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Finland's first couple gear up for eco-conscious Independence Day ball

The theme of next month's Independence Day ball at Helsinki's Presidential Palace will be climate change and environmental issues.

Sauli Niinistö ja Jenni Haukio tanssimassa
File photo of President Sauli Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio dancing at the Independence Day ball in 2015. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

The theme of this year's Independence Day reception will be climate change and the environment, according to the Office of the President of the Republic.

Finland's most exclusive social occasion is just one month away, and the Office of the President has started sending invitations to some 1,700 guests for an evening that traditionally features fine food, special punch, glamorous gowns and the most crowded dance floor in Helsinki.

This year's environmentally-conscious theme will be seen in the party's catering and decorations but also in Haukio's gown which will use a cloth sourced from birch tree pulp fibre, according to the president's office.

President Sauli Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio will host the party, and the couple reportedly took environmental conservation and climate change concerns into consideration when planning the event, including the menu, decorations and the guest list.

As it is every 6 December, Helsinki's Presidential Palace will be filled with guests, many of whom have worked towards improving the environment and made efforts to reduce climate change.

"The environment and nature are inseparable parts of Finland and Finns. As a result of climate change, Finland will likely look very different in the future. Responsibility rests on us," Niinistö said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Last year the Independence Day ball marked Finland's 100 years of independence.

The gown of wood

This year Haukio will be wearing an evening dress made using a wood-fibre fabric conceived by a group of experts and students at Aalto and Helsinki universities in southern Finland.

This unique cloth is created using birch-based ioncell fibre from Finland’s forests, according to the university.

Story continues after photo.

Ioncell-kuitua ennen kehräämistä.
The researchers said that wood-fibre based material is an "ecological alternative to environmentally demanding cotton, oil-based polyester or viscose, which is produced using toxic chemicals." Image: Mikko Raskinen / Aalto-yliopisto

Haukio's dress fabric will be made out of cellulose sourced from Stora Enso's cellulose plant in Finland's eastern municipality of Joensuu.

The academics said that the material is an "ecological alternative to environmentally demanding cotton, oil-based polyester or viscose, which is produced using toxic chemicals."

Aalto University's Professor of Practice Pirjo Kääriäinen said the cloth is environmentally friendly, too.

"Fabric made from Ioncell is soft to touch. It has a lovely sheen, falls beautifully and takes colour well. Ioncell is a fascinating material, and can be used also for the formalwear. Most importantly, it’s an environmentally sustainable option, Kääriäinen said.

Ioncell fabrics can be recycled multiple times to create new fibres, according to the researchers.

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