Ah, London– the timeless city vacation. The classic landmarks should always be on your London to-do list, but there’s so much more to see, eat, and do in London in order to embrace the city’s more modern, eco-friendly side. Pack a sweater and plan a visit during the shoulder season. Fall or springtime trips will give you the chance to dig deeper into local life without the crowds or costs of summer. Book your stay at one of the city’s many hotels proactively mitigating their carbon footprint and giving back to the community. Dine at London’s first vegan pub or learn to cook for yourself at London’s most sustainable cooking school. Use the public transit system or community bikes for getting to local theatres and wetland preserves. Satisfy your craving for afternoon tea and quintessential British goings-on while protecting the city and caring for the people who call it home.
Eco-fabulous ways to get around London
Santander Bikes, more commonly known to locals as Boris Bikes, are part of London’s bike share program with more than 750 stations and 11,500 bikes across the city. For about $2.50 you’ll have access to the bikes for 24 hours and the first 30 minutes of each ride is free of charge. Use them to get to your destination or purposely set out on a picturesque cycling route to discover secret gardens or pedal beside the River Thames.
The London Underground, informally known as “the Tube”, is a London rite-of-passage. Learning the lines is a great way to get to know the city and one of the most sustainable ways to travel longer distances through London. There’s even a plan in place to make the entire network carbon neutral by 2050. The different lines connect you to nearly anywhere you want to go. Westminster, Leicester Square, Kings Cross, Covent Garden, and so many more of the top sites occupy their own stops on the Tube and it’s often faster than hopping in a cab.
Vegan British pubs, sustainable afternoon tea, and prison dining
Grabbing a curry or some Fish and Chips will always be an easy and authentic way to fill your belly when you’re in town but get a taste of contemporary London’s dynamic food scene with something different. The Spread Eagle is the city’s first 100 percent vegan pub where everything from the fixtures to the food is plant-based yet still celebrates English tradition. Their seasonal, minimal-waste kitchen serves all the staples you expect from a British pub menu down to their Sunday Roast featuring a “Beet Wellington”.
Head for afternoon tea or tipples at Farmacy where their biodynamic menu is free from dairy, refined sugars, and additives. Try their organic wines, CBD-infused cocktails, or choose from a range of dishes on their organic, plant-based menu made with ingredients from their personal farm in Kent. For more sustainable, eco-friendly options, check out Brigit’s Bakery Covent Garden, Native at Browns, Spring, Grow Hackney, Buck Street Market, and The Culpeper pub.
Mingle with locals and reduce food waste by paying a visit to Cookery School at Little Portland Street, London’s most sustainable cooking school. Tie on your apron and try your hand at making all manner of pies, scones, waffles, typical French pastries, and more. The Cookery only uses high-quality, sustainable ingredients and makes cooking accessible to everyone by exclusively using standard kitchen appliances.
A prison might not be the first place that comes to mind when booking a table for dinner, but The Clink Restaurant in London has made dining behind bars enjoyable and charitable. The Clink Charity provides educational training to current inmates in the restaurant industry as part of a successful endeavor to reduce reoffending and help them secure jobs upon release.
Unique experiences on London’s authentic East Side
Yearning for some shows on the West End? Consider visiting the heart of East London instead to catch a show at the Arcola Theatre. The trailblazing mindset of this theatre facilitates daring, original plays alongside creative productions of classics. Their longstanding pay-what-you-can model ensures money is no issue for anyone wanting to experience the magic of stage acting. The Arcola Theatre is also aiming to be the world’s first carbon-neutral theater.
Next door to the Arcola, you’ll find the fairy-lit community space of Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. Adding a much-needed green space to this area of London, the garden grows vegetables and herbs alongside a variety of trees and flowers. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Latto’s Pizzas serves fresh pies straight from their wood-fire oven. In the colder months, enjoy a mulled wine or cider in their cozy outdoor space.
Only a 20-minute bike ride away from Dalston, the Walthamstow Wetlands mean a trip to London can include wildlife adventures. Cycle around the wetlands that attract wildlife all year round, making it a great choice for staying active and visiting during the off-season. Keep your eyes open for red foxes and wood mice along with the vast diversity of bird species that call the Walthamstow Wetlands home.
Where to rest your head and your conscience
For a truly eco-responsible trip to London, there are many sustainable hotels that let you rest easy in style. You’re spoiled for choice no matter what area you want to stay in or what type of accommodations you prefer.
The Good Hotel, located near Canary Wharf, is a social business with 100 percent of profits going towards good causes around the world. Everything from food to furniture is sourced locally and sustainably. In addition, the hotel has a mission to provide long-term unemployed Londoners with successful careers in hospitality.
The Corner London City prides itself on being London’s greenest hotel with 67 percent less CO2 emissions and 41 percent less water consumption compared to the industry average. The cozy rooms at The Corner, all distinctive, sustainably built “pods,” come complete with recycling bins, organic toiletries, and handmade organic mattresses. The property hasn’t missed a beat when it comes to sustainability, from energy-saving light systems down to non-toxic cleaning supplies. Not to mention it’s conveniently located just 10 minutes by Tube from the trendy Shoreditch neighborhood.
Additionally, check out Treehouse London, One Aldwych, one of the Zetter Group hotels, The Londoner, or the Rubens at the Palace. Whichever you choose as your home base, you’ll experience what’s sure to be a future quintessential part of London.