‘It is said that the present is pregnant with the future‘. Perhaps it was this fertile quote by French Enlightenment writer Voltaire that gave birth to the green impetus behind the Paris Agreement; a resolute global challenge to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to the United Nations Climate Change Conference hosted by Paris in 2015, signed and adopted by 195 countries, the Parisian capital propelled its sustainable development initiatives in ecology and energy to new heights and a trouvé chaussure verte à son pied. The city donned its ‘green slippers’, lowered its ecological footprints, and limited the metropolis’ impact on the environment.
The hub of urban ingenuity, Paris has a clear conscience and is now an avant-gardist sustainable tourist destination with its non-polluting means of transport. It did its fair amount to overcome a few challenges it faced in energy transition towards attaining an environmentally-friendly future. The city’s green motto is low-emission and boasts the cleanest means of public transport around, with hybrid and electrically-powered buses improving the quality of urban life. Public transport is constantly being developed with the aim to improve energy intensity, the quality of city life in urban congestion, and to reduce noise and air pollution. Cycling has become an important mode of transport, offering the simplicity of getting around with the pleasure of an outdoor activity. Wishing to reduce nitrogen and fine particles and to promote the improvement of mass transit, cycling, and walking, Paris celebrates La Journée Sans Voiture – Car Free Day — each September when major avenues (like the Champs-Elysées) are closed down to vehicles, allowing eco-citizens to amble along, enjoy free, fun festivals like ‘Reduce Your Carbon Footprint’, which concludes with a giant picnic. Furthering its eco-efforts with another initiative, Paris Respire – Paris breathes — has zones in Paris that are closed off to traffic on weekends and public holidays, allowing only eco-soft transport and pedestrians to serenely explore the capital – what better way to explore Paris?
An avid adept of preserving its health and the health of the planet, Paris eats healthy and responsibly with numerous organic restaurants, canteens, and mainstream French stores serving sizzling, square organic meals in nearly every district. In favor of the local economy, produce from French regional and nationals parks is dished out pulsing with an array of vegetarian, vegan, lactose, or gluten-intolerant menus. Even supermarkets source organic products for all budgets and all tastes. Paris relishes local products and significantly reduces transport-related CO2 emissions by supporting local organic markets and environmental projects like Pollinate Paris’ La Banque du Miel – Honey Bank — which raises awareness of the ecosystem degradation and the drastic decline in bee populations, and honey from over 300 beehives in Paris is harvested each year. Try Paris’ first fast-food restaurant, Bioburger, where fresh, organic ingredients prepared onsite prime over frozen food served in biodegradable packaging for eco-conscious consumers.
Concerns about anthropogenic sources of pollution led Paris to re-vegetate itself with vegetal architecture such as Patrick Blanc’s hanging gardens, Paris-Culteurs (an initiative which aims to dramatically expand, innovate, and develop green spaces by creating a new urban model), edible walls, green roofs, and green facades, all devoted to urban agriculture. From a sustainable development perspective it possesses numerous environmental advantages, like developing biodiversity, meeting the need for green spaces for the inhabitants of a dense city, limiting the effect of ‘urban heat island’ (hence the radical fighting of climate change), and improving the air quality, as well as the thermal and acoustic comfort of buildings. Paris has adapted to climate change through re-vegatation with green walks like Coulée Verte — a five kilometer green belt, the only elevated park in the world before New York’s High Line and Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail, which helps Parisians meander through suspended gardens by taking a breather above the streets of Paris. Applications like Paris Eco Walks offer tourists a guide to urban eco-walks and websites like Panamées organize themed urban walks free of charge to explore Paris’ urban walking trails and to follow the latest Parisian news on sustainable development.
The fashion industry is the third-most environmentally damaging industry in the world so it’s only natural that Paris, the epicenter of fashion for most of the history of Western civilization, decided to become fashion-conscious and sustainable-minded alike. Ethical fashion (eco-fashion), sustainable style and designs, organic beauty products, and ethical apparel has Paris focused on environmental labeling even during the Paris Fashion Week. The annual Ethical Fashion Show, launched in Paris in 2004, highlights the values and ethical designers of ethical fashion centered around ethical creation, good practice, respect for those involved in the garment production line, as well as the environment, using only naturally sourced materials. Apparel made in France from the finest fair trade cotton and bearing the Fair Trade guarantee can be found at stores like Ekyog, where you can experience eco-magic with their metamorphose collection, which produces multi-wear garments that can be transformed, such as a dress worn as a scarf. Dupleks’ urban, cutting-edge, and eco-friendly clothes features young ethical designers, while 39 Charonne Du Beau avec Du Sens boasts 80% fair trade and 20% ethical commerce, and Fibris offers an ethical and eco-friendly alternative to mainstream consumption.
No need to throw in the towel when searching for environmentally friendly holiday accommodation in the Parisian capital. Green business tourism has set sail for accommodation considerate of all sustainable development goals and the environmental impacts generated (raw materials, energy, preservation of biodiversity, water pollution, air, soil, waste, noise, etc). To promote the natural and cultural heritage of Paris, hotels, B&B’s, and Youth Hostels have signed the Paris Tourist Office’s Charter for Sustainable Accommodation in Paris and have obtained all or either of the following Ecolabels: Green Key, European eco-label, Green Globe, EarthCheck, and ISO 14001 certification, all of which attract tourists who are conscious and committed to the use of renewable energy sources less harmful to the environment. Assessing its degree of sustainability and respecting the principles of the standards in terms of environmental management are fundamental for the ecological quality of any holiday accommodation. Contributing towards the development of participatory tourism through Hôtes Qualité Paris is encouraged; Parisians are eager to exchange apartments, share their advice about where to go, and give tips for exploring the city responsibly.
Actors of a sustainable Paris wishing to get involved in playing a role in promoting the discovery of the richness of flora and fauna in Paris are invited to discover nature in connection with the Parisian Observatory of Biodiversity at the Paris House Nature. Activities, all free of charge, are presented around biodiversity in the Nature library and at the Butterfly garden all year round. Naturparif, the agency behind nature and biodiversity in the Parisian region, provides regular updates and monitors the biodiversity of Paris with a jam-packed calendar of events. Popular with plant and nature lovers are Parc de Bagatelle and Parc Floral parks in Paris, which regularly hosts free green events. Exhibitions centering around sustainable development through science, society, and technology can be viewed at Universcience. During the annual Rendez-vous aux jardins in June, organized by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, the general public is invited to explore numerous parks and gardens both public and private, historical and contemporary. The botanical richness and beauty of Parisian Parks welcome tourists on their cycle or walking tours, which last from two to three hours and are offered in sign language as well as English, so be sure to book in advance.