Hedonistic sustainability: guilt-free living

Scandinavia. A region that all the sustainability enthusiasts look up to. The Danish capital city  Copenhagen and the Swedish city Malmö have together received a Special Mention award at the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize in Singapore “for their close collaboration at government and business levels, and shared vision of a holistic set of economic, environmental and socially sustainable goals”. Copenhagen wants to become the first carbon-neutral city by 2025. One of Malmö’s neighbourhoods, Västra Hamnen, is already carbon-neutral, as the first neighbourhood in Europe.

The City of Tomorrow

The ‘Western Harbour’, the English translation of Västra Hamnen, used to be a shipyard before the regeneration project was initiated in 2001. Now known as ‘the City of Tomorrow‘, the neighbourhood houses 4,000 people. As Katja Wessling, one of the residents, mentions, her way of living is a form of hedonistic sustainability: “you can just live a good life and you don’t really have to think about it”.

Gift to the city

Less than 40 kilometers away from Malmö is Copenhagen. In this city, 97 percent of the houses are connected to district heating; the buildings are heated by excess heat of power plants. Denmark only landfills four percent of its waste, 42 percent gets recycled and 54 percent is used for the creation of heat and electricity.

The CEO of Copenhagen’s newest waste to energy plant wanted the plant to be part of the city’s environment, as a “gift to the city”. She opened a competition, which architect Bjarke Ingels won with his idea to turn the outside of the plant into a ski slope.

Source: forbes.com

He designed walls with greenery, turning the building itself into an ecosystem. In addition, the waste to energy plant forms an ecosystem with the rest of the city as trash is interchanged with heat and electricity. Ingels also wants to teach the residents of Copenhagen about emissions, so the carbon-dioxide gets emitted in smoke rings and to know about the quantity of one tonne of CO2, people just have to count ten rings.

Hedonistic sustainability

In his TEDx talk, Bjarke Ingels, like Katja Wessling, speaks about the concept of hedonistic sustainability. It challenges “the misconception that one must give up a portion of their comfortable lifestyle” in order to live sustainably. Ingels defines hedonistic sustainability as “sustainability that improves the quality of life and human enjoyment”. He claims we shouldn’t focus on behavioural change. Instead, “it’s about designing our society in a smarter way”.

Copenhagen and Malmö thus teach us that we should focus on a smart design of the city while emphasising the good life, but then guilt-free. Ski slope, anyone?




3 thoughts on “Hedonistic sustainability: guilt-free living”

  1. I think the skibslope on an energy factory is an interesting combination. The blog raises an important point, why can’t we change our society in smarter ways where we live in a more sustainable way without losing a sense of comfort.


  2. Nice blog! When you walk by a factory in general and you see the smoke coming out of the chimney, you have no idea what the outflow is. Counting the smoke rings is a very interesting way of confronting people with emissions.

    The ideas in general seem realy inspiring, but might be harder to accomplish in relatively crowded citys such as in the Netherlands? Another thing is that the old city centres have a lot of buildings which are cultural heritage. Renewing a city centre might not be very easy?
    On the other hand making a closed and working ecosystem of your city can be worth the change!


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