Dominic Richards, director at Zentive Agency, gives the lowdown on a recent trip to Copenhagen, the world’s most sustainable capital city…
It’s often said that in Copenhagen they don’t talk about sustainability, they just do it. It’s so deeply ingrained into their culture and way of life, that it is mostly second nature to them.
The facts more than speak for themselves – ranking 3rd in the Global Destination Sustainability Index, over 70% of the hotels are eco-certified, a lot of the city’s energy is generated from its surrounding wind farms, and it has one of the most ambitious net zero goals worldwide.
As a destination with such strong sustainability values, we at Zentive were keen to check it out. And as it so happens, we were lucky enough to be invited to the Danish capital by Copenhagen Convention Bureau, Idea Nordic and Destinations UNLIMITED to experience the gastronomy, festive spirit, and hygge it offers.
Upon arrival, we took a quick train ride straight to the city centre before a short walk to our first stop and Green Key Certified home for the next couple of nights: the Marriott Copenhagen.
Being one of the world’s most bikeable cities, it made perfect sense for the group to grab a bike and cycle to our next stop, the 25hours hotel. An unapologetically creative hotel with real character, its meeting rooms are named Style, Opinion, Doubt and ‘F** Everything’, which is often my thought process when deciding what to wear in the morning.
The hotel, of course, has many sustainable initiatives in place. Some of our favourites include planting a tree if guests skip housekeeping and providing donations to ‘Viva con Agua’, an organisation that supports third world countries in building wells and educating locals.
Next up, we walked to an out-of-this-world event venue, the Planetarium, to experience starry skies, galaxies, and planets up close. The star of the show, the recently refurbished Dome theatre complete with impressive 8K audio system and projectors, can host up to 282 attendees and is the perfect place to put on immersive meetings, large conferences, corporate parties, or product launches.
After being torn away from the interactive galaxy displays, we were treated to a seven-course sustainable dinner with views of Copenhagen lakes in the Gemini fine dining restaurant. The menus are designed to change with the season, so you always have the best locally sourced ingredients, with 90% of produce coming from Danish farmers. After an evening of indulgence, we rolled our way back to the hotel before having a nightcap and dreamed about all the food we had eaten and the carbon we had saved.
The next morning, we were up early for a spot of winter bathing in the harbour. A tradition sworn by Copenhageners to invigorate the mind, body, and soul, as well as helping to alleviate any hangovers. Casual as it may be for them, it involved a couple of near cardiac arrests for our group of Brits, but most of us can now safely say we did it. I must admit it did feel quite good afterwards, especially when we were safe and sound in a sauna and away from the freezing waters of Kalvebod Bølge.
After warming up, we took a quick walk to Villa Copenhagen, a luxury hotel that focuses on conscious hospitality as much as it does wellness. Able to accommodate 1,200 people, its main meeting space, Square, and the adjoining eight studios, provide a sense of history and importance when hosting everything from big events, conferences, or intimate meetings. Fun fact: Villa Copenhagen has partnered with sustainable furniture designer Mater and have up-cycled 2.2 tons of ocean waste plastic and turned it into 800 conference chairs.
We then joined BeerWalks on a craft beer walking tour through the city. Our guide Christoffer was so heart-warmingly friendly and the beer so refreshingly tasty, we were soon in high spirits. And before we had a chance to feel hungry again, we were escorted to CPH Cooking Class to learn how to create a Danish Pastry called a Kanelsnurrer (Cinnamon Swirl). Delicious.
One of the many benefits of Copenhagen is that it is very walkable and bikeable. Private transport is rarely needed to move delegates around the city, whether it be between activities during an incentive trip, or from venue to venue throughout a conference or meeting.
Lunch was served at Cap Horn, a traditional Danish restaurant where we were served an organic Christmas lunch of the highest quality. This was finished off with a selection of snaps accompanied by the Danes’ snaps song (if you know, you know). It gave us the perfect boost to move on to our next destination – Moltkes Mansion. The venue offers historical and visually stunning halls which are a perfect surrounding for hosting medium to large-scale events. It is currently in the process of attaining Green Key certification which it hopes to receive in March 2023.
Our afternoon ended at ‘Hjælp din Næste’, a heart-warming organisation who help homeless people during the festive season to experience a warm and friendly Christmas, particularly on Christmas Eve. This can be offered as a CSR activity to groups during the festive period. This is another element that reflects Zentive’s values as we always try to encourage CSR activities during incentive travel programmes.
In the evening, we took a 10-minute walk to the world-famous Tivoli Gardens where we discovered the luxury Nimb Hotel. We were impressed and delighted to hear that by October 2023, all consumed electricity in Tivoli, including Nimb, will be from renewable solar energy. After a tour of the hotel, we experienced a traditional Danish Christmas dinner and drinks with all the suppliers from our trip.
This was a great way to have more informal conversations about the properties and venues they represented. The evening culminated in an extended game of pakkeleg, a Danish game involving dice and present stealing, which escalated into a near riot turning the evening even more Christmassy, if that was even possible.
There were no signs of slowing down on our third and final day. We still had a lot to see, starting with the new Scandic Spectrum Hotel, which recently opened in June 2022. As with all other Scandic Hotels in Denmark, Scandic Spectrum have the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, and The Organic Bronze Cuisine Label, which means 30-60 % of all the F&B it uses is organic. This is taken up a notch on the 6th floor, where its fine dining restaurant, ‘Ansvar’, serves predominantly plant-based food and has The Organic Silver Cuisine Label, which means 60-90 % of the F&B used is organic. We then walked to Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket, a stunning museum which offers a great space for gala dinners and welcome receptions.
Hotel Manon Les Suites, part of Guldsmeden Hotels was up next. Described by our guides as one of the most ‘Instagrammable’ hotels in the world, it was easy to see why. It was as if we left the snowy streets of Copenhagen behind us and were transported to the tropical rainforests of Bali. One of the top sustainable hotel brands, Guldsmeden Hotels has been far ahead of the competition, incorporating sustainability since its beginning in 1999. As long as 12 years ago, they had close to 100% organic F&B, green energy, climate-friendly recycled stationary, bio-degradable cleaning products, sustainable bathroom amenities and more. Now they have a whole host of certifications including Green Globe, The Organic Gold Cuisine Label, Green Key, GoGreen Denmark and more.
It was only inevitable that all this hotel viewing had built up an appetite, so luckily, we made our way over to Torvehallerne, a high-end food market, to taste local produce, straight from the market to table. This is a perfect place to take an incentive group to try delicious cheeses, chutneys and apple wine accompanied with an informative guide who can coherently explain the Danes’ love for food.
And while we’re on the topic of food, we then made our way to our final stop for a delectable farewell lunch at the award winning Almanak Restaurant, situated within the Opera House and boasting stunning views of Copenhagen.
We knew Copenhagen was going to be a fantastic sustainable destination, but what we discovered was the vast range of activities, hotels, venues, restaurants, transport that were all created with sustainability in mind. We discovered the fun and charm of the local people. We discovered the food made from love. We discovered a home away from home.
Copenhagen isn’t just a sustainable event city – it’s the sustainable event capital. Of all the venues, hotels, and restaurants we visited, nearly all of them had a sustainability policy in place with a detailed list of sustainable initiatives.