Sustainable Malmö

Malmö has changed from a grey industrial city with deserted streets and squares to an exciting city of the future, where anything can happen – and does. Let sustainability guide Catarina Rolfsdotter-Jansson take you on a tour of one of the world’s greenest cities, a city with several prestigious prizes for its work on sustainable development:

Let’s start with a little history. In the late 1980s, Malmö was a typical industrial city. But when Kockums shipyard closed and thousands of workers were laid off in 1986, the people running the city realised that an era had ended and it was time for a new one. Work to establish a university soon gained momentum, IT companies were attracted to set up here, and not least, it was decided that the bridge across to Denmark could actually be built, following years of discussion.

Now Malmö is internationally acclaimed for its work on sustainable development. The areas of focus have been, and remain, energy, construction, consumption and transport, and this work continues with vigour and focus. A visitor to Malmö can form their own impression of the results by visiting various interesting examples of what has been achieved. As the city has 500 km of cycle tracks and is almost completely flat, it can easily be explored by bike. If it’s windy, there’s good enough reason for additional culinary excesses.

We can start our tour at Western Harbour, as the area is symbolic of what has happened in Malmö. When construction took place for a housing exhibition in 2001, it was a partially abandoned industrial area, sited on landfill. The area is now globally unique, with 100% locally-produced renewable energy, pneumatic refuse collection systems to minimise heavy traffic in the area, low energy consumption in homes, green roofs and other green initiatives to keep the level of biodiversity high, despite the dense urban landscape.Vårträd

When you cycle alongside the waterfront and approach Western Harbour, a magnificent urban silhouette, with a tall architectural profile, meets the sea and eye. Here, local residents dive from wooden decking straight into the clean waters of the Öresund, some even all year round. An open stormwater system contributes to the beauty and life among winding streets. There are virtually no cars here, and you can push your bike on certain stretches.

Western Harbour is home to the impressive Turning Torso, Europe’s second-tallest dwelling, at 190 metres and 54 floors, incorporating a high degree of sustainability. Nearby is Green Matmarknad, a food shop with a strong environmental and health focus with an associated restaurant. From the Torso, we wander past new residential areas, where experience from Western Harbour has been taken further; “From pilot to mainstream”. We pass Stapelbäddsparken, part of the old shipyard. Here, the City of Malmö has constructed one of the world’s leading skateboarding ramps. Social sustainability is a strong focus in a city like Malmö, where over 50% of children under five have at least one foreign-born parent. In Stapelbäddsparken children and young people from different cultures meet and skate together. A simple booth next door houses a café that, naturally, serves Fairtrade coffee.  Malmö was named Sweden’s first Fairtrade City on 17 May 2006 and since then the range of ethically-produced coffee in the city’s cafés and restaurants has increased significantly.

The cycle path leads us to the heart of Malmö University, the green building Orkanen at the entrance to the harbour in Malmö, which houses the Institute of Education, the largest department at the university. Malmö University has a strong focus on sustainable development. Right opposite lies Helix – a centre for organisations and companies working on sustainable development and Malmö Cleantech Business Centre, showcasing the city’s cleantech companies.

We carry on over a bridge and enter the city itself, where a canal encircles the old city centre. Here you can easily shop and lunch sustainably. With several clothing stores that sell organic/fairtrade clothing, food shops with an environmental focus, a number of cafés and a high-quality eco-pub, the city has become a focal point for consumers who think about how they consume.

We stop at the organic café at Slottsträdgården, a delightful oasis in the heart of the city, perfect for lunch or coffee. Next door is Malmö Museer, with its extensive and exciting exhibitions, many with a focus on sustainability, such as Globalen’s exhibition in Kommendanthuset and Framtidens Fordon (Vehicles of the Future) at Tekniska museet.

Photo: Oskar Falck

Photo: Oskar Falck

From the city, we cycle past Möllevångstorget, an area characterised by the 175 nationalities living in Malmö. Around Möllevången, there are many restaurants, which are now beginning to sort their food waste. Work is under way to eventually have all food waste in Malmö collected and digested into biogas. A large proportion of the city’s buses already run on biogas produced from collected food waste.

A few kilometres from Möllevångstorget lies the district of Augustenborg, surrounded by greenery. Here, Augustenborgs Botaniska Takträdgård (Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden) with 9500 m2 of green roofs has contributed to the district attracting thousands of international visitors since its “sustainability boost” started in 1999. The area was built around the 1950s, and, through ongoing dialogue with residents, it has been transformed into an eco district with beautiful, open stormwater systems. The work of developing, among other things, sustainable laundry areas and locally-grown food is continuing.

Malmö has set tough goals: To become Sweden’s most climate-smart city. By 2020, the City of Malmö’s own organisation will be climate neutral and by 2030, all of Malmö’s electricity supply will be from renewable energy. The aim is for as large a proportion of this energy as possible to be locally produced. By 2020, the use of resources in Malmö will be characterised by sustainability and long-term thinking. It will be easy to choose sustainable goods, services, travel and waste management for businesses, Malmö residents and the City of Malmö’s organisation. This will be an exciting process to follow.

By Catarina Rolfsdotter-Jansson, freelance journalist, author and lecturer, focusing on sustainable development. Catarina loves to cycle around Malmö – especially in a tailwind.


Milestones in the transformation of Malmö

The opening of Malmö University in 1998

The opening of the Öresund Bridge in 2000

The opening of the Bo01 housing exhibition at Western Harbour in 2001Awards

Selected for “State of the World 2007” – Bo01 (Western Harbour)

First prize in “Liveable Communities award 2007”

UN Scroll of Honour 2009, for the City of Malmö’s innovative, holistic approach to becoming a 21st century eco-city

Urban Best Practice Area, Expo 2010 Shanghai

UN-HABITAT 2010, World Habitat Awards for work towards making Augustenborg a more ecologically, economically and socially sustainable residential area.

Earth Hour Capital 2011 – WWF’s prize for the most environmentally-friendly city

CityStar 2012 – the EU’s prize for sustainable development in socially vulnerable areas

Best Cycling City of the Year 2012 – prize shared with Lund

Fairtrade City of the Year in Sweden 2012

Interesting stops on the way

Salt & brygga – an establishment permeated by ecological thinking, from the interiors to the menu.

Barista Fair Trade Coffee – the first ethical coffee shop chain in Scandinavia.

Uma Bazaar – concept shop offering sustainable design for all the family.

Norrgavel – interior design shop with lots of natural materials, in-house design and Nordic Swan-labelled furniture.

Slottsträdgårdens café – Organic and KRAV-certified garden with a cosy café in central Malmö.

Malmö Museer – Solar installations at Teknikens & Sjöfartens hus and the exhibition at Globalen in Kommendanthuset.

Astrid & aporna – A supermarket for health and environmentally-conscious consumers, with a wide selection for vegetarians.

Green Matmarknad and restaurant – a food paradise focusing on natural food next to Turning Torso.

Hi on life – concept shop offering sustainable clothing and shoes for him and her.

Augustenborgs Botaniska Takträdgård – the world’s first botanical roof garden with 9500 m² of green roofs.

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