Living in Denmark: My Journey Towards Carbon Neutral Lives

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Ayas uses bicycle as her daily transportation in Copenhagen. Source: personal documentation

Ayas’s passion for environmental sustainability isn’t just implemented in her job or education, but also in her daily life. Currently, she is living in Copenhagen, Denmark. One thing that she highlights about living in Copenhagen is the system that supports the carbon footprint reduction movement.

In this article, Ayas shares some takeaways—based on her experience—to reduce the carbon footprint that we could adopt in our daily life, so we can contribute to making Earth become a more sustainable planet. She also shares some resources, if you want to deepen your knowledge regarding sustainability, such as joining a short course held by PIJAR Foundation named Global Future Fellows 2022.

My journey towards sustainability

Growing up in a family with a strong forestry background, I have always been passionate about the environment. I was part of a small team that developed a Biogas installation in Yogyakarta during my university’s community service program. I was responsible for almost two years for Accenture Indonesia’s Environmental Club’s Green Message.

Despite my bachelor’s background in Industrial Engineering, I took a master’s degree in Global Production Engineering, specialising in Solar Technology. I like the learning process and am passionate about the subject. Since then, I have devoted my career to the energy and development sectors. I worked as a policy advisor in an energy consulting company in Berlin. I spent years as an advisor in GIZ, advising several ministries in Indonesia on the topic of energy.

Being a solar-technology engineer, I always try to be mindful of my carbon footprint. My everyday actions require energy and produce carbon emissions. I realise that offsetting my carbon footprint is not an easy task. When I live in Indonesia, I live in Bogor. Commuting via train from Bogor to Jakarta every workday does not seem to counterbalance my activities.

I moved to Copenhagen last year when my husband’s company sent him here to study data science. After I moved to Copenhagen, my carbon footprint significantly decreased. I use many secondhand stuffs, which is easy to access and the mainstream here. There are an online marketplace and Facebook group where you can buy and sell your used stuff. Local government also set up dedicated places where people leave their used stuff, and others can take it for free. I got most of my furniture for free, including my dining table, sofas, and work desk. My children got their Disney princess bed, heart-shaped make-up desk vanity, and children’s kitchen set for 0 kroner.

There is also Denmark’s flag logo on food packaging sold in supermarkets so you can know that your food is produced nationally. There are also a lot of farmers’ markets to visit if you want to shop for local products. To combat food waste, some retailers even set outside storage where they put their almost expiry foods, incl. vegetables and fruits, where people can take them for free.

Choosing local products marked with Denmark flag. Source: personal documentation

And of course, to add to that, I try to be mindful of my fashion choices; I am sure that the electricity and heating I use come from green-powered power plants, and I use a bicycle and take public transportation for my trips.

The Danish Cycling Culture

The first thing I noticed when I moved to Copenhagen was its morning rush. Unlike the usual cars and motorcycles, Denmark’s morning rush is always filled with a crowd of under-caffeinated commuters, in their nordic-chic outfit, rushing to work on their bicycles. Parents are riding cargo bikes to drop their children off at school.

Copenhagen, the world’s capital of bicycles, has its cycling embassy. According to its website, nine out of ten Danes own bikes—Copenhageners cycle a total of approximately four million kilometres daily.

Streets filled with bicycle riders. A common view in Copenhagen, Denmark. Source: personal documentation

Copenhagen aims to be the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025, whereas on a national level, Denmark pledged to cut emissions by 70% in 2030. Based on the 2022 Climate Change Performance Index, Denmark ranks with the highest climate protection achievement.

Living in Denmark means you need to befriend bicycles. Danes bike through rain, sleet, and snow even in the long, dark Danish Winter. The number seems to increase in the rare summer weather. Bicycles are more than a mode of transport in Denmark; it reflects the history, culture, and even the country’s national plan.

I was not good at cycling before; it took me quite some time to get the balance and confidence. But now I choose to cycle wherever I need to go in the range of 5km (Copenhagen is small, so I can assure you when I say places within 5km, the list is quite long).

In front of Recycling Station in Brønshøj municipality. Source: personal documentation

What contributes to Denmark’s green transformation?

Denmark is so successful in their energy transition. Why? One reason I found from my experience and research is that every part of society participates in this environmental movement. When the Government announced its energy target, it did not only revise its policies. It also invested in infrastructures to ensure communities and individuals can partake in the green transition.

In 2019, the Government signed a climate partnership with 13 Danish Global corporations to work together to achieve green growth. The climate partnerships cover a broad range of businesses from land transport, IT and consultancy to life science and biotech.

To promote bicycles as one of the primary transport modes, contemporary urban planners developed safe, simple and connected cycling infrastructure all over the country. The Government installed energy-efficient heating networks. Nearly two-thirds of Danish homes rely on district heating networks to optimise efficiency. Most of that heat is capture-heat from the excess of low-carbon electricity generation.

One of the sceneries in Denmark. Source: personal documentation

The takeaways

Throughout my energy career and personal life experience, I realise that reaching a sustainable future is something we need to do together as a country, a community, and an individual. Indonesia has pledged an ambitious energy target, and whether or not Indonesia can achieve this target depends on every one of us.

The Denmark Government’s approach to its green transformation is not novel for Indonesia. The principle of “Gotong Royong” has taught us that we can achieve mutual benefits and execute complex tasks together.

Of course, practising sustainability in Indonesia’s weather and situation is more challenging. Taking a car and turning on AC seems inevitable. However, it is not impossible. By no means am I an environmental expert, but throughout the years, I collected some simple, often forgotten ways that Sahabat Indonesia Mengglobal could do to contribute to a greener Indonesia:

  • Order your lunch/coffee/office snack together with your colleagues. Better yet, order something nearby that is delivered by foot;
  • Try to dine in or choose restaurants that use reusable packaging for takeaway;
  • If you’re cooking, try to shop for local products. Growing your vegetables can also be an option;
  • Always bring reusable bags with you, and if possible, food and drink containers;
  • Print as little as necessary;
  • Avoid taking cars and or motorcycles. Try to carpool whenever possible;
  • Conserve water and electricity;
  • Reduce and recycle your waste;

If energy is your passion, like me, there are also several master’s programs where you can deepen your energy knowledge and open your doors to energy-related careers. I listed several options:
Europe

U.S

Australia

Asia

Another option you can choose is to join a short-term program where you can upskill your energy knowledge. Pijar Foundation is currently opening the application of Global Future Fellows 2022, a fully funded fellowship program that targets 24 mid-career Indonesian Leaders from the public, private, and community sectors with a strong record in energy to discuss and tackle energy transition issues. In this program, you can interact and learn from the best experts in energy transition sector through keynote speech sessions, masterclasses, networking events, group work and site visits. You can check more about the program on their social media: Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube

The world population keep increasing, and it can only accommodate more people if each one of us makes sound choices about how we live. We can and have the resources to reduce Indonesia’s carbon emissions, but it is not up to the government or experts alone. It is our collective responsibility to realise a greener future now. Let’s start from us, Sahabat Indonesia Mengglobal.

Editor: Rizkiya Ayu Maulida

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