Normally, The Copenhagen Post’s articles tend to fall into one of two broad categories: people (particularly cabinet members) telling us what we ought to do, or people (including cabinet members) getting in trouble for saying or doing things they shouldn’t have.
That’s why this week is a breath of fresh air of sorts that we are carrying two articles about ordinary people doing praiseworthy things. And while the first – a community garden in an area once frequented by drug dealers – is a portrait of a project just getting underway, its organisers can be inspired by the second, which shows that personal initiative and persistence can make a difference.
We don’t expect that everyone will go to the lengths Sandra Høj has – that level of persistence is exceptional in every sense of the word – but if her enthusiasm can influence people to think twice about what happens to their rubbish after it leaves their hands, we would we be living in a cleaner city. It would also conceivably be a richer one.
Over the course of a year, the cost of cleaning up Copenhagen adds up to 90 million kroner. According to the city, during the summer months, an extra 40 full-time employees are needed to clean up after visitors. And in 2008, it was calculated that the cost of cleaning up a single cigarette butt costs 2 kroner, while scraping off a wad of chewing gum costs 10 kroner. Take a look down next time you’re out on the pavement and start adding up how much money could be saved and instead spent on your programme of choice.
Add to that the impression visitors get when they come to a city ranked in a poll a few years back as one of the messiest in Europe, and the price of littering starts to become unbearable.
While Høj’s trash vigilantism is a testament to the power of personal persistence, the Nørrebroparken garden offers a model for how a community – whether geographical or social – can beat back blight.
Without intending it, those involved in Byhaven 2200 have forced drug dealers away from their homes. But now that the lesson has been learned, it could easily be applied in other places where residents are committed to reclaiming their territory.
Such measures would require the support of the community, but the rapid growth of Byhaven 2200’s membership underscores that people, given the opportunity, are willing to commit themselves to a project they can engage in with others.
Whether it’s converting litterbugs or keeping drug dealers on the run, both projects will cost the city money, but few would argue that, even during a recession, keeping the streets clean of litter and criminals is a bad investment.