By Rob Perkins
Brighton, on the south coast of England just an hour from London, is one of the UK’s most eco-friendly cities. Known for its creative, bohemian atmosphere, diverse nightlife and acceptance of alternative lifestyles, Brighton was the first English city to elect a Green Member of Parliament, and has a strong focus on sustainable urban design.
It’s easy to organise a green holiday in Brighton. Stay in hotels that support sustainable tourism initiatives; eat at vegan, organic and zero-waste restaurants; sunbathe on a Blue Flag beach, or take a day-trip into the stunning South Downs National Park.
Brighton is an inclusive, forward-thinking city where new eco-friendly developments are constantly being developed, from bus services that run on recycled cooking-oil to a family-friendly cafe with a “living roof”. There is a fantastic number of green travel options in Brighton.
What to see…
The newest attraction on Brighton’s beachfront is the i360, the world’s tallest moving observation tower. A futuristic glass viewing pod gently glides up to 138 metres, affording 360-degree panoramas of city and sea, the South Downs National Park, and on a clear day, as far as the Isle of Wight. The restaurant at the foot of the tower serves locally sourced food to compliment its outstanding beach views.
A unique and unforgettable sight, the Royal Pavilion was built as a holiday home for George, Prince of Wales, in the 19th century. Fascinating Indian- and Muslim-inspired architectural flourishes, including domes and minarets, make it the city’s most eye-catching building, while the attractive gardens are a popular picnic spot.
Opposite the i360, the skeleton of the West Pier, which burned down in 2003, is one of the most iconic sights in Brighton. See it at dusk, when hundreds of starlings swoop around in beautifully choreographed patterns before coming to to roost on the structure’s exposed beams. There are many independent bars, shops and restaurant within a few minutes’ walk.
What to do…
Explore Brighton vibrant seafront, which is alive with activity all year-round. Join the crowds watching a game of basketball or volleyball; sink into a deckchair onto the pebbled beach; buy an ice-cream on the Palace Pier (watch out for cheeky seagulls!); browse boutique shops and art galleries, or listen to funky vibes over a refreshing beer in an open-air bar.
The premier shopping district in Brighton, the Lanes are filled with quirky independent stores selling everything from vintage furniture to antiques, gourmet food and drink, vegetarian footwear and Native American headdresses.
Regular guided tours of Earthship Brighton are held in Stanmer Park, just outside Brighton. The first Earthship to be built in the UK, the community centre was entirely constructed from renewable, natural or recycled materials, uses renewable energy and rainwater harvesting, and serves as an inspirational educational resource.
Where to stay…
There are many eco-friendly guest accommodations in Brighton, but the most sustainable are often small guesthouses and bed ‘n’ breakfasts. Paskins sources its breakfasts from local farms, and uses toiletries that haven’t been tested on animals. Brighton House has won national tourism awards for its eco policies including minimising waste and using green energy suppliers. The Oriental is a boutique 4* hotel in a Grade II-listed Regency building, with owners committed to an eco-friendly ethos.
As one of the most popular visitor destinations in England, Brighton is overflowing with hotels, guesthouses and private rental apartments. Many offer superb sea-views, but expect to pay for them, and if you’re staying in the city-centre, don’t be surprised if you’re woken early by a dawn chorus from the resident seagulls.
Where to eat…
If you’re taking an eco-friendly holiday in Brighton you’ll have plenty of choice when it comes to eating. From long-established vegetarian restaurants such as Iydea and Food for Friends to Silo, a restaurant / bakery / brewery / coffee house that aims to produce zero waste, there is a wealth of mouthwatering options offering global cuisine to suit any budget or appetite. With regular food festivals running throughout the year, and plenty of successful independents taking on the chains, Brighton is something of a foodie paradise.
Every year, many homes around the city with sustainable architectural features open their doors to the public. See modern solar systems in operation, green roofs or innovative rainwater recycling systems, meet the owners, and get inspired! `