Malmö: Sustainability Starts Here
July 23, 2020
Overlooking the Western Harbour and the famous Turning Torso
IMAGE: Werner Nystrand
What kind of city is Malmö?
A sustainable city. A happy city. A city that’s increasingly accessible, linked not just to Denmark by the famous Øresund Bridge, but to the rest of Europe, by efficient and sustainable public transportation.
But most of all a leading city, setting standards and sharing its expertise in sustainability and hosting large-scale, world-famous green events.
IMAGE: Werner Nystrand
Sitting in the Skåne province at the southernmost tip of Sweden, Malmö is a Swedish city with a mild climate and a reputation for happiness, often appearing in the top 10 happiest cities lists.
Malmö was founded in 1275 and today, you can still get a sense of the city’s history by wandering through its Old Town. But you can’t wander too far without discovering ultra-modern, forward-looking Malmö either, with its state-of-the-art engineering and architecture, and a young, buzzing, multicultural population filling streets lined with modern cafés, galleries and boutiques.
It’s this duality—rich culture and old-world charm alongside cutting edge facilities and technology—that helps to make Malmö inspiring to visit and the perfect place to host a meeting or event, while the city’s attitude to sustainability puts it firmly ahead of the pack as an ecotourism and green event location.
IMAGE: Thomas Arvidsson
A Head Start on Sustainability
“Sustainability starts here,” claims Malmö, and the city certainly got a head start. Sustainability has been core to the city’s strategies since 1995 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are now incorporated into Swedish national policy and Malmö’s own goals. They’re used to address the ecological, economic and social aspects of sustainability in an integrated manner within Agenda 2030 and the New Urban Agenda, two interconnected policies that directly affect urban governance and planning. This integration can be seen in Malmö’s projects like its Transport and Mobility Plan 2016, equally focused on reducing environmental impact and reducing segregation, and the Lindängen urban regeneration project, which tackled both societal and environmental concerns. After consultation with private landlords and Lindängen residents, new sustainable residential buildings were constructed and original buildings had a sustainability-friendly makeover. There’s now a meeting centre with a café, offering language courses and sustainable community initiatives, and a new family centre offering health, social and preschool care. A new school and faster bus lines are coming soon.
In Malmö, there’s an emphasis on seven SDGs in particular: No Poverty, Good Health and Well-Being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Reduced Inequalities, Sustainable Cities And Communities and Peace, Justice And Strong Public Institutions. Malmö has also responded proactively to SDG 14, Life Below Water, becoming a Local Ocean Action Hub in 2017.
Malmö was also the first of Sweden’s major cities to establish a commission looking at social segregation and public health inequalities in 2012, and Malmö Convention Bureau was the first Swedish tourism organisation to be granted an ISO 20121 certification (the voluntary international standard for sustainable event management) in 2017.
The city is currently ranked 7th in the Global Destination Sustainability (GDS) Index, and while it’s working hard to meet its 2030 goal of running entirely on renewable energy, it already has the third-largest wind park in the world, powering 60,000 homes.
IMAGE: Fredrik Johansson
Today, the City is seen as a leader in sustainable development, with other cities looking to Malmö for advice and examples of good practice. The City shares its expertise willingly, offering technical visits on sustainable development and Greentech visits through Green Cooperation Sweden/Denmark for delegations wishing to see green solutions in the Öresund Region.
Food waste is used for compost and biogas production, and that biogas is then used to fuel local buses. There are also several eco-districts in the city:
Sege Park in the north of Malmö will be a new residential area that’s also a testbed for sustainable solutions. New climate-smart builds will complement the existing buildings, which will be improved, creating accessible, attractive new business and residential premises. Solar panels will supply renewable energy through a smart electricity grid and the large green park will be preserved, offering locals the chance to grow their own food. Car and bicycle sharing resources will be available, as will local food waste recycling.
Hyllie is a new district between Malmö and Copenhagen, offers great communication links and a new rail link allowing residents to reach Malmö city centre in three minutes and Copenhagen airport in twelve. It will also link to Lund, home to the MAX IV research park and the planned ESS research facility. The area boasts the multi-purpose Malmö Arena with an adjoining hotel and one of Sweden’s largest shopping centres, Emporia. The climate contract signed in 2011 between the City, E.ON and the municipal authority VA SYD means that the district has integrated energy solutions for heating, cooling and power, using a smart grid system that can react to the weather, for example, by feeding energy into the storage systems when it’s sunny and using it later when it's needed. There are photovoltaic systems on top of green rooftops and smart kitchen appliances in the apartments. Organic waste is delivered to a digestion plant for the production of biogas.
