Three of the UK's best
Take a break in one of these green cities! We explore Bristol, Brighton and Edinburgh, and suggest some eco-friendly gear to take with you
Arthur's Seat © Marketing Edinburgh
In 2015, Bristol was the first UK city to be awarded the prestigious title of European Green Capital. It's now one of the country's leading cities for sustainable development, and is home to several key environmental and ethical organizations, including the Soil Association and Sustrans.
The city holds many green events throughout the year, such as Wildscreen Festival – the world's largest wildlife and environmental film festival.
Bristol Cathedral © Destination Bristol
There are plenty of eco-friendly hotels and businesses to choose from, with many of these accredited through programmes such as the Green Tourism Business Scheme.
Sustainable food and drink is important in the city, with locally produced food a priority for many restaurants and cafes. The annual Food Connections festival celebrates local food and the slow food revolution, with pop-up restaurants and stalls run by artisan producers appearing all over the city.
© Bristol Food Connections
Bristol has hundreds of beautiful parks and green spaces, with lots of opportunities for walking. Leigh Woods, just across the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, is a National Trust woodland with a number of walking trails of different lengths. Enjoy views over the gorge, sculptures, veteran trees – and you may even spot a red deer!
Or head for Brandon Hill Nature Park, run by the Avon Wildlife Trust, where you'll find a sea of yellow cowslips in spring and summer wildflowers that attract a wealth of bees and butterflies. There's a wildlife pond to peer into – home to frogs and toads – or climb the steep steps up to Cabot Tower for spectacular views.
River Avon and Suspension Bridge, Bristol © Dave Pratt
Green spaces cover nearly half of the area of Edinburgh, and there's no shortage of places where visitors to the Scottish capital can immerse themselves in nature.
Holyrood Park is a great example – just a short walk from the heart of the city, this 640-acre site of Special Scientific Interest offers walking routes through a diverse landscape of flora and geology.
Dramatic crags tower over the park – the highest of these, Arthur's Seat, offers a superb vantage point for enjoying views across the city. This is also the site of a well-preserved fort – one of four hill forts dating from around 2,000 years ago.
Edinburgh Castle © Marketing Edinburgh
At the southern end of Holyrood Park you'll find Duddingston Loch, a Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve of mixed woodland, scrub, grassland and reed beds. The reserve is home to the only example of a natural freshwater loch in the City of Edinburgh, and it's an important site for breeding and wintering wildfowl. Otters have been spotted swimming along the shore in winter, and you may also see kingfishers, water voles and lapwings.
Back in the city centre, enjoy a stroll through beautiful Princes Street Gardens – a large park that divides Edinburgh's old and new towns, and is home to the world-famous Floral Clock. This spectacular, colourful display – a real, working clock, with clock hands and numbers made from growing flowers – was first planted in 1903 and has been an annual tradition ever since.
The clock features thousands of plants, and typically flowers from July until October. Each year the display commemorates a special anniversary – in 2017, this was the bicentenary of the Scotsman Newspaper.
Sandwiched between the sea and the South Downs National Park, the vibrant city of Brighton is an ideal weekend destination for eco-conscious travellers.
Just an hour by train from central London, the city offers green spaces and a long stretch of beach. Visitors can visit the famous pier to enjoy seaside amusements or stroll through The Lanes – a fascinating historic area of twisting alleyways, with a range of independent and specialist shops.
Visitors to the town can buy locally made gifts and handicrafts, or choose from tasty local produce at one of the city's farmers' markets – and enjoy a picnic on the beach!
The city centre is compact – less than a square mile – so all areas are easily accessible and can be explored on foot. There are recycling bins across the city, allowing visitors to dispose of their waste without harming the environment.
Some of the city's eco attractions include the fascinating Earthship – a beautiful off-grid building on the edge of the city that showcases sustainable building and living practises. Another sustainable building is the Jubilee Library, which makes use of the sun and wind for heat and power, and uses recovered water to flush the toilets.
The town and surrounding area is a UNESCO World Biosphere Region. Called The Living Coast, the region encompasses towns, countryside and sea – including the Marine Conservation Zone chalk reef. The Living Coast is home to more than a third of a million people as well as some remarkable wildlife, such as the Adonis blue butterfly and the short-snouted seahorse.
Eco city gear
If you're visiting a green city, you should take some eco-friendly gear with you! Here are a few suggestions.
Fjällräven Kånken backpack
Created in 1978 to help tackle back problems amongst Swedish students, these sturdy backpacks are built to last – with some Kånken backpacks passed on from parents to their kids, and still in use today. Made from hard-wearing fabric that's designed to be water- and dirt-repellant, a Kånken backpack is ideal for a day in the city. Featuring adjustable shoulder straps, it has a spacious main compartment, side pockets and a zipped front pocket for items that need to be kept close-at-hand. Fjällräven products are designed to be durable and last many years, and production methods reduce impact on the environment, with consumption of energy, water and chemicals kept to a minimum. The company's Save the Arctic Fox campaign is a good example of how Fjällräven is committed to protecting nature and the environment.
Greenfibres organic cotton scoop neck tee £12.90
This great value women's organic cotton tee is super soft, comfortable and lightweight, with a loose fit that's very flattering. Roll it up into your weekend bag and pair with jeans or a skirt for effortless city style. These t-shirts are naturally breathable too, keeping you cool if the sun comes out – and are available in five lovely colours. Organic cotton uses no chemical pesticides, so is better for the environment and for your skin – chemical residues in non-organic clothes can cause allergies. Greenfibres has been making and selling organic textiles since 1996, using ethical, ecological and socially responsible practices in line with the Global Organic Textile Standards, including fair pay and working conditions. Impact on the environment is kept to a minimum during production, with electricity from renewable sources, biodegradable packaging that is reusable and recyclable, and use of local companies wherever possible. And around 10 per cent of annual profits are used to support other organizations, including the UK Biodynamic Association and the Transition Towns network.
Ecoffee cup Pomme William Morris 14oz
In a huge choice of gorgeous designs – including a range of stunning William Morris patterns – these eco coffee cups help save the planet by reducing the quantity of single-use cups that end up in landfill. 100 billion disposable cups are thrown away each year – they're rarely recycled, and don't break down. So if you're planning coffee to go during your city stay, take along one of these ecoffee cups – you'll be helping to stop the pile-up each time you use it. And it's so nice to use. Feeling very much like a china mug – with no plasticky aftertaste – it has an insulated sleeve to protect hands and a no-drip, resealable lid. Ecoffee cups are made with organic, biodegradable bamboo fibre, come in three different sizes, and are light, strong and sturdy.
Ethletic Skater sneakers
Stylish, comfy and perfect for pavement pounding, the Ethletic Fair Skater sneaker comes in ten fabulous colours – we particularly like Reseda Green. The thick, flexible rubber soles offer good grip on slippery surfaces and provide sound support and cushioning – good news if you're on your feet all day, exploring the city. Ethletic products are made using only sustainable resources, protecting agricultural areas and their economic potential for generations to come. Made from organic, fairly traded canvas twill cotton that's produced on small farms in India, and FSC-certified Fairtrade rubber from Sri Lanka, this is an ethical choice. Ethletic has also established its own fair trade projects in the local communities where production facilities are based, and Ethletic pays an additional premium of 15 per cent of production costs to the families of workers employed in the production facilities – supporting local education and health initiatives.
Green Adventures April 2018