Copenhagen is one of the most sustainable cities in the world, with the ambitious target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025. Copenhageners live more sustainably than your average European city dweller, and for those who choose to go deeper, there is almost no end to the green opportunities out there.
Two days into my first visit to Copenhagen, I vowed to move here and one year later I did! For me, the cycling, the water, and the progressive society made this city the place I wanted to call home. Here are a few tips for living sustainably while in Copenhagen:
Get on your bike
Arriving to class or work by bike is the best! You feel fresh and energized and ready to take on the day. Every morning, come rain or shine (or snow!), I hop on my bike. On my way to DIS, I see everyone out on their bikes, from pensioners with dogs in their baskets to children making their way to school.
Cycling helps keep the city’s air clean and Copenhagen even has the second-best air quality among 23 major European cities. The city has invested big time in cycling, and this means excellent cycle paths, a green wave traffic light system, and cycle bridges designed by world-renowned architects.
Commute in a green way
An extensive and extremely well-run network of trains, metro lines, buses (all of which will be electric by 2030) keep Copenhagen connected. Public transport is a wonderful place to take time to gaze out at the city from a new perspective and do a little people watching. There is also the option to mix it up – you can bring your bike with you on all public transport – handy for longer distances or times when you just don’t have the energy to cycle home.
Probably the most charming way to get around on public transport are the electric harbor boats. You can bring your bike on with you and enjoy a 45-minute boat trip for the price of a bus ticket! Hopping on one of these yellow harbor boats is a great way to get to the street food paradise of Reffen.
Enjoy the water
By far my favorite thing about living in Copenhagen is the water. The water in the harbor is clean due to a huge clean-up in the 90s. You can help to keep it this way while enjoying a free kayak trip with Green Kayak – you paddle around the city while collecting trash in return for the free use of the kayak. Be sure to book in advance as they are popular!
Copenhagen was voted world best city for swimming by CNN in 2019 and it is obvious why: There are harbor pools, beaches, designated bathing zones, open water swimming clubs, winter bathing clubs. As we move forward toward more sustainable societies, we transition away from private ownership and toward luxurious shared public spaces. Copenhagen’s Øbro-Hallen is a beautiful example of this – a marble columned temple of a swimming pool available for all to enjoy.
Be inspired! Visit a wind farm and a waste-to-energy plant (transformed ski slope!)
One of the best things about traveling is realizing that the world is full of different ways of doing things. Challenge your assumptions and be inspired during your time abroad. Are wind farms ugly or are they beautiful moving sculptures? Can a trash plant be a destination? Decide for yourself…
Windmills have become the emblem of sustainability in Denmark and they produce around half of our energy annually. I remember the first time I stood close to a windmill – it was awesome! Standing underneath, the blade feels like it is falling on you and then at the last moment it whooshes away and up into the air. You can get up close to wind turbines by cycling to the west of the city to Avedøre Holme Wind Farm. Follow the green cycle paths for a pleasant and mostly off-road journey.
Amager Bakke or Copenhill is Copenhagen’s newest landmark. It’s a waste-to-energy plant that converts trash into energy and heat for the district heating system. On top of that (literally!), it is a park and a ski slope with climbing walls, a bar, and a café. It is part of a new wave of thinking about urban spaces – where public access and well-being go hand in hand with sustainability. Hike up or down, but be sure to take the glass elevator to get a glimpse of the inner workings of this spectacular building.
Relax in nature
You are never far from a green space in Copenhagen with parks, nature reserves, beaches, community gardens and forests all within 20-minute cycle from the center. There are literally hundreds of spots, but I recommend to go for a stroll on Sydhavnstippen to visit the alpacas who roam free there or for a weekend cycle ride to find The Forgotten Giants. Amager Fælled nature park also has a lot to offer and you can even camp there in a wooden shelter.
Considering incorporating sustainability into your academics at DIS?
- Learn more about our Core Courses in the Sustainability program at DIS Copenhagen
- Check out our Integrated Climate Change Planning Exploration Elective, with a travel component to Bordeaux, France
- Simran, Northeastern University, studied sustainability at DIS during Summer 2021. Read her reflections here.
Amanda works in the Housing Team at DIS Copenhagen. She lives in Valby, in a small collective with friends and many plants! Amanda is interested in how we can live better and more sustainably together and enjoys working and volunteering in projects to that end. She also loves all things water-related and can be spotted on the weekends paddling her bright yellow canoe in the harbor.