On The Organic Trail…London

By Kristan Schiller / September 14, 2011

Until I actually lived in London, impressions from fleeting visits involved Oxford Street lit up at Christmastime like an amusement park on steroids, sushi bars with posh-sounding names turning out bites of endangered yellow tail in assembly-line fashion, and stores like Primark packed with clothes that cost the small change in your purse but are mass-produced in China – hardly a model for sustainability. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when just months after I moved to Bloomsbury, a little restaurant called Acorn House opened its doors on an unremarkable corner about ten minutes’ walk from my apartment.


Acorn House

I started fetching lattes en route to class in Acorn House’s recyclable cups or bottles of Belu water—sourced in Shropshire, carbon-neutral, and with all proceeds going to fund water projects in drought-afflicted areas. Then a couple of friends took me to Acorn House for a celebratory birthday dinner and I was hooked. The visible kitchen gets you excited for what’s about to hit your table— starters include a scrumptious Jerusalem artichoke prepared with kale, chili, almonds and goat cheese while entrees like Bhachu vegetable curry will not disappoint. Dessert might be prune and honey cake with almond ice cream or British cheese with seasonal chutne—yum. The entire menu is, in fact, seasonal and the restaurant is sustainable in more ways than you can imagine. The structure itself is built from recycled materials, the staff composts 100% of its waste, the kitchen demands positive animal husbandry and avoids industrial farms, and green electricity is also in use. And Acorn House further demonstrates its commitment to the local community with Blue Marble Training, a school set up to train aspiring eco-chefs for the restaurant under the guidance of more experienced chefs.

“Acorn House aims to take one small step towards creating a city capable of sustaining itself” chimes the restaurant’s website – and so it has. Once I’d experienced Acorn House, I began opening my eyes to London’s other eco-friendly choices and found that there were more than would fit into my recyclable i-Pod! Even the London Eye is being upgraded with improved heating in its capsules to make the ride more energy efficient – who knew? www.acornhouserestaurant.com

Daylesford Organic

Stroll though any Daylesford Organic and it will transport you back in time with its row upon row of smiling produce and land-to-consumer ethos. Though Daylesford recently experienced a bout of bad publicity for lax safety measures on one of its farms, the handful of café-cum-farmstands (and one now in Munich) are much-loved by London’s health-conscious who faithfully flock to the Pimlico and Notting Hill locations for soups and salads made with vegetables grown on organic estates throughout Gloucestershire and Staffordshire. Daylesford even produces its own wine on a chateau in Provence. Of course this is all thanks to Lady Carole Bamford, wife of multimillionaire Sir Anthony Bamford, whose impressive empire now includes a gardening shop, natural health spa, yoga studio and Chinese tea house. www.daylesfordorganic.com


The Berkeley Health Club and Spa

With its stunning location on the 7th floor of the Berkeley Hotel overlooking Hyde Park, the Berkeley Spa and Health Club is a favorite of shoppers seeking a break from pounding the Knightsbridge pavement in their Jimmy Choos. The glass-walled pool is a highlight, as is an extensive menu of organic treatments by Comfort Zone, an Italian skincare line with products formulated according to the European organic certification organization Ecocert. My own massage, called “Sacred Space at Hyde Park,” is an hour-long full body massage using oil taken from the Brazilian palm tree, a cleansing milk made from shea butter, and finally, a jojoba-based scrub. All of these also contain extract of butterfly bush which is meant to hold powerful anti-aging properties. At the end of the hour, I find myself sipping chamomile tea in a candle-lit room and thanking my massage therapist Ellie for making my jetlag magically disappear. www.the-berkeley.co.uk/health_beauty.aspx

The Organic Pharmacy

Entering The Organic Pharmacy on Great Marlborough Street seems like something akin to Alice falling down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland. As soon as I pass through the door, Nadia, my treatment therapist, ushers me downstairs and into an all-white underground treatment chamber where she proceeds with the Organic Pharmacy Signature Facial, the 60-minute Rose Crystal Lymphatic Facial. The facial uses techniques including deep cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, acupressure massage, and lymphatic massage with rose crystals. The products Nadia uses on my face include carrot butter cleanser, flower petal mask, rose and bilberry toning gel, seaweed clay mask, and honey and jasmine mask. Nadia also gives me a personal skin analysis after examining my face under a microscope. When the treatment is over, I feel so relaxed I have to gather myself for 15 minutes before reentering the pedestrian flow. www.theorganicpharmacy.com


