Ranked the world’s most sustainable city in 2018, London has a lot to offer for the eco-conscious traveller. London-based chef Thomasina Miers, who co-founded the carbon-neutral restaurant group Wahaca, offers her tips for being green in London.
“Walking around London is really wonderful – taking in the amazing architecture,” says Miers. “If you have less time, grab a bike and zip across town.” The Underground might offer speedy transport, but the air quality in its tunnels is 30 times more polluted than the air at street level – not to mention the high temperatures it reaches in summer.
As you amble along, you can discover hidden alleyways and explore one of the many green spaces that make up 47 percent of the capital. Miers has a few favourites: “I love to go to the large parks. Primrose Hill, Richmond Park, Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park, Chiswick Meadows and Kew Gardens are all wonderful places to go and walk and breathe and appreciate a little bit of nature in the capital.”
“There are so many greengrocers still operating in the capital that give people the chance to buy lovely, in-season vegetables to help make cooking sustainably (with less meat) exciting and delicious,” says Miers. “My personal favourites are Ben’s Fruit and Veg and the Michanicou Brothers, who I’ve been going to for over 15 years.”
London’s markets are also a great place to do the weekly shopping or browse locally sourced, seasonal produce. “Maltby Street is incredibly hip and has some wonderful produce,” Miers says. “I am also very loyal to my local, Queen’s Park Farmer’s Market, which won UK’s best farmer’s market a few years ago. It keeps me in tune to the seasons and is one of the main reasons why I have stayed in the area so long.” (Watch Miers tell Culture Trip about her life’s work.)
Miers’s own Wahaca has the distinction of being the first restaurant group to be awarded carbon-neutral status by the CarbonNeutral Protocol – a global organisation that sets guidelines for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. But it’s not the only restaurant in London that has taken a green approach to operations. “Restaurants such as The Duke of Cambridge and The Clerkenwell Kitchen produce menus that are always in season, as local as possible and almost entirely organic,” says Miers.
Another favourite is the Scratch Menu at chef Skye Gyngell’s restaurant, Spring: “You can eat insanely delicious food at a fraction of the price and offset food waste at the same time. Dishes are created using ‘waste’ produce – food that might otherwise have been thrown away. Spring also has an exclusive partnership with Fern Verrow, a biodynamic farm in Herefordshire who supply all fresh produce and flowers for the restaurant. This partnership really shines a light on the importance of working closely with farmers and producers, as the chefs also have a say in what is grown on the farm, which in turn plays a part in the provenance of the food and developing strong connections with the land.”
The rising vegan trend in London shows that food-centric sustainability is something Londoners are eager to embrace. The vibrancy of the city’s food scene helps. As Miers puts it: “Its huge diversity, creativity and willingness to take risks makes the London food scene one of the most exciting in the world.”
Thomasina Miers is a chef, author, Guardian columnist and co-founder of Wahaca, a group of Mexican restaurants in the UK. From day one, Wahaca challenged itself to minimise the environmental impact of the business. Since then, Wahaca has built sustainability into every element of its restaurants, from interior design to food waste to reducing and neutralising its carbon footprint (it was the first restaurant group in the UK to become fully carbon neutral). For further information about Wahaca’s sustainability commitments please visit: https://www.wahaca.co.uk/sustainability/
To coincide with Earth Day, 22 April, Culture Trip examines sustainable cities through the lens of architecture, food, waste and green spaces.