The London green guide: Sustainable sightseeing

As restaurants, hotels and sights aim to be environmentally friendly, our eco-warrior Neil Simpson shows you that it’s easy being green on holiday.

The Mayor of London wants more than half of London’s total area to be covered with vegetation by 2050. In other words, there’s no better city in which to be green – and I’m here to help you do just that. As a Londoner who took part in the Extinction Rebellion protests in April, I know that being sustainable in this city can be rewarding and fun – and it’ll make you feel great.

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Original’s Electric Bus Tour
There are plenty of open-top bus tours to try, but one of them is literally greener than most: The Original Tour launched a frog-coloured vehicle last year that was hailed as London’s first fully electric sightseeing bus. The carbon-free bus is fully charged in four and a half hours, after which it can travel 150km – catch Original’s Electric Bus Tour daily at 10am from Victoria. The company is launching three more and you can expect other firms to follow suit, thanks to the introduction of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in April by the Mayor. www.theoriginaltour.com

Insider London walking tours
Of course, there’s nothing greener than
sightseeing on foot. Insider London runs a Cutting Edge Green Tour, a two-hour jaunt which shows you the city’s sustainable side, including shops and hotels that are leading the way. You’ll find out about centuries-old London landmarks that are becoming greener and see the world’s biggest solar-powered structure. Insider London also runs the Sustainable Architecture Walking Tour, which takes you through the ancient City to discover the area’s skyscrapers. It starts at Bishopsgate and takes two hours. www.insider-london.co.uk

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Use London’s cycle hire scheme
The best thing you can do is get yourself out there and hire a bike for the day. You really feel the buzz of the city – get off the main roads and round the backs of some of London’s great landmarks to find some lovely hidden gems: Postman’s Park has little plaques on a wall that commemorate people who have died heroically. It’s a calm place in the City of London with very interesting stories. www.santandercycles.co.uk

Bring a reusable water bottle
The Mayor of London has been doing a lot to try to phase out the use of single-use plastic bottles: there are water fountains around London, Sadiq Khan has installed another 20 and more are being built this year. Download the Refill app; refill sites have increased from the low hundreds to the thousands, by chains such as Pret a Manger letting people top up their bottles if they go in and ask – people shouldn’t be scared to request a top-up for their water bottle. www.refill.org.uk

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Enjoy London’s gardens – Open Garden Squares Weekend
This month is Open Garden Squares Weekend (8-9 Jun). People open up their private gardens, so you can go in and see how they have made use of their space. Often, they provide tea and cakes – it’s very British. www.opensquares.org

Photos courtesy of Kohinoor Sahota; Neil Simpson; Refill.


Find out how to visit London sustainably with our guide to waste-free restaurants and environmentally friendly shopping.

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