The Greener Guide to Seeing New York More Sustainably

The High Line is one of New York City's most well-known reuse projects, making the Big Apple a little greener
The High Line is one of New York City's most well-known reuse projects, making the Big Apple a little greener | © Yuen Man Cheung / Alamy
Photo of Emma Sparks
1 September 2021

Urban farms, zero-waste shops and LEED gold-certified hotels make up our light-touch list of things to do in the ever-green Big Apple.

Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” lyrics need an update. Because while it may not be immediately obvious, New York is the concrete jungle where eco-friendly dreams are made of. With increasingly green buildings (thanks to new builds and retrofits) and a growing number of sustainable restaurants, bars and shops, it’s never been easier to explore NYC while minimizing your impact on the environment.

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

Boutique Hotel, Eco Hotel
4.5/5 (933 Reviews)
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Courtesy of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge / Booking.com
Price Drop
Now from $307 per night

Sustainability comes front and center at this LEED gold-certified hotel. The plant-filled lobby features furniture made from reclaimed wood and a selection of complimentary wonky, curvy, not-quite-perfect produce to help reduce food waste. You’ll find a filtered water faucet in your room – so you won’t be tempted by single-use plastics – and a shower timer to help you save on water consumption. Guests get shuttled around in an all-electric Audi e-tron, and staff get paid volunteer days. Eco-luxury at its best.

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Package Free

Shop
Map View
Set of Eco friendly bamboo cutlery on white marble background. Sustainable lifestyle. Plastic free concept. Flat lay, top view, mockup
© Alina Buzunova / Alamy

This sustainable homeware shop in Brooklyn is the brainchild of Lauren Singer, the zero-waste influencer who went viral in 2014 for producing only a jar’s worth of trash over an entire year. Come for the packaging-free shampoo bars, compostable tote bags and eco-friendly beauty products, and leave with a new-found determination to downsize your impact.

Pendry Manhattan West

Hotel
Pendry Manhattan West_w6000h3286x0y4-72fc6b9e
Courtesy of Pendry Manhattan West / Expedia
Price Drop
Now from $485 per night

Box-fresh Pendry Manhattan West sits within an eco-friendly complex that uses solar panels, rainwater reclamation and a rooftop apiary to boost its green credentials. The hotel’s parent company Montage International is committed to social and environmental sustainability, with health and wellbeing-focused design (resulting in light, airy spaces featuring natural materials) and plenty of rooms for guests with accessibility needs.

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Rhodora Wine Bar

Wine Bar, Wine
Map View
Rhodora Wine Bar, 197 Adelphi St, Brooklyn, NY. exterior storefront of a wine bar in the Fort Greene with a focus on zero waste, and sustainability. Image shot 05/2020. Exact date unknown.
© Robert K. Chin - Storefronts / Alamy

The natural, low-intervention wines at Rhodora are sourced from small-scale producers and served alongside sustainable, Mediterranean-inspired small plates of tinned fish and hard cheeses. The bar is carbon negative and zero waste, meaning they use no single-use plastics and send absolutely nothing to landfill. Not a wine buff? Friendly staff can help you choose a tipple to suit your tastes. Consider trying a trendy orange wine – in vogue for their low-impact production techniques.

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  • New York Botanical Garden

    Botanical Garden, Museum, Zoo, Park
    Map View
    New York - United States, June 26, 2015 -Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden in Bronx in New York City
    © alexat25 / Alamy
    Spread across 250 acres (100ha), the New York Botanical Garden – the largest of any city in the USA – is a national landmark. Both its research and its community and education programs aim to empower future generations to care for our planet. Wander along the wetland trail to spot ducks and turtles in the reeds; stop and smell the roses at the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden (one of the world’s most sustainable rose gardens); or take a self-guided audio tour and meditative walk among ancient trees.

    Motto by Hilton New York City Chelsea

    Hotel
    Motto by Hilton New York City Chelsea_19ae036d
    Courtesy of Motto by Hilton New York City Chelsea / Expedia

    Rooms at this Chelsea hotel are stylish, affordable and energy-efficient. As a brand, Hilton has committed to halving its environmental footprint and doubling its investment in social impact by 2030. It aims to cut food waste, water use and general waste output by 50%, too. For now, guest stays and hotel operations are carbon offset, plastic straws have been eradicated from all properties and, at Motto, hydration stations encourage the use of reusable water bottles.

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    Olmsted

    Restaurant, American, $$$
    Map View
    olmsted-noah-fecks
    © Noah Fecks / Courtesy of Olmsted
    There’s farm-to-table dining, and then there’s Olmsted. Chef-owner Greg Baxtrom grows many of his vegetables and herbs in the tiny urban backyard farm behind his restaurant in Prospect Heights; guests can linger there with a cocktail as they wait for a table – and it is so worth the wait. The vegetable-heavy menu stars original dishes such as carrot crepes and heirloom tomato schnitzel. Start with the market veg tempura, which changes day by day depending on what’s fresh and seasonal.

    Metropolis Vintage

    Shop
    Map View
    Vintage shirts. becca-mchaffie-Fzde_6ITjkw-unsplash
    © Becca McHaffie / Unsplash

    New York’s shopping scene is unbeatable. So, if you’re in the mood for some retail therapy, but want to avoid fast fashion, choose the sustainable option and shop secondhand. There are countless thrift stores across the city, but Metropolis Vintage – while not the cheapest – is one of the biggest and best, with a well-curated collection of rock tees, ’80s bomber jackets and palm-printed Hawaiian shirts.

    These recommendations were updated on September 1, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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