How to Have an Eco-Friendly Vacation in NYC

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Packed with skyscrapers and cabs, New York City doesn't appear like the most environmentally conscious city on its surface. But tucked around the Big Apple are hotels, restaurants, and attractions that take sustainability seriously. If supporting businesses with green practices and reducing your carbon footprint -- even on vacation -- are important to you, read below for our guide on how to have an eco-friendly NYC getaway. 

Stay at an eco-friendly hotel.

Lobby at 1 Hotel Central Park/Oyster

Lobby at 1 Hotel Central Park/Oyster

First and foremost, find a hotel that follows environmentally friendly practices. These days, most hotels have switched to only washing towels and sheets when requested, but research if the property goes further with initiatives such as supplying bulk toiletries instead of small plastic bottles, energy-efficient lighting, high-efficiency showerheads, low-flow toilets, and green roofs with beehives and produce. 

IHG is consistently eco-friendly across their properties, but there are loads more that stick to green practices. 1 Hotel Central Park showcases its eco-minded mission in its gorgeous design. For a family-friendly hotel, consider Gardens Suites Hotel by Affinia, which has large apartment-style units on the Upper East Side. For a luxurious boutique experience, we love Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo. For a pet-friendly property in the Times Square area, look no further than Kimpton Muse Hotel

Skip the private car service.

Midtown East/Oyster

Midtown East/Oyster

When you’re trying to make a Broadway show or looking for the quickest way to get to One World Trade Center, it can be tempting to hop in a taxi or order that UberBlack. However, NYC is ripe with more environmentally friendly transportation options. Highest on that list is walking, a preferred mode of transport for many New Yorkers and a great way for tourists to see the city. If your feet are tired from walking around Central Park or The Met, opt for biking with the affordable Citi Bike bike-sharing system, or taking the easy-to-use subway. If you’re still set on traveling by car, choose ride-sharing services such as Lyft Line and UberPool. Large families and groups can try Chariot or Via

Eat at locally sourced restaurants.

Union Square Farmers Market/Oyster

Union Square Farmers Market/Oyster

The New York food scene is incredible, ranging from cheap and tasty halal carts on the sidewalk to Michelin-starred establishments where reservations are mandatory. On top of the array of cuisines and price points found here, many of the restaurants are focused on sustainability. For a gourmet tasting experience, head to the 2000-opened Blue Hill restaurant in Greenwich Village, which sources food locally, including from its own farm an hour north of the city. Another leader in eco-minded dining is the Jean-Georges Vongerichten-led ABC Kitchen, whose locally sourced menu is free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, and hormones. 

For less formal and pricey dining, Bareburger has multiple locations and a menu that’s over one-third vegetarian and plant-based, with ingredients sourced from sustainable farmers. Ancolie serves its veggie-centric dishes such as salads and chia puddings in reusable glass jars. For something sweet, head to Birdbath Bakery, the smaller, more eco-minded sister to famous City Bakery. The design and menu is more environmentally conscious, but just as sweet.

Visit sustainability-minded attractions.

The number of attractions in New York is enough to fill many weekend vacations, but the list of sights with a sustainable practice is far shorter. Mix sightseeing and being eco-friendly with trips to spots such as the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Families in particular should head to the garden’s solar-roofed Edible Academy, a state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2018 and is constructed to LEED Gold certification level. Here, hands-on gardening, educational lessons, and cooking demonstrations are held.

For something closer to downtown, the Institute of Culinary Education offers recreational cooking and baking classes ranging from pasta-making to creating chocolate confections. It has its own indoor hydroponic herb and produce garden where visitors can harvest herbs and edible flowers for their dishes. 

Pack your luggage with eco-friendly products.

Before you even get to New York City, there’s one way to ensure you’re extra eco-friendly on your trip: Pack accordingly. One of the easiest items to throw in your bag is a reusable water bottle. This will prevent you from constantly buying plastic bottles from bodegas and street carts. The stainless-steel Hydro Flask is a favorite for its ability to keep ice frozen and coffee hot for hours upon hours, plus it comes in a multitude of colors and sizes. To keep the sun out of your eyes while walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, a pair of Costa sunglasses fits the bill. Just be sure to buy a pair from their Untangled Collection, which is created by recycling discarded fishing nets collected from commercial fishing ports in Chile. 

For your toiletry bag, stick to products from companies like Tom’s of Maine, which supports sustainable growing and harvesting practices, and aims to reduce packaging waste through recyclability and biodegradability. From deodorant to toothpaste, and lip balm to baby sunscreen, all the essentials are available. 

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