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Copenhagen turning green

Copenhagen turning green

| Text: Gwladys Fouché, Photo: Merete Bendiksen/

Copenhagen is aiming to turn into a green capital for business ahead of the UN climate change conference it will host in December.

More than half of all hotel rooms in the Danish capital are now considered “green”, while convention centres are adapting climate-friendly policies to attract clients looking to organise green-minded meetings.

Since September, 5,306 hotel rooms in Copenhagen municipality – or 51 percent of all rooms in hotels with more than 40 beds - follow one of two international eco labels, according to figures from Statistics Denmark.  Most subscribe to the Danish-created Green Key, followed by the Nordic standard the Swan.

“It’s mainly business hotels and bigger chains like Hilton and Marriott,” says Mikal Holt Jensen, programme manager in Denmark for the Green Key. The label is certified by Horesta, a Danish trade body for the hospitality industry.

The change has happened relatively fast. In June 2008 only 980 hotel rooms in Copenhagen municipality – or 9 percent - followed an eco label.

Environmental policies are also being applied in places welcoming business meetings. The Bella Centre, the largest convention centre in the Nordic countries, has invested €1.7m in energy saving measures, including installing LED lights, insulation and more efficient heating systems, which have led to a 20% decrease in CO2 emission on 2007 levels. It serves only organic free trade coffee and will prepare meals with organic products on demand. It no longer offers bottled water, preferring filtered tap water instead which, it says, saves 100,000 plastic bottles per year from being thrown away.

“We will do whatever we can, within our financial constraints, to show our customers that we take the environment seriously,” says Lene Mortensen, head of congress and events at the Bella Centre.

One reason for the increase is the UN climate conference on 7-18 December. The Danish foreign ministry has asked of the conference’s organisers that the thousands of delegates expected should be booked, whenever possible, in hotels subscribing to an ecolabel – preferably the Green Key. They have also asked the Bella Centre, which will host the summit, that at least 65% of the food served should be organic.

Another reason is that last March city leaders announced they would aim Copenhagen to be the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. "We know that there is a cost, but we are ready to pay it because this is an investment in the future,” the deputy mayor in charge of environmental issues, Klaus Bondam, explained at the time.

The move is also an efficient way to differentiate the city from other European capitals and market it as a green venue for business conferences. “Everyone needs something to stand out and we had a green profile without knowing it,” explains Ulrika Mårtensson, press officer at Copenhagen’s tourist board. “We have a strong cycling culture, looking after nature is important to us and we are surrounded by water - To be green was something easy to turn to.”

Note: the hotel room figures quoted below are for Copenhagen municipality, not the Copenhagen region, and excludes Frederiksbeg, which is a different municipality.

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