In an age when environmental, ethical, and social concerns are becoming more important, Paris has embraced sustainability and has become a green city. It was recently ranked one of the top 10 cities committed to ecological issues by the European Green City Index.
The city of Paris has an excellent public transportation system, which is cheap and user-friendly, and most Parisians get around the city by public transport. With 16 lines and 300 stations, the Paris Métro is an efficient system that covers most of the city. Several Métro lines are currently being extended, as is the Tramway network which is quiet, electric, and nonpolluting. There is also the RER (Réseau Express Régional), the Suburban Rail, and a widespread network of buses. Alternatively, since the city is relatively small, many people choose to get around simply by walking.
Bertrand Delanoë, Paris's mayor since 2001, launched a series of initiatives aimed at making the city more environmentally friendly by reducing pollution and cutting down on traffic. In 2007, Delanoë introduced the Vélib' scheme (www.velib.paris.fr), a public bicycle rental program; with thousands of bicycles and bike rental stations spread throughout the city, it is a fast and inexpensive way to get around the city, and you will see both Parisians and visitors taking advantage of this program. Delanoë also expanded bike lanes throughout the city, and today you'll see more cyclists and cycle lanes in Paris than ever before. Under Delanoë's guidance, there are plans to introduce a similar car-sharing program called the Autolib', due to be launched in October 2011.
Paris is home to 400 green spaces, all of which are enhanced and maintained by the city council. The city is home to some beautiful parks, including the Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6e and the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the 19e, and these spaces offer a refuge from the urban environment. Over the last 15 years, the city government has spent a lot of money on transforming vacant land into parks (like Jardin Serge Gainsbourg at Porte des Lilas) and there are several parks currently undergoing renovation and expansion (like Parc Martin Luther King at Clichy Batignolles).
Many hotels in Paris have undertaken measures to preserve the environment, and those that have are awarded with a green label; in Paris, look for hotels with the title of La Clef Verte (Green Key; www.laclefverte.org) or the European Eco-Label. Both labels reward hotels that take a more environmental approach to water, energy and waste, and raise the awareness of their guests. In Paris, the Best Western Premier Regent's Garden boasts a European Eco-Label and the Hôtel Radisson Blu Trocadéro Dokhan's claims the title of La Clef Verte, among others. Although there are currently only a few hotels that boast such labels, sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly important in the hotel industry. Even if you don't stay at a green hotel, you can still do your bit: turn down the air-conditioning when you leave the room, request that your sheets aren't changed every day, and use your towels more than once. Laundry makes up around 40% of an average hotel's energy use.
Responsible tourism means leaving a city in the same condition as you found it. You can do this by not dropping litter and respecting the recently created color-coded garbage bin system: Yellow bins are for recyclable materials, including paper, plastic, and aluminum cans, while gray bins are for garbage. Support the local economy and culture of the city by shopping in smaller, neighborhood shops, and eating in local, family run restaurants rather than big chain stores and restaurants. Vegetarianism is still not particularly widespread in France, but organic food (bio) is becoming increasingly popular -- look out for the bio tag in shops and restaurants. For more information about Paris's sustainability, go to http://en.parisinfo.com/sustainable-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.