Londoners in general are an eco-aware bunch -- but don't always practice what they preach. And even the concept of taking a "responsible," "green," or "environmentally friendly" trip here isn't without controversy, particularly if you're traveling by plane. However, there are everyday things you can do to minimize the impact -- and especially the carbon footprint -- of your travels. Remove chargers from cellphones, laptops, and anything else that draws from the mains, once the gadget is fully charged. If you're shopping, buy seasonal fruit and vegetables or local cheeses from markets rather than produce sourced by supermarkets from the far side of the globe. Most importantly, use public transportation to get around town. The city's Tubes and buses are easy to use and efficient.
The Congestion Charge Zone was introduced to discourage car travel within the center, and there's no reason why you should be driving the capital's labyrinthine streets. One particular environmental annoyance is the buildup of discarded freesheets throughout the day on buses and trains. Most stations now have paper recycling points near the exit, so if you read a Metro or Evening Standard on your travels, take it with you and recycle.
Greener even than Tubes and buses are the publically accessible cycle hire bikes dotted around town, ideal for short journeys across the center. Provision and marking of dedicated cycle lanes is very hit-and-miss, however, so you'll need to take care and rent (or buy) a helmet if you plan to get around by bike.
Green vacationing also extends to where you eat and stay. Vegetarian food tends to have a much smaller impact on the environment, because it eschews energy- and resource-intensive meat production. The best places around town to sample it are Mildreds and Rasa Samudra. Most hotels now offer you the option to use your towels for more than one night before they are relaundered -- and of course, you should, because laundry makes up around 40% of an average hotel's energy use. Also, ask for a room that allows you to turn down the air-conditioning whenever you go out. The Green Tourism for London Scheme (www.green-business.co.uk) awards grades to hotels that meet various sustainability criteria -- businesses that are "actively engaged in reducing the negative environmental and social impacts of their tourism operations." Gold, silver, and bronze award-winners are expected to manage energy effectively, promote public transport and green spaces, and support local cultural activities -- and are listed on their website.
Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com, www.responsiblevacation.com in U.S.) is just one among a growing number of environmentally aware travel agents. They offer a number of "green holidays" across the U.K., including in London. Newspaper green travel sections such as www.guardian.co.uk/travel/green and www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/hubs/greentravel are good local places to keep up with the issues and get inspiration. Vision on Sustainable Tourism (www.tourism-vision.com) is another excellent news hub. Carbon offsetting (again, not uncontroversial) can be arranged through global schemes such as ClimateCare (www.climatecare.org). In the U.K., Tourism Concern (www.tourismconcern.org.uk) works to reduce social and environmental problems connected with tourism.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.