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Business, Science

How Copenhagen became the greenest city in the world (and you can, too)

From McKinsey’s “How to make a city great”



Building for the environment

The city of Copenhagen has invested substantially in green infrastructure and is now ranked the most sustainable city in Europe, according to Siemens’ European Green City Index.

Energy. Each district has a centralized heating system that takes waste heat from electricity generation and uses it to heat buildings.

Transportation. The city has a world-class infrastructure for non-automobile transportation, including an extensive and expanding subway system, bus networks, and a suburban rail system. As a result, all residents live within about a quarter mile (400 metres) of public transportation. Copenhagen is also known for its bicycling culture and the infrastructure that supports it. There are 241 miles (388 kilometers) of cycling routes within the city, and 50 percent of commuting trips are by bicycle. A traffic system, called Green Wave, is being designed to ensure that cyclists will never encounter a red light on their commute to and from work. In addition, the city aims to facilitate the rollout of electric vehicles by installing charging infrastructure.

Water. In 2001, Copenhagen embarked on a scheme to replace its entire water main network
over the course of the century, upgrading 1 percent of the network, or 5.6 miles (nine kilometers), each year. Water leakage is now 5 percent, compared with an average of 20 to 25 percent for most European cities. The city has also modernized the sewage system by building rainwater reservoirs, which store wastewater during storms until there is capacity in the sewage system, and systems to clean the water and minimize nutrient salts and heavy metals.

Waste. As well as regulations, incentives, and information campaigns to encourage waste diversion, the city has developed a pilot plant that separates household waste into organic and inorganic materials and produces biogas and bioethanol. These are used as an energy supply for the city’s district heating.

Neighborhoods. Copenhagen is piloting carbon-neutral neighborhoods with energy-efficient residential and commercial buildings, sustainable energy networks including renewable-energy installations, and low-emission transportation systems. 



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