterfalls, perfect for ice-climbing and enjoying the fresh spring ray of lights. (NOTE: eg https://beyondarctic.com/adventure-collection/korouoma-ice-climbing-adventure)

Hietaranta beach in Helsinki. This beautiful small beach at the seashore is where I beach volleyball multiple times per week in the short Finnish summer - sports, friends, fresh air, nature, sea, and sand.

Lauttasaari. We live in a beautiful small island right outside the Helsinki city center in the archipelago. Surrounded by the Baltic Sea, beautiful parks and forests, this kind of a small village is a perfect place to combine the city living with the calm of nature. 

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel...?

Calm like a rock that the ocean caresses with every wave. 

When you see a forest, it makes you feel...?

Mindful - it makes my senses sharpen up. I’m safe and where I belong.

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel...?

Small. Imaging the force of time that has shaped the Earth brings my own life to a perspective, making my troubles seem less significant. 

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel...?

Aware of that particular moment and my breathing. 

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel...?

Powerful, one with the thunder.

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel...?

It gives air presence, which is normally a bit difficult. Air is always invisible.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

Forest for sure, so human-friendly and species-specific environment. By the way, have you ever thought that while nature surrounds us, we lock it out? We lock it out with us spending 22-23 hours indoors in the built environment. We are the indoor generation, and I know our biology and bodies have not yet evolved enough for us to be healthy and happy constantly being alienated from nature.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

10. Nature is powerful, it surrounds us, astounds us, cleanses us, makes me who I am - the reason why we exist. We are not separate from nature, we are a part of it. Nature is everything. 

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

I grew up in the Arctic Circle, Lapland, Finland, just next to where Santa Claus lives. It is a very rural area, the density is about one person per square kilometer. I spent all my childhood outdoors, in the middle of untouched forests and crystal clear lakes, under the Northern Lights, breathing the cleanest air in the world. I had a privilege that I didn’t appreciate it at the time. It was a luxury I didn’t understand before traveling all around the globe in megacities, not being able to choose the air I breathe or jump out to nature whenever I felt like it. I appreciate and cherish the human-friendly childhood environment more and more every day.


Mary Poffenroth

Whether through making original content for TEDed and Wiley & Sons, writing for Science & Forbes, or speaking to live audiences at TEDx & SXSW, Mary Poffenroth’s goals are the same: Make Science Accessible for All. A Salzburg Global Fellow and first generation college student, she holds two masters degrees, one in biology and the other in science communication from Imperial College London. She is the author of Write Present Create: Science Communication for Undergraduates and has taught nearly 20,000 students both in person and online since 2007. Her work has been featured in legacy media outlets such as Time magazine and National Geographic as well as garnering views in the millions with YouTube’s Mahalo. Mary began her research career in astrophysiology at NASA Ames Research Center Moffet Field in 1999 and now focuses her research on the intersection of fear science, communication, and personal/social change as STEM faculty for San Jose State University. Listen to a recent interview with Allie Ward about Fear here Part 1 & Part 2

3 words to describe Nature?

Cleansing. Terrifying. Balancing

3 things Nature taught you?

To be self reliant

To duck under a bush when being shot at

To not pee on your pants while being a lady peeing in the woods

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Muir woods

Big Sur

Any beach on the planet 

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel...?

Like I’m Home

When you see a forest, it makes you feel...?

Like adventure is afoot

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel...?

Exhilarated

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel...?

Sunrise = refreshed

Sunset = most likely a bit tipsy if I have taken the time to watch, I am most likely with friends drinking wine on a beach

 When you hear thunder, it makes you feel...?

Ooohh when is the lightning gonna come

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel...?

Ready to jump into (faux) furry blankets with my puppy and a good audio book

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

Ocean first, Mountain and forest are the same for me as an equal second, desert is a stark last place

 On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

10… obvi

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

I was the outcast for loving nature in my family. My mother abhorred it unless it was tamed by a planter box. But i would find ways, big and small, to sneak into and onto the wild in an attempt to connect to something I did not have words for at the time.