by Rory Hallowell ‘20, Milton Academy
When Americans think of environmentalism, they think of organic food labels, Teslas, and energy efficient light bulbs. When Danes think of environmentalism, a very different picture appears. Environmentalism is not an add-on; instead, it is deeply imbedded in the soul of Danish life.
Welcome to Denmark, the happiest country in the world, a place where ordinary citizens swim in the capital harbour, a place where 9 out of 10 people own a bike, and a place where the water is so clean, it doesn't need to be treated before consumption. Denmark is so eco-efficient, some of its residents boast negative carbon emissions.
Denmark is full of windmills — it's impossible to miss them. By 2022, the Danes will have made a windmill farm that will produce enough electricity to power 600,000 households. (1) On February 22, 2017, Denmark produced enough wind energy to power 10 million EU homes for a day. (2) Danes don’t only use windmills, they make them too. Vesters, the world's largest maker of wind turbines, is located in….you guessed it, Denmark.
In Denmark, man’s best friend does not refer to a dog, but a bike instead. Danes love their bikes. Danish children learn to ride bikes about a year after they learn to walk. Danes bike so much that they have biking highways. In Copenhagen, there are more bikes than cars. (3)
Organic farming has also been practiced in Denmark for a long time. “Danish consumers are the most pro-organic consumers in the world” according to Organic Denmark. (4) In fact, almost 8 percent of food sold in Denmark is organic, which is the highest percentage in Europe. Irma, a Danish chain of grocery stores, has a higher percentage of organic products than Whole Foods. Denmark wants to go completely organic as soon as possible, and the government is working hard to do so. The only country in the world that bests Denmark in terms of organic food is Bhutan. According to Eco Pledge, “Five years ago, Bhutan pledged to go 100 percent organic by 2020. To be fair though, Bhutan's population (754,000) is dwarfed by Denmark's (5.6 million). Still, Bhutan has some impressive claims. For example, it's not only carbon neutral, it’s also a carbon sink—making it one of the few countries in the world to have negative carbon emissions.” (5)
Being a Danish citizen, I can attest to the highly eco friendly habits of the Danes. I have swum numerous time in the clean canals of Copenhagen harbour. That’s like swimming where the Charles river and Boston harbour meet, but the water is clean. The connection between an environmentally aware community and that community’s happiness is clear. Eco-friendly countries are happier, cleaner, and more successful. The Danes wake up every morning to an eco-friendly breakfast, bike to work or school, bike home, and take the rest of their day off, enjoying nature, spending time with family, or going out for drinks. Even the beer is eco-friendly. The Danish brewery Norrebro Bryghus fertilized their malted barley field with human urine from the wild Roskilde Music festival. (6) The leading beer maker, Carlsberg, now makes snap packs which use glue to package containers, instead of plastic which will reduce plastic waste by 1200 tons annually. (7)
From windmills to biking, Denmark is incredibly environmentally active and a leader in sustainable living. We should all aim to follow their lead.