I lived in London for 5 years from my early to my late twenties, and as a result, I spend time there as often as I can. Don’t let anyone ever tell you any different – it is truly is one of the best cities on earth.
A lot of people tell me that they’re surprised by my love for London – for someone so preoccupied with trying to live more sustainably, I guess it seems odd for me to be obsessed with a massive, crowded, smoggy city. But London is also a full of remarkable businesses who are leading the way when it comes to sustainability.
Here are just a few to get you started:
One of the best meals of my life was cooked by critically-acclaimed New York chef Dan Barber – part of a food waste themed event on Selfridges’ rooftop. Sadly, that pop up was temporary – but there’s still loads of innovative sustainable cooking to be found around the city.
The Duke of Cambridge in Islington was London’s first ever 100% organic pub. Not only is this place totally gorgeous to look at and sit in, but the food is excellent too. Stop by for a leisurely lunch of roasted seasonal veg with polenta chips & pesto.
Alternatively, in East London, you can find the city’s first fully vegan pub. The Spread Eagle describes itself as a “a quintessentially British corner pub, with an emphasis on minimal waste.” All food, drink and fixtures are plant-based, and the kitchen runs a seasonal menu working directly with foragers and local producers to replicate pub classics and British desserts with influences from all over the world.
If you’re into farm-to-table cooking, seek out one of the Gladwin Brothers‘ restaurants; as a farmer, a chef, and a restauranteur they bring their shared love for delicious food, foraging, and British farming to London’s dining tables.
I’ve eaten at both The Rabbit in Chelsea and The Nutbourne in Battersea and both were great. Think modern British dishes made with wild, foraged, seasonal and sustainable produce. It’s also worth trying the award-winning wines from their family-owned vineyard, the Nutbourne estate.
But really, my must-visit sustainable restaurant is Silo (read my review here). From the outside, this industrial warehouse venue doesn’t look like much, but inside, the spacious dining room feels like a chic art gallery – with today’s menu projected in enormous letters on the white-washed, exposed brick wall.
The mainly plant-based menu is as fascinating, as it is delicious. For example, the tasting menu – priced at £50pp – starts with ‘siloaf’ bread with aged butter (with flour milled and butter churned in house), and ends with an ice cream sandwich made with the waste elements from the same dish. If the tasting menu is within your budget – do it, it won’t disappoint!
The Corner London City in East London is my go-to. It’s a quirky, budget hotel with loads of personality (in a great zone 1 location) but it also creates 67 per cent fewer CO2 emissions than the UK industry average, thanks to sensor LED lighting and 40 solar panels tucked up on the roof. Not only that, it uses 41 per cent less water due to airdrop shower heads in every room, which mix air with water to reduce each average guest’s water consumption by 25 per cent. Clever!
Head to Borough Market for fresh, seasonal, locally grown foodie produce all year round; there’s good reason this market is so famous. My top tip is not to leave it until lunchtime when it’s heaving, head down there as early as you can to beat the hoards and have your pick of the day’s best.
One of the city’s best-loved destinations for eco fashion, is Aida. Launched in 2012 by four sisters, it’s an excellent place to discover sustainable brands – like every it-girl’s favourite trainer brand, Veja.
Alternatively, you can head to one London’s many bustling weekend markets for a variety of handmade, vintage or locally made goodies – from clothing to jewellery to homeware. A far more sustainable (and less stressful!) option than trawling the high streets and department stores of the West End.
Did you know that a whopping 47% of London is green space? Whether you choose to meet the ducks and the pelicans at one of the royal gardens like Hyde Park or Chelsea Physic Garden, or you head out to enjoy one of the wilder spots like Hamstead Heath or Richmond Deer Park – London’s city parks really are among the world’s best. You can read more about some of London’s prettiest parks and commons here.
My favourite green space has to be Wimbledon Common. I used to live at the bottom of Wimbledon hill, but a short walk up to Wimbledon Village and I felt like I was in a little English market town. I could treat myself to a brisk walk in the wildness of the common, before sitting outside one of the traditional pubs, watching all of the horses being walked out of the stables and taken across the road for their daily hacks.
For getting around:
Try Green Tomato Cars, the city’s eco-friendly answer to Uber. London’s only sustainable car service uses hybrid vehicles, and were also the first private car company in the city to double offset their emissions. They also work with four key London charities – Tree For Cities, Great Ormond Street Hospital, whizz – kidz and The Kensington Temple School.
Know any other great eco-friendly London spots? Let me know in the comments below! You can also search for London-based members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association by visiting www.foodmadegood.org/meet-our-members.