From futuristic flying water taxis to eco-friendly fashion and a sustainable festival, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Paris responsibly.
With a growing number of environmentally friendly food venues, sustainable intercity transport methods and eco-conscious stores, activities and hotels, there is an increasing effort in Paris to improve the city’s green credentials. Here’s our guide to travelling Paris in a way that values eco-conscious thinking.
Eco-friendly ways to get around Paris
The most eco-friendly way to travel around Paris is to hop aboard one of the city’s brand new ‘flying water taxis’, otherwise known as SeaBubbles. These futuristic machines, invented by Alain Thébault, use electric propulsion to glide across the water. What’s so special about these SeaBubbles is that their transport emits zero noise, zero CO2 emissions and zero disruptive waves. As they are powered by a battery system that uses clean energy with an impressively low power consumption – based on hydrofoil technology, which lifts the boat out from the water – they triumph over traditional carbon-fuelled transport means.
While SeaBubbles might sound exciting, biking remains the most practical eco-conscious way to travel in Paris. Vélib’ is the most popular rental service for this, with 20,000 bikes dotted across 1,800 different stations throughout the city. The urban bicycle network covers 700 kilometres so there’s plenty of routes to explore. Make sure to download the Geovelo app as it offers lots of useful information, such as where to find parking places and journey time estimations.
La REcyclerie is an eclectic cultural centre located right in the heart of Paris, dedicated to promoting sustainable development in fun ways. There’s a flea market organised every Sunday, inviting visitors to rummage for hidden treasures that can then be upcycled into brand new items at the ‘Repair corner’. This corner teaches visitors the skills of DIY with a range of tools on offer. There are also cooking workshops, which focus on themes like ‘Seasonal recipes to save the world’, and community volunteering projects are organised in the garden every Friday afternoon. The venue also hosts a range of thought-provoking debates and conferences where people can come together and discuss hot topics related to sustainability and the environment.
One of the highlights of the eco-traveller’s diary should be the two-day We Love Green Festival. Running since 2011, this eco-friendly festival takes over Bois de Vincennes in eastern Paris, inviting wild and exciting artists to join an eclectic program that flits between indie and electro. There’s also a great fondness for hip-hop, with the occasional folk artist included in the line-up, but music is not the only focus. As well as performances, you’ll be immersed in a group that has a shared love for sustainable practices that make the most of local food producers and rustic artisans. The Think Tank is an ideas lab located right in the heart of the festival that hosts talks striving to promote environmental innovation and encourage the exchange of ideas. As well as being powered entirely by renewable energy, using solar panels and generators that run on recycled cooking oil, 100% of the waste produced at the festival is sorted for recycling, reuse or compost.
The BelleVie Farm is an unexpected but unique attraction just outside the city of Paris and is perfect for the eco-conscious traveller looking to reconnect with their earthly origins. BelleVie is a working farm where, instead of just observing the cattle, guests can actually gain hands-on experience related to the simple pleasures of life on a farm. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get a little dirty, as you’re invited to discover the life of a French farmer. Activities range from seeing how cows are milked to learning how to grow your own fruit and vegetables, making delicious honey and baking your own bread. The idea is to encourage visitors to become more self-sufficient. If you’re short on time, you can just visit for the day and take part in all these activities, though most people tend to stay a few nights.
Villages Nature Paris is an eco-friendly resort that bridges a gap in the Parisian hotel market, striving to prove that tourists and nature can co-exist in harmony. The unexpected highlight is the geothermal lagoons, which harbour a highly innovative approach to water management. A series of ‘filtering gardens’ clean used water and feed it back into the on-site lake. This process is known as ‘reverse osmosis’, meaning that, overall, an impressive 37% of the resort’s water is reused. These water-saving measures complement the resort’s full commitment to renewable energy for both heat and hot water, which is achieved by installing all the holiday homes with low-consumption appliances. The decor throughout the resort is also natural, using 100% FSC-certified wood and non-toxic paints, as well as tree branch coat hooks and leaf-emblem wallpaper. The site prioritises local resources, too, including French timber and locally sourced ingredients are used in the restaurant.
Hank Burger is a brilliant place for the eco-conscious traveller to fuel up for the day. The name of the popular vegan burger restaurant (which is a sister branch of Hank Pizza) is an acronym for Have A Nice Karma, an ethos that stands at the heart of the restaurant’s gastronomic values. Their fair trade menu is made with fresh, organic and mostly French ingredients that avoid the use of additives at all costs. Hank opened four years ago and is now a well-loved spot for sharing good food that guarantees a positive impact on health. The restaurant ensures that the ingredients they use never entail a negative ecological impact on the planet.
Le Potager de Charlotte serves seasonal and local vegan produce in innovative ways. One of their most creative starters is a rice and chickpea pancake, which is complemented by Espelette pepper and roasted squash seed. There is also a starter version of the pancake, topped with fresh chives and cashew cream – an ingenious vegan recipe that uses cashew nuts to create a dairy-free alternative to cream. Whatever you choose, rest assured that you’ll be leaving a more positive impact on the environment than many of the less sustainable restaurants in Paris.
Mutinerie was the first place in Paris to pioneer coworking as an eco-friendly concept. The legendary Parisian cafe space encourages a positive impact on the environment, as collaborative working cuts down on electricity and energy consumption by gathering home workers and freelancers in one space. As well as this, the owners of the cafe also produce a magazine, Le Magazine de Mutinerie, which is read by hundreds of thousands of people on various topics related to sustainable changes in the world of work and society. There’s a wide range of reasonably priced eco-friendly coworking spaces to choose from in Paris, including venues like Anticafé, Station W, Le Loft 50 Partners and Rooftop.
Márcia de Carvalho collects secondhand clothing from schools and public institutions as well as small-scale sources, such as keen individuals with an overspilling odd sock drawer. The used fabric is then transported to factories, which wash, process and extract a quality yarn, before sending the yarn back to Paris for re-working. The yarn is then spun into brand new fashion items that range from hats and gloves to scarves and even sweaters – there’s also a handbag range. In a sweep of full-circle genius, some of the yarn is even rewoven into socks. Márcia de Carvalho is keen on keeping a ‘Made in France’ label on her product, therefore, all the socks are sourced from within France. This eco-friendly process is known as upcycling and it is on the rise as late in the ever eco-conscious City of Light. Other upcycling companies in Paris include W Y L D E, which sells men and women’s wear, and Rose Bunker, which sells vintage objects.