It sounds out of this world, but a survey has shown that three in five residents of Copenhagen take into account how close they are to nature when they choose their place to live. World’s best bicycle city, smart and liveable city – this is how Copenhagen brands itself, and it works, says Dr Oleg Koefoed, who co-founded the Growing Pathways agency together with Kajsa Paludan to promote reconnection with nature in the city.

Speaking at the Valletta 2018 conference, Living cities, Liveable Spaces, Koefoed, who calls himself an action philosopher, suggested that we drop the trendy word ‘sustainability’ and talk about nature instead. Nature makes humans healthier, increases property value, and drives investment. A team of committed activists in Copenhagen managed to attract financial sector companies to fund “Nature in the city” activities, which create opportunities for urban farming and convince land owners and developers to let grass grow on their property.

According to Oleg Koefoed, every bit of greenery improves cities

A local enterprise, the name of which translates as “Urban harvesting”, has created one of the innovative projects helping people reconnect with nature… through technology. “They developed an app for locals. This is how they started – they made maps with an app, so that people can go and put a point, for example, ‘I found a mint leave here.’ They turned into an event company,” the Danish innovator tells Eve. Meals in the middle of a forest have become a popular team-building activity.

The tourism sector is also discovering wild food – and brings it all into people’s mobile phones. An app in Copenhagen allows sharing tips on what can be used for food in a specific place. “[Its creators] also made a festival this summer, and one of the main forces behind it is Noma – the [two-Michelin-star] restaurant,” the urban activist and researcher tells how business follow where people’s curiosity leads. The festival attracted many international guests: “Noma’s followers on Instagram see it and say, ‘oh, wow, Noma’s organising a festival, let’s go and see!'” he explains how a seemingly idealistic idea of revitalising nature in the city can turn into a business opportunity.

Edible or not? Let’s check the app!

In Denmark, the law allows people to collect edible plants in public spaces. “The measure used is very, very old – it dates back to when men wore hats. So, you’re allowed to pick a hat-full of food, not more. Of course, it doesn’t say how often you’re allowed to pick a hat-full,” the former counsellor to the European Commission, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the City of Copenhagen and other institutions told Eve about the legal framework for foraging.

His recipe for Malta? Having worked with the Valletta 2018 foundation since 2015, Koefoed suggests reaching out to invisible business fields, boosting food tourism, and rediscovering traditional knowledge. “I see a great potential for ecotourism, much bigger than there is today in Malta,” he added.

Did these examples inspire you to rush to Lija or Buskett? Is ecotourism an opportunity for Malta?

Let us know in the comments section below!