The Danish capital is on track to a sustainable future writes Linda Thompson.
Bicycles. They're everywhere in Copenhagen. And we're not talking sleek, multi-geared speed machines ridden by lycra-clad wanna-be Tour de France road warriors in pixie boots.
These are solid upright retro clunkers, no gears, sturdy-framed with baskets on the front — or even wheelbarrow-like carts for the kids — ridden by blokes in suits and women in heels on their way to work, the shops or school. They dominate the roads here and dictate the pace of transport.
They enjoy wide, safe lanes to themselves next to motor traffic (a trap for unwary wanderers crossing the road).
You can rent a bike anywhere, or those confounded electric scooters, and there's about two bikes for every citizen so there's no shortage. They gather on every corner, neatly stacked and ready for use. Your hotel is likely to have its own supply.
Even the Crown Prince gets to work on two wheels.
It's all part of Copenhagen's enviable attitude to reducing its carbon footprint on Scandinavia and the world, by getting its citizens and visitors to co-operate in saving the planet.
And the results are impressive. Recycling to the max, a public transport system that takes you just about anywhere easily (if a tad expensive — about NZ$8 to get the 7km from the airport to opposite my central hotel). The old dear chatting to me on the bus thinks by "New Zealand" I actually mean Zealand, the island on which most of Copenhagen sits. No wonder she continues to rattle on in Danish while I smile and nod.
On the horizon, wind turbines dominate the skyline, lazily whirring. Then there's the astounding Ammager Bakke incinerator plant, known as Copenhill. Designed by architect Bjarke Ingels, this innovative idea combines a plant that runs on fossil-free biomass — burning the city's rubbish — and at the same time provides a recreational space for the city, complete with an artificial ski slope running down its triangle-shaped roof.
The aim of the city is to be zero carbon by 2025, and this newly opened plant claims to be the cleanest-burning building of its kind. It's where trucks deliver waste from throughout the city to be converted into electricity for heating.
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Three kilos of garbage can be turned into three hours of electricity, or six hours of heating for Copenhagen's highly efficient district heating system. But the biggest problem so far is not enough garbage. They are now importing waste from other places to boost the output.
And outside there's that green rubber slope to ski on all year round, climbing walls, a running track - and a cafe to open soon. There's a grassed area on the roof for people to picnic on and enjoy a view over the city.
The neighbouring power plant is being converted to run on biomass, using waste wood pellets that would otherwise rot and emit methane. No trees will be chopped down to feed it. All it puts out is the occasional puff of odourless steam.
But that's not all. See the city at its best from the water — and you can hire a kayak for free if you pick up trash in the water as you go. Or use one of the many electric Go Boats and take a picnic out on the water. No overcrowding and you'll be able to see beautiful Nyhavn's colourful buildings without a crush of tourists.
Then there's Tivoli Gardens, the historic amusement park in the central city.
This beautiful spot, opened in 1843, is a relaxing combination of lush gardens and restaurants, and all the fun of the fair with some stomach-churning rides.
It too has worked to improve its sustainability, starting with a new lamp powered by sustainable energy. You can even buy a little version of the Tivoli Little Sun lamp to take home. They use low energy light bulbs everywhere and buy wind power from a new wind farm outside the city.
There's little plastic to be seen here. If you use one of their strong reusable cups for the drinks you'll need to sustain your energy (along with giant candyfloss, ice cream and some rather delicious pancakes), you pay an extra five krona, about NZ$1.15. But just pop the cup into a machine and it will give you the five krona back. Then it's washed and reused, saving about a million disposable cups a year - or 10 tonnes of waste.
The gardens recycle 99 per cent of their waste and the only part that isn't is porcelain, which is reused anyway.
The Danes are heavily taxed — most pay 30 to 45 per cent — although they say they get what they pay for. For most that means about half their salary disappears in taxes. When they pay a power bill, only 25 per cent pays for the power and the rest is taxes.
But wages are high — the average dishwasher earns the equivalent of €20, about NZ$35 an hour. So getting around, staying and eating here is not cheap for Kiwi travellers.
There are also eye-watering tolls to use roads and bridges. Crossing the magnificent bridge stacked on 254 metre-high pylons from Zealand to Funen island costs €34, about NZ$59. The idea is to get petrol-powered cars, with their polluting ways, off the roads. There are incentives for residents to buy electric vehicles — no tolls, no parking fees, no registration fees.
It fits nicely with the Danish concept of hygge, pronounced "hue-guh". It means enjoying a cosy environment, slowing down, enjoying little moments.
And it makes Copenhagen one of the most laid-back cities in the world. That's what the old dear on the bus was telling me.