How to Go Green When Visiting London

Your guide to eco-friendly shopping, eating and sightseeing in the city.

The Mayor of London wants over half of London’s total area to be covered with vegetation by 2050—so there’s no better city in which to be green. As a Londoner who tries to be friendly to the environment, I know that being sustainable in this city can be rewarding, fun and make you feel happier.

Sightseeing and Touring

You’ll discover plenty of open-top bus tours to try, but one of them is greener than most: The Original Tour launched a frog-coloured vehicle in late 2018 that was hailed as London’s first fully electric sightseeing bus. The carbon-free bus is fully charged in 4.5 hours, after which it can travel 150km. Catch Original’s Electric Bus Tour, daily at 10am from Victoria Station. The company plans to launch three more this year and you expect many more to follow suit, thanks to the recent introduction of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) by the mayor.  

The Shard, London, UK

Of course, there’s nothing greener than sightseeing on foot. London offers almost every walking tour theme that you could think of, including Insider London, which runs a Cutting Edge Green Tour. This two-hour jaunt shows off the sustainable side to the city, including shops, hotels, developments and communities that are leading the way. It also runs the Sustainable Architecture Walking Tour, taking you through the Ancient City to discover the area’s technology-festooned skyscrapers.

Neil Simpson, bike, London, UK

According to London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues, another great green-friendly way to discover London is by bike. Use our cycle hire scheme to get a feel for the buzz of the city—get off the main roads and find some tucked-away hidden gems. 

Eating and Drinking

London’s latest zero-waste restaurant, Silo, opens in June in Hackney Wick’s White Building, which is already home to the Crate Brewery and pizzeria. The original Silo in Brighton claims to be the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant and has become one of the area’s most acclaimed places to eat.

The Hackney branch has its own ecosystem, dealing directly with producers, buying whole foods and composting food waste back into the soil. This is a wonderfully green destination—and that’s without mentioning its pretty, canalside location.

Hackney Wick’s White Building, London, UK

In Hoxton, Cub also tries hard to eliminate waste completely. It’s the first restaurant by world-renowned bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana and is amazing. The dining room is made from recycled materials and the menu relies heavily on food waste and overlooked ingredients, leading to supremely creative, unpredictable and delicious dishes. The set menu is good value as it incorporates drinks to match most courses.  

Since watching the documentary "A Plastic Planet," acclaimed chef Skye Gyngell has been on a mission to make Spring Restaurant in Somerset House one of London’s first plastic-free restaurants. It was one of the first to stop using plastic straws, and Gyngell aims to eventually eradicate all single-use plastic at Spring.

Spring Restaurant, Somerset House, London, UK

Meanwhile, its Scratch menu turns the kitchen’s leftover food into delicious dishes, so that nothing gets thrown away. Scratch is available pre-theatre every day (5.30-6.30pm) and costs £20 for three courses. Spring is a relatively fancy restaurant, so that represents great value.

Shopping and Vintage Hunting

This city’s fashion is celebrated for being cool and confident, so if you want to invest in something distinctly London, go vintage. Brick Lane, Camden Market and Portobello Road are all tremendous places to get your one-off fashion fix. Vintage stores to seek out include Beyond Retro (with three sites in London) and Rokit (four), which both offer affordable and fun clothes shopping.

Beyond Retro, London, UK

Portobello Road is also the place for sustainable shopping beyond clothing: browse rows of shops and stalls filled with retro souvenirs, or quirky antiques from the likes of Portobello Stamp Company and Vida Vida, which sells ethical, handmade leather bags and accessories. 

Neil Simpson
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