As these first three weeks come to a close, I’m thankful to say that Session 1 has been filled with lots of fun, new friends, beautiful sights, and countless lessons.
In and out of class, I’ve gotten to experience what makes “Sustainable Denmark” so sustainable. “Sustainability” is a word I hear at least 10 times a day in my field of study, but nothing has helped me to understand it quite as much as living it out here in Copenhagen.
A huge part of sustainability is livability. It’s not enough for a project, city, lifestyle, or product to be “good for the planet.” If it’s not intuitive, comfortable, or beneficial, it won’t persist; it isn’t truly “sustainable.”
In these three short weeks, I’ve noticed countless little ways Copenhagen makes its eco-friendly developments livable. Here are three of them:
- Biking is truly the most efficient form of transportation in Copenhagen.
Around 60% of Copenhagen commuters travel by bike each day, and it’s not because they would feel guilty for emitting greenhouse gases into the air by driving a car. It’s because biking is truly the fastest, most enjoyable way to get where they’re going. I can attest to this! Biking to class each morning makes me happy, gives me some exercise, and is actually faster than driving or taking public transportation.
Almost everywhere in Copenhagen, the bike lanes are slightly higher than the car lanes and slightly lower than the sidewalk. There are small ramps anywhere you might need to cross the street or sidewalk on a bike.
If you don’t want to sweat on your way to the office, you can easily take your bike with you on the metro and just ride it home. The steps to each metro station have a bike ramp and a bike-friendly elevator.
Even in the winter, people bundle up and bike. If it snows, the bike lanes are cleared off first. If you get a flat tire (or two, like me), you can find a bike shop around every corner. Each of these small, but intentional details make sustainable living by biking a little bit safer and easier – racking up major points for Copenhagen’s livability score.
- Enjoying nature is part of everyday city life.
From anywhere in Copenhagen, you’re undoubtedly within walking distance of a green space or outdoor recreation area. These are heavily trafficked and enjoyed by all Copenhageners. Even the cemeteries are beautiful, green spaces where people go to picnic. The harbor water is clean enough for swimming, thanks to a major undertaking initiated by the City about 20 years ago. Copenhagen is one of the only places in the world that can boast about its swimmable harbor.
In Copenhagen, development doesn’t mean sacrificing our connection to nature. Whether it’s a green park, an ivy-covered brick wall, a sun-bathing deck built over the water, or a rooftop playground, there are plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the Scandinavian sunshine. It’s no wonder Copenhageners want to protect their beautiful environment!
- Recycling is easy. (And it pays!)
Danes are educated from a very early age about what can and can’t be recycled. In our flat, we have a place for every type of recyclable, and if you ask one of my Danish flatmates, they know exactly where everything belongs.
Once it becomes part of your routine and with the right tools, like the clearly marked containers we have in our apartment, it’s easy! Besides that, we can recover some real cash by collecting and returning our empty cans and bottles.
It’s incredible to think about how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time, and I’m excited to be sticking around in Copenhagen! Starting next week, I’ll be learning about those windmills I’ve seen off the coast in my Session 2 course: Renewable Energy Systems.