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Wanderlusting No. 1: The Welcome Mat in Copenhagen
Chris Turner, 17 Aug 09

Wanderlusting on the Sustainability Trail
Postcard No. 1: The Welcome Mat in Copenhagen

1390848313_d6215b18bd.jpgIt struck me as I was boarding my Copenhagen-bound flight at Heathrow’s swanky new Terminal 5 that I was sincerely looking forward to visiting the city’s airport again. Not just Copenhagen in general – Copenhagen airport. I can’t think of another airport on the planet I’d say that about, including fancy-schmancy Terminal 5 with its Gordon Ramsay-branded restaurant and Prada boutique, and it says a lot about how thoroughly Denmark as a nation has committed to sustainable living that even its airport makes me green with envy and keen to see more. Not for nothing Kastrup – this is its formal name – routinely tops best-in-the-world polls, and it’s got nothing to do with the goods and services on offer or the elegant design of the building itself.

Not that Kastrup’s a slouch in the design department. This is style-obsessed Denmark, after all, so it’s a fine-looking building – the international-arrivals concourse leading up to Customs, for example, is floored in dark, elegant hardwood. No, the real key to the genius of Kastrup (and of Denmark) shows itself first, along that same concourse, in the complimentary strollers lined up on either side next to the ranks of half-sized carry-on-baggage carts. I’ve seen the carry-on carts elsewhere, but complimentary strollers? The message is as straightforwardly brilliant and conscientious as the city itself: You and your kids have had a long journey. In fact, your four-year-old is probably fifty pounds of nitroglycerin waiting to be nudged too hard. Here, have a smooth ride to Passport Control. It’s the least we can do.

Even better – and the main reason I was eager to return to Kastrup – is the airport transfer. Here’s what you do: You get your bags, walk out into the arrivals hall, and head for the well-marked bank of automated and staffed ticket kiosks. Buy a ticket for the Metro or for the S-Bahn line run by DSB, the national railway. Both, in either case, stop in the terminal. You should probably use the DSB kiosk – fewer stops and more room for luggage – but if, like me, you’re jetlagged and your four-year-old’s thrumming like she’s mainlined directly to the wind farm out there in the Øresund and you mess up and buy a Metro ticket, don’t fret. The ticket’s good for the S-Bahn. It’s all been taken care of.

So just push your cart onto the adjacent automatic ramp (or use the nearby elevator), and it’ll whir you smoothly down to the train platform. In less than ten minutes, your train will arrive. Fourteen minutes after that, you’ll be disembarking at the central train station in the middle of the city – within a few blocks of nearly any hotel worth staying in.

This is sustainable living. Not only is the low-emissions, smart-grown, sustainable option readily available, it’s far and away the best choice. You’d be a sucker to pay for a rental and try to drive it all the way in here.

I love Kastrup airport. Love it.

Chris Turner is the author of The Geography of Hope, a Canadian bestseller and multiple award nominee detailing his 2005-06 travels in search of the state of the art in sustainable living. He has recently embarked upon a new global research tour for a forthcoming book on the structure of the sustainable twenty-first century economy. He is posting “postcard” blogs from his travels here on This is the first posting in the series.

Photo credit: flickr/sigkyrre, Creative Commons license.

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Kastrup is the best! I used to arrive there with international and low-cost flights, it's always a bliss. Nice interior and exterior, everything easy and uncomplicated. And yes, the metro works fantastic, also to Malmö (Sweden), it takes only 25min.

Posted by: Maria on 17 Aug 09

Unfortunately, all the lovely design is more than trumped by the fact that the entire airport seems to smell like cigarette smoke, due to the frequent only-semi-enclosed smoking lounges. Sigh. Europe is so far ahead in so many common sense ideas, but the idea of not smoking in public indoor places is still mostly lost there.

Posted by: Jon Stahl on 18 Aug 09

Funny to read an Americans astonishment how a different world could be set up.

I think you have never been to Switzerland, do you?
The same system all over the country!

I live in Massachusetts since one year and I think America, you have to go a long long way in every aspect - from health care to cities to travelling to ...!

In fact I think it will take a long time to transform yourself - not to mention if you will suceed ever.

:-) Happy travelling!

Posted by: Diego on 20 Aug 09

Isn't "sustainable airport" kind of an oxymoron? Touting the great low-emissions options for getting to and from the airport seems to me to be, um, perhaps missing the point a bit. Considering the IPCC's estimated 2-4x warming effect of aircraft emissions compared to emissions at ground level, you could commute to work all year in a Hummer and still not match the global warming impacts of a couple of transatlantic round-trip flights.

I recognize the value of having a few people jet around the world to report back to the rest of us on the great sustainable stuff happening out there, so that large #s of people don't have to make the emissions-spewing trip ourselves to find out about it. But it would be nice to see on Worldchanging a greater emphasis placed on balancing the sustainability trip reports with the fossil fuel invested in bringing those reports to us. Here's a half-tongue-in-cheek suggestion: how about all articles resulting from travel include a statement of CO2 equivalent emissions involved in bringing that article to us?

Posted by: Craig Hepworth on 25 Aug 09

Jon Stahl, the smoking booths have been gone from Kastrup for many months now, at least in baggage reclaim.

Kastrup is also my favourite airport. Berlin Tegel has to be a close second, as the horseshoe shape makes arrival and departure very straightforward, but it falls flat on the design front. With all those hardwood floors, space and natural light, Kastrup makes you feel as if you're walking through someone's giant summerhouse!

Posted by: Daen de Leon on 9 Sep 09

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