Augustenborg Eco-City, one of Malmö’s most ambitious projects, was the winner of the 2010 World Habitat Award for innovative and sustainable housing solutions. It’s involved renovating much of the existing building stock for accessibility and energy-efficiency while constructing new sustainable buildings, all with green roofs. A good example is the school; designed to make use of natural lighting, it’s built from natural materials and has a ground source heat pump, wind power plant, solar thermal panels and composting toilets. The district is well on its way to its goal of a 90% recycling rate, and green roofs and open stormwater channels leading into ponds have stopped flooding in the area, creating a more biodiverse and attractive environment. New planting of perennials and trees and the installation of bat and bird boxes have renewed green spaces, and wetland areas have been established. There’s also a botanical garden—the biggest green roof in Sweden—and allotments for residents. Community organisations, residents and local NGOs played an integral part in the regeneration process.
The Northern Harbour of Malmö is also being developed sustainably. The City, CMP (who run the port) and other stakeholders work together to ensure sustainable operations and find smart solutions. Companies that establish themselves in the area must contribute to increased employment, strengthen the port's operations and increase the amount of freight shipped. Malmö received the ‘Sustainability Location of the Year’ award for its requirement that Northern Harbour buildings must be used for sea and rail freight operations.
IMAGE: Karina Szuter
Grass Roots Green Initiatives
Malmö’s Smarta Kartan or Smart Map provides a portal to all the city’s circular economy projects, such as the Bike Kitchen. Here, visitors can get the advice, tools and spare parts they need to renovate or repair their bike, while at the Repair Café, the same principles help those with broken electrical items or electronics. The Smart Map also reveals a leisure library loaning items such as rollerblades and football boots, locations for borrowing cargo bikes or renting electric boats, couch-surfing contacts, ticket-borrowing facilities, fruit-picking maps, plant and books swaps… the list is endless!
Malmö is home to many urban farms and green food initiatives too. One particularly successful project is Los Perros Urban Farming, an award-winning family-run market garden. Only hand tools and natural, organic fertilisers are used here and deliveries are made to Malmö restaurants by bicycle. The farm now has a shop and café, selling produce, homemade sauces and sandwiches made with the day’s harvest.
Botildenborg is a sustainable farm and meeting place in central Malmö, winner of Skåne's Gastronomy Award for Diversity. It’s home to Xenofilia, working for social sustainability with diversity, and the Botildenborg Foundation, which brings stakeholders together to ensure employment, integration and a good future for all young people.
IMAGE: Werner Nystrand
The Expert in Big Green Events
Malmö has a longstanding and excellent track record for hosting sustainable events, and its hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest is a prime example.
When Loreen won the 2012 contest for Sweden, Malmö fought off fierce competition from Stockholm to host the 2013 contest, thanks to its accessibility, excellent infrastructure, choice of activities, accommodation and restaurants, and the proximity of key locations, such as Copenhagen airport and Malmö Arena. Swedish Television were also impressed by the city’s optimistic vibe and felt the city was a place where “bridges are being built between nations and people.”
Malmö was determined to certify the event to a high international sustainable standard—ISO 21021—and to take the Eurovision motto ‘We are One’ to heart, making the contest an inclusive, eco-friendly event. Climate-smart and predominantly organic food was used in catering and vegetarian alternatives were offered. Only green electricity and standard-compliant suppliers were used. Hundreds of volunteers were trained in sustainability practices and assisted with a wide range of tasks. Special drinking-water refilling stations were installed and 5,000 free water bottles were given away to delegates, who were encouraged to use public transport.
Malmö also won the Greener Festival Award for its sustainability efforts for the annual Malmö Festival and set its sights high once again with a bid to host the 2021 ICLEI World Congress. To support its winning bid, the City referred to its internationally recognised award-winning work on sustainable development, its ground-breaking decision to politically implement the UN SDGs and its status as a key logistics and travel hub.
IMAGE: Fredrik Johansson
The Story of Your Sustainable Event in Malmö
So Malmö has the expertise—but what makes it the perfect location for your sustainable event? Take a virtual journey to discover what you and your delegates can experience.
