How to Live Sustainably in London

2 December 2020

Even though London is the metropolis that it is, there are still ways to live sustainably in this great city. Here, Helen gives you her top tips on how to do this.

Tower bridge and the Thames river

London is huge. This has both positive and negative consequences when it comes to living sustainably. Yes, we have lots of choice. But we also have vast amounts of material and resource consumption; a plethora of fast fashion, swathes of tourism and significant noise, air and street pollution. But lifestyle and travel can be green in the city. Here are some ways to make sustainable life choices.

Sustainable travel

Cycling is obviously one of the fastest ways to travel emission-free in London! If this isn’t for you, walking is also a great option and public transport offers a fairly low carbon-impact per person too.

Know your sustainable shopping areas: a map!

Check out Zero Waste Near Me a map which shows stores that offer ‘Package-free products or products with reduced packaging’, with lots of re-fill spots across London. Supporting sustainable brands and products is also great; knowing the impact behind the label is a good way to start consuming more consciously. Websites such as ethicalconsumer.com break down high-street products into their ethical and environmental record.

Sustainable behaviours

Whether you’re studying or simply strolling, you can carry around reusable bags and containers for when you need supplies on the go. These don’t have to be fancy and many ‘zero-wasters’ actually condemn fad items like metal straws. Tupperware is fine and reusable coffee cups are available cheaply from UCL canteens! Spots for refills around UCL include Planet Organic stores, Alara Wholefoods in Bloomsbury and the weekly Farmers Market. There is even a small refill station in the ground floor café under the student centre! Here is a map of other UCL water fountains.

Sustainable fashion

London is AMAZING for second-hand shopping…that is of course if you know where to go. Vintage in London is notoriously pricey but little-known are its charity shops. This selection is almost too good to release but in the name of sustainability here it is. FARA in Angel is a must-go, only 15 minutes away from UCL with a great selection at affordable prices. If you’re in the centre, Oxfam in Covent Garden is a hidden gem. If you live in Camden or Kentish Town, they have many charity shops from Oxfam to Cancer Research to Mind. Further out, but undoubtedly the best area is Dalston. The TRAID and Oxfam are huge, and the stock is almost always cheaper than inner-city locations.

Food waste

Fancy a take-away? Why don’t you opt instead for a discounted selection from Too Good to Go, an app that lets you pick up extra stock made that day from local cafes and restaurants!

Green entertainment

Get out in nature more! There are plenty of ways to do this. You could visit one of London’s many parks, or if you want a hands-on experience, I suggest City Farms. Some close to UCL include: Spitalfields City farm, Kentish Town City Farm, Hackney City Farm and Freightliners Farm. Roof Gardens in the centre are a bit more impressive. Some available to visit for free include: 420 Fenchurch street and 20 Fenchurch street (just make sure you book in advance!). For an experience closer to home check out SOAS’s Japanese Roof Garden.

Last revised: 7 September 2021.

Helen Visscher, UCL Sustainability blog contributor