Let’s face it: England’s capital is a major city, and major cities aren’t usually the places we consider when we think about sustainable tourism. The hustle and bustle of London has given way to new options for travelers who want to make a difference, however, and with an incredible public transportation system, London is head-and-shoulders above many metropolises looking to be more environmentally-friendly.
Here are my recommendations for a sustainable holiday in London.
Where to stay
One of the difficult parts of visiting London is finding places that are affordable and close to the city center. While there are a number of hotels that claim to be “green” near the airport and farther out in the suburbs, most of the eco-friendly options in the middle of the city are often quite pricey. However, there are a few deals that make sense with a millennial budget if you book far enough in advance.
25 Courtfield Gardens, Earls Court
+44 20 7244 2255
Located in a quiet area near Kensington Gardens, you have access to all of the major areas of London while also knowing that you are staying a green building. The interior of the building has been recently redesigned, with sustainable materials which means a better stay for you and for the environment.
- Tea and coffee in room
- Free WiFi
- Good location
- Part of a responsible guest charter
St. John’s Square, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road
+44 20 7324 444
One of the special things about the Zetter is the fact that it was completely redesigned with sustainability in mind. While it might be a bit on the pricey side for millennials, there are many included extras that add charm and a green conscious to your trip. It is also located in the lively neighborhood of Clerkenwell, which has some delicious food options and offers easy access to the major sights. Plus, it won the Green Tourism for London Gold Award a few years back.
- Free bike rental
- Great restaurant in hotel
- Free WiFi
Where to eat
While London isn’t necessarily known for its cuisine, a number of sustainable restaurants have worked to change that perception. London is a cosmopolitan city with a number of influences, so it’s likely that you will find something that suits your palate and your desire to be green. Vegans and vegetarians are also likely to find a number of options that would work for their diets.
10 Orsman Road
+44 020 7033 0123
Nothing in London is cheap, but the Waterhouse is probably the closest thing you can get with a gorgeous view of the Thames and a seasonal menu, the attached cooking school does a great job of keeping the menu fresh. Even better, it has been developed as a charity to provide positive change to local communities, and your patronage helps support programs for young people.
162 Clapham High Street
+44 0207 978 1108
You can’t go wrong with a restaurant that touts its environmentally-friendly goals in its name. Serving mostly Italian food, all of the ingredients have been carefully vetted to make sure that they are as sustainable as possible. The building has also been redesigned in order to accommodate all types of customers, including those with children and the disabled. The food is awesome, as well.
Where to shop
Where sustainable tourism has really caught on in London is in the many eco-friendly small businesses that are available. Whether you are a boutique shopper looking for that special piece to bring home or you want some souvenirs for family and friends, you don’t have to look far for items that you can feel good about bringing back.
3-4 Gabriel’s Wharf
+44 20 7928 3444
Fair trade is Ganesha’s game. For that Indian flair and handbags that you’ll get comments on for ages, this shop caters to world travelers and those looking for unique items you can’t find anywhere else. Gift boxes are made of recycled materials, and all items are sources from cooperatives in India working to help locals run their own businesses.
149 Roman Way
+44 20 7607 1173
Known formerly as Braintree, this clothing store has rapidly expanded over the past few years and offers some amazing, eco-friendly clothing you can wear anywhere. Much of it is made from bamboo, meaning it is soft and durable, while also being good for the environment. With its boho vibe and great shipping offers, it’s also a store that you’ll want to check out online even when you’ve made it back home.
Sustainable actions you can take
- For the most part, public transportation is the best way to get around London. While locals might complain about the Tube, it usually is well-run and on time. Fares are based on where you are traveling to and distance rather than per ride, so your journey to Abbey Road might be more expensive than to Westminster or the London Eye.
- An even better way to experience London produces no emissions at all. London is a fairly bike-friendly city, and public bikes are available for a small fee. Make sure to wear a helmet and watch for traffic—especially if you aren’t used to drivers on the other side of the road.
- Use the Green London map to find other sustainable businesses and attractions. It’s available for free here.
- You’ll want to make sure to use the provided recycling bins that have been dispersed throughout the city. London has worked hard to provide recycling options for tourists and locals, so hold onto your plastic water bottle until you reach a spot where you can discard it in the proper place.
As a modern city, London has made large leaps toward creating sustainable options for visitors. When in doubt, ask your hotel or hostel if they have some recommendations for local, green businesses that you can patronize.
Do you have any recommendations for sustainable travel in London?