The Greener Guide to Seeing Los Angeles More Sustainably

Terranea is a wildlife lover's paradise, and keeps the environment in mind
Terranea is a wildlife lover's paradise, and keeps the environment in mind | Courtesy of Terranea / Booking.com
Photo of Emma Sparks
5 September 2021

Make like LA locals and embrace the natural environment via beaches, parks and coastal trails with this tread-lightly guide to California’s biggest city.

Traffic jams aside, Los Angeles is a surprisingly green city. A 2,500-strong fleet of clean-energy buses means it’s becoming easier to get around Southern California’s star-studded city, and eco-friendly clothing brands, such as carbon-neutral Reformation, were pioneered there. Add in the region’s array of sandy beaches, public parks and vegan restaurants, and you’ll see it’s not so hard to plan a light-touch trip to LA.

Shore Hotel

Eco Hotel
Shore Hotel
Courtesy of Shore Hotel / Booking.com

You won’t find any single-use toiletries or plastic straws in this LEED Gold-certified Santa Monica hotel – an impressive effort has been made to keep your stay ecofriendly. From the solar-heated pool to the low-flow showerheads and drought-resistant plants – which all reduce energy consumption and water use – you can focus on enjoying those Pacific Ocean views.

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Terranea

Resort, Hotel
Terranea
Courtesy of Terranea / Booking.com
This clifftop hotel on the Palo Verdes Peninsula is made for wildlife lovers, who can join expert-guided tours to spot seabirds and migrating whales, or kayak along the coast. Excess food from the hotel’s eight restaurants is distributed to local charities to avoid waste and feed communities in need, while the four heated pools use salt instead of harsh chlorine. Plan to explore beyond the resort? Consider renting an electric car (California’s all about the EV revolution; just ask Tesla).
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Gracias Madre

Bar, Restaurant, Mexican, Vegan, $$$
Map View
This West Hollywood restaurant serves up organic, plant-based takes on traditional Mexican dishes, from jackfruit burritos and fried oyster mushroom tacos to vegan huevos rancheros with scrambled tofu. The bar only stocks sustainable tequila, made using age-old, environmentally friendly methods and not in chemical-heavy factories. Can’t choose from the extensive drinks list? Sample their best spirits with a mezcal flight – $5 from every order goes to a local charity supporting undocumented workers.

Leo Carrillo State Park

Natural Feature, Park
Map View
Aerial view of Leo Carrillo State Park and Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California.
Aerial view of Leo Carrillo State Park and Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California. | © trekandshoot / Alamy Stock Photo

It’s a good hour’s drive along the coast (keep an eye out for A-list celebs as you meander through Malibu), but this relatively uncrowded wonder is worth the journey. You could easily spend a day exploring the mountains on the dusty hiking trails, but most people come for the beach. It’s one of the county’s most scenic spots, ideal for swimming, surfing and, of course, working on that tan – you’re still in LA, after all.

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  • Los Angeles County Arboretum

    Botanical Garden
    Map View
    Peacock at Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
    Peacock at Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden | © Chris Hendrickson / Alamy Stock Photo

    Keep your eyes peeled for kingfishers, mandarin ducks and a party of roaming peacocks as you wander this 127-acre (51ha) botanical garden in Arcadia. Deepen your relationship with nature by joining a forest bathing walk, or swing by Crescent Farm, a once-neglected plot of land which has undergone an eco-transformation, demonstrating how gardeners can save water with drought-tolerant plants, smart landscaping and soil-friendly practices.

    Wasteland LA

    Shop
    Map View
    While Rodeo Drive is an essential pitstop for luxury shoppers and fans of Pretty Woman, you’ll find more sustainable and affordable threads at LA’s hip thrift stores. Wasteland in West Hollywood is a great spot to hunt for retro looks, and is even popular with movie stars like Anne Hathaway. If you’re lucky, you might find your dream vintage designer outfit among the second-hand tees – now who’s wearing Prada?

    Santa Monica Pier

    Amusement Park
    Map View
    Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California, USA
    Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California, USA | © Roy Johnson / dbimages / Alamy Stock Photo
    Did you know Santa Monica Pier is home to the only solar-powered Ferris wheel in the world? Take a surprisingly ecofriendly ride on the city’s most recognizable landmark before hopping on a rental bike to cycle along the South Bay Trail to Venice Beach, returning in time to watch the sunset over the water. More of a morning person? Don’t miss the nearby farmers’ market for brunch on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

    Otherwild

    Store
    Map View

    This LGBTQ-friendly, woman-owned ethical store near Griffith Park sells zero- and low-waste beauty products, quirky homewares and kitchen essentials, as well as locally made artworks, textiles and clothing sourced directly from designers. Come to stock up on reusable straws and packaging-free shampoo bars, stay to ponder how many 100% cotton, silk-screened pillows you can fit in your suitcase. Our tip? Treat yourself.

    Inspired to make your LA trip a sustainable one? Eat at the city’s 12 best eco-friendly restaurants, or six where you can take a responsible bite on a budget. It’s not just the City of Angels with green credentials, of course – read about San Francisco’s claim to being California’s most sustainable city, then find your own sustainable stay in the Golden State, bookable on Culture Trip.

    These recommendations were updated on September 5, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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