Denmark’s green credentials obscure some unpleasant facts

Though lauded for adopting wind power, its high recycling rate and its progressive policies, Denmark generates the most waste per capita in the EU and most of its energy still comes from coal.

By Henry Chu
The Los Angeles Times
December 6, 2009

Reporting from Copenhagen – Something is rotting in the state of Denmark. Lots of things, actually, and it’s a bit of an embarrassment for this Scandinavian nation as it prepares to host a widely anticipated global environmental summit this week.

Denmark is proud of its image as one of the greenest countries in the world; it’s probably why it was chosen as the site of the 15th United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

But beneath the gloss lurk some inconvenient truths, including the fact that, pound for pound, Denmark produces more trash per capita than any other country in the 27-member European Union.

The Danes tossed out 1,762 pounds of garbage per person in 2007, the latest year for which EU-wide statistics are available. That’s more than the Dutch (1,386 pounds), the Brits (1,258) and the French (1,190); a lot more than the Greeks (986); and double the Lithuanians (880).

It even surpasses the Americans (1,690 pounds), who are often held up as the boogeyman of heedless, needless consumption. By the numbers, Denmark is one of the most wasteful — in both senses of the term — societies in the world…

…Despite warnings from environmentalists that such consumption isn’t sustainable in the long term, personal spending remains a popular pastime.

So is eating plenty of meat.

Meat consumption has been linked to climate change because of widespread deforestation to create pastureland or to grow feed crops and because of the gases, such as methane, released into the atmosphere by belching, flatulent livestock. In an analysis of worldwide meat-eating trends spanning 40 years, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that Denmark topped the carnivore list.

In 2002, the last year of the study, the average Dane consumed a whopping 321 pounds of meat — nearly a pound a day. For Americans, the figure was 275 pounds.

Lidegaard says that Denmark’s reputation as a world leader in other “green” sectors may have blinded Danes to issues closer to home, even in their own kitchens.

“We have been so happy and self-satisfied about our energy system that we have completely forgotten that before we begin to use energy, before we begin to consume, we could do a lot of things to cut down our footprint on nature,” he said…

The article continues here.

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