By Valerie Stimac
Museums? Sure. Food and drink? Absolutely. Culture and theater? London has it all. But most travelers don’t visit London for environmental reasons, and may not even be aware that there are more sustainable options available. Though the cityscape is always changing, Londoners are increasingly aware of the need for eco-friendly bars, restaurants, and hotels. These help environmentally-conscious travelers have options no matter which part of the city you choose to stay in.
After arriving in London and making your way to the center of the city, check into One Aldwych. Though you might not guess it from the posh lobby and luxurious amenities, this five-star hotel prides itself on being a leader in energy efficiency among its London counterparts. If you need to freshen up before exploring the city and some dinner, their toiletries come from T London. This UK-based company uses tea as the foundational ingredient in their all-natural, eco-friendly products.
For dinner, continue the star treatment with a reservation at Hawksmoor. If you can’t get a table or reservation at their location at Seven Dials, there are other options such as their City of London location, or their Spitalfields location in East London. Here, you can enjoy the hospitality of what many claim is the best restaurant in the city. Hawksmoor beef steaks may not appeal to vegetarians, but they’re both organic and raised free-range by a farmer in Yorkshire.
When wandering back through Covent Garden toward your hotel, it’s not hard to find a watering hole for a nightcap. If you pass by a Wahaca, of which there are two in the neighborhood, be sure to stop in. Their restaurants are eco-friendly from top to bottom, including many of the construction materials used to design the vibrant interiors – a major portion of which are recycled.
After a relaxing night’s sleep on bleach-free sheets and pillows – another One Aldwych environmental policy – rise and shine to prepare yourself for one of London’s finest meals: brunch. The Clerkenwell Kitchen is a short walk from Farringdon station, and a perfect stop to fuel up for a day of sightseeing. They use free-range and organic ingredients in a simple but hearty breakfast menu comprised primarily of options like eggs, toast, and porridge. Think of it as a new take on the traditional English Breakfast – better for you, and the environment.
No matter what your day holds, be sure to take advantage of London’s public transit system when getting around. The London Underground could definitely use an improvement in terms of emissions, but the public buses are definitely sustainable: of the 8,600 bus fleet, over 25% are use energy efficient means like electric or hydrogen power.
In terms of sightseeing, London’s museums are an obvious opportunity. The British Museum is within walking distance (or public transit access) from all of London, and they’ve recently begun a program to use green roofing throughout the massive building. Whether you’re crowding around the Rosetta Stone or exploring the ancient Egyptian relic collection, natural lighting and energy efficient design help reduce the footprint of this classic museum.
If you’d rather be outdoors, London’s many parks are always available – an oft-overlooked option is small but cozy Russell Square in the heart of central London. Another more active option is to take a long walk along the Thames river. You can watch boats sailing up and down, while passing some of London’s most famous sights.
For dinner, opt to enjoy some of London’s excellent ethnic cuisine options. Those who still believe you can’t find good food in London are about to be proven wrong. One such spot is Ceviche, which as the name suggests, offers Peruvian food made fresh to order with local ingredients – or sustainably fished ones from afar (London is inland, after all). Over plates of fresh calamari and salsa, it’s easy to forget you’re in Britain at all. Their pisco sour even uses sustainably harvested eggs, so it’s okay to indulge in more than one before catching a bus back for the night.
If you indulged in a few too many cocktails – it’s easy to do in London – start the morning off slow and easy before checking out and heading to lunch. End on a truly British note: The Duke of Cambridge pub is lauded as the first organic pub in central London. Everything on the menu is organic, sourced or fished sustainably, and draws a far more conscientious crowd than your average pub. Over pints of local, organic beer, you can look back on a weekend well spent in a city that was once called “The Big Smoke.” London has come a long way, and continues to lead the charge for sustainable travel options in the area.
Ins And Outs
London has no shortage of airports to choose from, but Heathrow airport is working hard to attract travelers with environmentally conscious construction and rumors of Tesla cab companies that will service the airport. Smaller and easier to reach, London City Airport is right off the electric Docklands Light Railway in East London.
Valerie Stimac is a nomadic travel writer and blogger at her site Valerie & Valise. She has previously contributed to AFAR, Travel + Leisure, and Roads & Kingdoms.