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Green lessons from Copenhagen

UEA student Emily Mason reports on a summer research trip to Copenhagen...


The view of Copenhagen from the Church of Our Saviour tower (SustainableUEA blog)

I recently travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark, to take part in the Gron Dyst (Green Challenge) conference hosted by UEA’s partner university, Technical University of Denmark.

Denmark is known as one of the happiest countries in the world, and it’s clear to see how when walking the cobbled streets of Copenhagen. The Danes have a strong passion for keeping themselves and their environment healthy and there are several lessons I brought back when I stepped off the plane in rainy England.

1. Cycling

Bikes in Copenhagen (SustainableUEA blog)

Here at UEA we already have great cycling facilities, but in Copenhagen it is impossible to walk anywhere without dodging a cyclist! I quickly learnt that on main roads, cyclists often have a separate road parallel to the main road (usually with trees as a partition), after blissfully walking along what I thought was a pavement and narrowly missing a bike hurtling towards me! This is certainly something that could be implemented in the UK, as it gives cyclists reduced risk of car collisions.

Astoundingly, thanks to the excellent cycling facilities only 29% of the households in Copenhagen own a car and it is thought that there are more bikes than there are people!

2. Food

Danhostel Copenhagen breakfast (SustainableUEA blog)

When I headed downstairs for breakfast at Danhostel Copenhagen City I was treated to quite a surprise. My hostel was one of the first hostels in Denmark and Europe to launch an initiative to serve sustainable foods – i.e. food made from insects.

Some of the treats on offer included baked wax moth larvae, super muffins with apples, apricots and lesser mealworms and chapulines (grasshoppers). It has been reported that insects should become a diet staple as an environmentally friendly alternative to meat, as meat requires a substantial amount of land and water compared to insects. If this is the future of the human diet, Denmark is certainly leading the way.

3. Innovation

Chicken of the Woods fungus - idea at Groen Dyst, Green Challenge, Copenhagen (SustainableUEA blog)

The final green message I took back with me, was that Denmark is a country that is always open to innovation and sustainable development.

I presented my idea of an app to track carbon footprint to several panels of judges and it was an incredible experience to be surrounded by hundreds of students from around the world all focused on ideas to promote sustainability. For example, I was amazed by one project from two students from Munich, Germany who had cultured a fungus named ‘Chicken in the Woods’, which had a very similar flavour and texture to chicken. The students hoped that this idea could be used as a sustainable meat alternative.


 

Overall I learnt a great deal from my adventures in Denmark, and would definitely recommend any student with a sustainable idea or project to check out the Green Challenge next year. I think we could all learn many lessons from our Danish friends and I truly hope that other major cities will ‘copenhagenise’ (yes that’s a real term!).

Emily Mason, UEA attendee at Goen Dyst conference, Copenhagen (SustainableUEA blog)

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About the author: Emily Mason

Emily studies Environmental Sciences at UEA. She completed a summer work experience placement with the Sustainability Team, looking at communications and engagement for sustainability. She has been an active member of the Green Impact programme at UEA.