With its energy-saving botanical roof gardens and eco-friendly regeneration schemes, Malmö boasts some of the world’s most eye-catching sustainability initiatives. And in its carbon-neutral Western Harbour, you’ll even get a glimpse of the future.

It’s not all about the Turning Torso. In the Western Harbour all the cool stuff is happening at street level. The once-derelict shipyard has been transformed into Europe’s first carbon-neutral neighbourhood, epitomising Malmö’s resurrection as one of Europe’s most innovative cities. Take the self-styled eco-district of Bo01. It was built in 2001 as part of Malmö’s plan to be climate-neutral by 2020 and run entirely on renewables by 2030. And its eco-credentials are everywhere, from green roofs to wind turbines to rainwater drainage channels. Also cool: in Bo01 household organic waste is collected and transformed into biogas that’s used to heat homes and run buses.

If the Western Harbour offers a glimpse of the future, Ribersborg Kallbadhus is the epitome of longevity. Built in 1898, Malmö’s oldest sea-bathing club has endured one fire, two major storms and several rounds of seemingly endless renovation. “The building requires ongoing maintenance,” notes the website. “But perhaps aging is also part of its charm.” On a hot day in Malmö few activities are more enjoyable than swimming in the strait that separates Sweden and Denmark. (The club has wood-fired saunas for those who find the Baltic bracing).

Feeling puckish? Return to the Western Harbour for lunch at Spill. The lunch-only spot was launched in May by Erik Andersson, the former head chef at Daniel Berlin, a Michelin-starred restaurant near Malmö. Spill means “waste” in Swedish — and Andersson only uses ingredients that restaurant suppliers cannot sell and that would otherwise go to waste. Inevitably, that forces him to think on his feet. “I set the menu every day or, if I’m lucky, two days before,” he says. Though Andersson has made several Swedish dishes — like cured salmon with dill-crusted potatoes — he hopes to offer Asian and Latin American food, too. Ultimately, though, his ambition is bigger. “I can’t change the world, but if I can do one thing that makes people think about food waste, that’s enough,” he says.

Next up is EcoCity Augustenborg. One of the world’s most sustainable neighbourhoods, it’s the result of efforts to revive the residential district of Augustenborg, which by the late 1990s had numerous social and environmental problems. EcoCity Augustenborg now boasts many sustainability initiatives, including a stormwater drainage system, renewable energy sources and the “laundry room of the future” — a communal laundry that uses organic cleaning materials and a sustainable water-use system.

It’s also home to the Augustenborg Botanical Garden — almost 10,000 square metres of botanical roof gardens on several municipal buildings. Helen Johansson of the Scandinavian Green Roof Association, which regularly gives guided tours of the roofs, lists their benefits: “We need them for saving energy, for biodiversity, for absorbing rainwater, for converting carbon dioxide and for cooling the environment.”

On another rooftop in Augustenborg you’ll find Erika Jacobs Lord, an American interior architect. She lives at the Greenhouse, a 14-storey apartment block. To do so, she had to sign a “pledge” to live sustainably — which includes growing fruit and vegetables on the Greenhouse’s 200 square metre rooftop terrace. (True to the building’s name, the terrace also boasts a domed greenhouse for growing exotic plants and crops such as peaches, hops and sunflowers.)

Of course, sustainability thrives on community — and the Greenhouse is no exception. Residents often gather for potluck suppers, using homegrown ingredients. “We all moved into this interesting and sustainable building, so we have that common interest and work together,” Jacobs Lord says. “I love the community feeling. For the first time in 20 years I know my neighbours.”

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