A Green City Guide to Los Angeles

City: Los Angeles Population: 3.8 million (city), 15.3 million (metro) Green Cred: Copious hiking trails, local produce year-round, and innovative businesses
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With its notorious sprawl, deeply-ingrained car culture, and air quality issues, Los Angeles probably isn't the first place you'd think of as a green city. But talk to LA residents (many of whom are passionate advocates of public transportation and biking), stroll its farmers' markets, and visit its design boutiques, and you'll find plenty of examples of eco-consciousness in this big city.

Places You Must Go


Things You Must Do

  • Explore the outdoors – Even though LA is a giant metropolis, you're never very far from the beach, mountains, or desert. Take some time to go on a coastal hike, discover the plants and animals of the chaparral, or just soak in the sunshine. Modern Hiker has a good list of trails in the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains as well as Joshua Tree. For us, this is what LA is really about, not celebrities or smog or other superficial stereotypes.
  • Take a walking tour – They say nobody walks in LA, but this is one of the best ways to explore the city. Check out the Los Angeles Conservancy's walking tours as well as the Downtown Art Walk and events organized by Big Parade. For self-guided tours that combine walking, public transportation, and the city's best cultural spots, visit ExperienceLA.
  • Look for events listed at green LA girl and Your Daily Thread, two great local sites.

Where To Sleep

LA is so geographically vast that, in general, the most eco-friendly place to stay is one close to the majority of your destinations (and/or major bus and subway lines if you plan to use public transportation). There's no sense in choosing a "green" hotel by the beach if your interests lie downtown.

However, if you do envision spending a lot of time at the coast or on the West side, consider The Ambrose, a LEED Silver Certified hotel in Santa Monica, or the Venice Beach Eco Cottages, which are solar-powered and beautifully decorated by eco-designer Kelly LaPlante. For the budget-oriented traveler, Hostelling International Santa Monica is located just two blocks from the beach and central to many bus lines.

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Hollywood Farmers' Market

Where To Eat

When it comes to dining out, LA has countless options for organic, vegetarian/vegan, and sustainable food. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Akasha – New American cuisine with local, organic, and handcrafted ingredients.
  • Elf Café – Though small, this vegan café offers tons of Eastern Mediterranean flavor.
  • Forage – The ever-changing menu features produce grown by urban microfarmers.
  • Gjelina – Rustic, local, and seasonal food for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
  • O! Burger – 100% organic fast food, from the meat to the condiments.
  • Shojin – An organic, vegan menu inspired by macrobiotic and Japanese cuisine.
  • Copa D'Oro – Cocktails with fresh, organic, farmers' market produce.

Shops To Visit If You're There For A Day

For some of the city's best independent boutiques, head over to Silver Lake's Sunset Junction and don't miss ReForm School, an art, craft, and design shop with a strong interest in sustainability; Kellygreen Home, which carries home decor and gift items; and Driftwood, which sells custom furniture, home accessories, and vintage goods.

Elsewhere in the LA metro area, check out Kelly LaPlante's Organic Interior Design (Venice); The Green Life (Santa Monica) for home and body products; Visionary Boutique (West Hollywood) for home goods, fashion, toys, gifts, and more; and Heath Ceramics (Mid-City) for handcrafted ceramics and other home decor items.

Shops To Frequent If You're There For a Year

Settling in for a while? Visit Livingreen for home furnishings and building materials; Green Cradle for furniture, mattresses, and bedding; Silverlake Architectural Salvage for antique and vintage items; and Jill's Paint for a great selection of eco-friendly paints.

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ReForm School

Green Spaces

Believe it or not, Los Angeles is home to one of the largest urban parks in the nation, Griffith Park, where you can hike (even at night!), rent bikes, ride horses, and visit the Observatory (famously featured in Rebel Without A Cause). The city also has some lovely botanical gardens at The Huntington, Getty Center, Descanso Gardens, and The Arboretum.

If you're interested in urban agriculture, look for events at the Urban Homestead and Farmlab. Or print out a Fallen Fruit map and explore the city's neighborhoods through foraging.

The Best Flea Markets, Antique Fairs, and Thrift Stores

Hands down, the best flea market in LA is at the Rose Bowl, held every second Sunday (click here for AT:LA's shopping tips). The Pasadena City College Flea Market and Long Beach Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market are also fun.

(Images: Flickr member creosoteshadow licensed under Creative Commons, Emily Ho, Gregory Han. Originally published 2010-07-20)

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Emily Ho is a Los Angeles-based writer, recipe developer, and educator on topics such as food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. She is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and Food Swap Network. Learn more at Roots & Marvel

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