Firstly, you need to get to Malmö—preferably sustainably!—and that’s easy. The city has strong Danish connections—literally and historically! While it’s now Sweden’s third-largest city, it was actually Denmark’s second-largest city until it became part of Sweden in 1658. Today, it’s connected to the Danish capital, Copenhagen, by a direct route passing over the 8 km-long Öresund Bridge (made famous by Nordic TV series The Bridge) and through the Drogden Tunnel).
Ferries run from Germany to Trelleborg, south of Malmö, or from Poland to Ystad or Copenhagen. There are direct trains from Germany and Denmark (Hamburg a mere 4.5 hours away and Copenhagen approximately 30 minutes), and national trains from other Swedish cities (Stockholm is 4.5 hours away and Gothenburg, 3 hours). You can also book a seat on a Flixbus from cities across Europe.
If you must fly, Malmö is just 24 minutes by train from Copenhagen airport and its frequent international flights. Malmö Airport is 45 minutes away by bus with excellent connections to the rest of Sweden and multiple locations throughout Europe.
Once you’re in Malmö, most places are within walking distance, but with heavy luggage you may need to use public transport. Not a problem. Malmö’s extensive Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system offers travel times comparable to urban rail and uses accessible hybrid (biogas-electric) buses. There’s also the underground railway tunnel City Tunnel connecting Malmö’s three main train stations: Malmö Central, Triangle and Hyllie.
IMAGE: Fredrik Johansson
Check in to your accommodation
92% of Malmö hotels have a sustainability commitment or are eco-certified, so here are just a few examples.
The Quality View Hotel is committed to sustainability and like all Nordic Choice hotels, it’s ISO 14001 certified, with ambitious green goals for 2021. This modern hotel also can also host your event, offering 27 meeting and conference rooms and capacity for up to 1,120 people.
The Scandic Kramer is a tastefully renovated building built in 1875 close to Malmö’s Old Town. It holds the Nordic Swan Ecolabel and has six meeting/conference rooms, the biggest of which has capacity for 40 people.
There’s also the Moment Hotel, right by Malmö Central Station, where interior design and furnishing are handled by IKEA. Rooms are kept simple and small (no minibars here!) and conference facilities aren’t offered—the focus is on “affordable, sustainable and surface-efficient” accommodation.
The sophisticated Elite Hotel Esplanade is a short walk from Malmö Central Station and around the corner from Lilla Torg. Like all Elite hotels, it holds the Green Key eco-label and constantly strives to reduce waste, water consumption and energy consumption. The hotel uses 100% green electricity and environmentally certified paper products, from note paper to toilet roll!
For something a little different, Ohboy Hotel offers apartment-style rooms with a kitchenette, lounge area, workspace and a free-to-use foldable bike.
However, if you’re holding a meeting or team-building exercise rather than a large event, choose the Circus Hotel for a really novel sustainable stay. It’s actually a collection of twelve individually-themed circus wagons, each one hand-built by the owner and equipped with two bikes, free to use during your stay. Hop on your bikes and you’re just 15 minutes from the city centre.
IMAGE: Werner Nystrand
Travel to your venue sustainably
Biking is big in Malmö, so now you’ve offloaded your luggage, why not try it? A short bike ride will get you almost anywhere in the city and a sensor system gives cyclists priority at many key intersections. Bikes can be hired from numerous places, or you can purchase a 24- or 72-hour subscription to Malmö By Bike, the city’s bike-share system. There are over 520 km of cycle paths to enjoy if you have time to explore, all protected and separated from the road. Underpasses are well-lit and spacious, and the Bike and Ride project has spawned large bicycle parks at the three main railway stations. Yet the City still has ambitious plans to promote cycling further and make it even easier, safer and quicker.
But where should you hold your event?
Your green venue
Green venues are easy to find too, as many of Malmö’s sustainable hotels also offer meeting and conference facilities. The Nordic Choice Clarion Hotel Malmö Live is a modern, centrally located skyscraper with a 1,500-seater convention hall, 22 state-of-the-art meeting rooms and a huge exhibition space, with the Nordic Choice guarantee of sustainability.
For something different, consider Botildenborg sustainable farm, which is also an event venue accommodating up to 50 people. Sitting in a beautiful park, it offers great facilities and delicious lunches, often served by the cooks participating in Botildenborg’s projects. Your delegates can also enjoy lectures and workshops here, whether it’s on growing microgreens or sustainable innovation, and team up to harvest and cook the ingredients for their own meal.
Other green venues include Malmö Arena, a multi-space menu which can accommodate over 10,000 people at sporting events or concerts and over 3,000 diners, and Malmömässan, Skåne’s largest conference venue, with its conference floor, congress centre, exhibition hall and KRAV sustainability-labelled restaurant.
IMAGE: Linnea Svensson
Explore friendly—and eco-friendly—Malmö
Whether you’re escaping for lunch, enjoying a night out or have a day or two to explore, Malmö has plenty to see, do and eat!
To soak up the city’s history, visit Malmöhus Castle with its medieval moat, aquarium, natural history museum and Nordic art exhibitions or wander the cobbled streets of the Old Town (Gamla Staden). Here, you’ll find Stortorget, Malmö’s oldest and largest square, lined with beautiful 16th-century buildings. Close by is Malmö’s oldest building, Saint Peter’s Church, and Lilla Torg (‘Little Square’), a cosier square filled with quaint cafés, bars and restaurants.
For more modern sights, check out the Form/Design Centre, an exhibition space for modern art, design and architecture, and the 190m high Turning Torso, the tallest building in Scandinavia and the world’s first twisted skyscraper. A trip over the Øresund Bridge by rail or bus isn’t to be missed either. Lovers of modern art should head to the Modern Art Museum or Malmö Konsthall, while opera lovers can get their fix at the Malmö Opera, which subtitles some performances in English.
IMAGE: Antonio Pavela
Outdoors, you can explore the canals by pedal boat, kayak, stand-up paddleboard—or for a more relaxed exploration, take a gondola trip or hire an electric picnic boat. Head for sandy Ribersborgsstranden beach to learn to windsurf or kitesurf! The city has plenty of green spaces too: Folkets Park, south of Old Town, has mini-golf, restaurants and cafés, and is also a concert venue. Malmö’s ‘Central Park’, Kungsparken, has a grotto and is just across the canal from Slottsträd-gården, which surrounds Malmöhus Castle. Enjoy the themed gardens and windmill, and look out for the organically-grown edible crops that are used by the café, which uses organic, locally produced, seasonal and climate-smart ingredients wherever possible.
Sustainable eating is at the heart of Malmö’s restaurant and café scene and the city is a trailblazer in vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Eco-friendly eateries offering good vegetarian and vegan options include:
Rude Food also offers catering services using surplus food, and distributes the rest to food-insecure groups in Malmö or pop-up cafés.
For a sustainable shopping spree, try Uma Bazaar for eco-friendly clothing, accessories, beauty and interiors, Norrgavel for sustainable design and furniture, Liebling for sustainable clothing and footwear, and Gram for sustainable and predominantly organic food, dispensed either into your own containers or reusable ones you can buy in the shop. You’ll also find a host of swap shops and second-hand stores, including Björkåfrihet, the shopfront or a non-profit organisation committed to international solidarity, social responsibility and sustainable development.
IMAGE: Maksym Topchii
Looking to the Future: Malmö as International Travel Hub
Over the next decade, plans to improve travel between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe will make Malmö even more accessible, and key to travel in Northern Europe and beyond.
The Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link is an 18-kilometre road and rail tunnel set to open in 2028 and link southern Denmark with northern Germany. It will cut travel times from Hamburg to just 3 hours (from 4.5 hours) and is expected to greatly increase travel over the Øresund Bridge, already set to grow as the region continues to develop rapidly.
The answer? The world’s first international metro: a 22-kilometre tunnel under the Øresund River allowing high-speed, driverless trains to make a 20-minute journey (nearly halving the current Malmö to Copenhagen travel time).
There are also plans for night trains to key European destinations, with the first proposed route being Malmö to Cologne, possibly in operation as early as 2023. Existing fast connections from Cologne would allow passengers to be at morning meetings in Amsterdam or lunchtime meetings in London.
These plans mean Malmö can only become more accessible and attractive as a green event venue in future—so next time you book an event, choose Malmö, before even more people discover this gem!
To find out what makes Malmö a sustainability frontrunner and to book your next green meeting or event please visit:
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