F&M Bag for Life

Even the venerable Queen’s grocer, Fortnum & Mason, is getting on the sustainable bandwagon with its very own Bag for Life, an environmentally-friendly jute shopping bag made by villagers in Eastern India and Bangladesh with biodegradable, plant-based fibers. The bag has the signature F&M aqua green handles and bears the F&M logo in black. At a mere $6, this roomy tote is perfect for traipsing through farmer’s markets or even through Heathrow with all of your “green London” gifts! www.fortnumandmason.com


In writing a piece on “green London,” I would be remiss not to mention Eco-Age, an inventive boutique run by Livia Firth (wife of Colin). Though a bit off-the-beaten track in the far West London neighborhood of Chiswick (about a half hour tube ride from the center), Eco-Age will enliven your inner green with its array of eco-friendly gifts and sundries from recycled wrapping paper to fair trade trilby hats. You can also hire a consulting team from the shop to turn your entire home green! www.eco-age.com


Not only are these clothes made with eco-friendly materials by people who are paid a fair wage in developing countries – they are gorgeous! Joe Komodo knew what he was doing back in 1988 when he started this clothing line, which is now sold worldwide and also in its own shop in Covent Garden. Comfy cotton dresses and caftans in bright blues and pinks as well as organic t-shirts with pithy graphics and phrases make this shop hip as well as just. It’s worth noting, too, that Komodo’s factory in Kathmandu was just awarded the SA8000 certification for human rights in the workplace, making it the only factory of its kind in Nepal. www.komodo.co.uk


One Aldwych

I can’t say enough about this uber-stylish luxury hotel in the heart of the West End. One Aldwych first caught my eye on my weekly walk from Russell Square to King’s College on the Strand. Giant windows displaying a flawlessly-designed lobby and a smattering of the hotel’s 400-piece modern art collection stopped me in my tracks as I popped into the lobby like a stalker then later returned for a closer look. Housed in a traditional Edwardian building, the 105 rooms here are designed with mod touches and include Frette linens, plush carpets, bathrooms with mini-TV’s, and all-natural British bath amenities by REN. The health club includes a pool with underwater music and Axis, the hotel’s buzzy restaurant, offers guests seasonal tasting menus sourced from local suppliers with a chef who supports free range meats and sustainable fishing methods. Details such as water-saving toilets and the donation of unused bathroom amenities to nearby homeless charity Centrepoint make One Aldwych the ultimate hotel for ethical chic. www.campbellgrayhotels.com

The Cavendish

On Jermyn Street in exclusive Mayfair, the recently-redesigned, 4-star Cavendish is known for its central location and brilliant views of the London skyline. Within walking distance of Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and The London Eye, the 15-floor hotel is also surrounded by the boutiques of Seville Row (with Fortnum & Mason directly across the street.) Though the hotel has been around since Edwardian times, it has adopted modern measures such as using Gilchrist & Soames “Beekind” bathroom amenities kept in paper bottles instead of plastic and regular “green” training for the staff. A new low water volume dishwasher has recently been installed and plans are in the works to replace the current elevator system with an energy efficient one. Environmentally-friendly vehicles also receive a 50% discount in the hotel’s car park. www.thecavendish-london.co.uk


Climate Cars and GoGreenCar

Of course walking, cycling, or rickshaws are the most eco-friendly ways to go if you’re not in a rush, but if you want to get somewhere fast and have the foresight to pre-book, I suggest either Climate Cars or GoGreenCar. Their cars emit 60% less carbon dioxide than other taxis and produce 98% less nitrogen oxide than the average Hackney Cab. Both companies use the Toyota Prius, however, GoGreenCar only uses the Mark2 Prius and Climate Cars has only 15 Mark3 Priuses in its fleet (the model recalled by Toyota – and Climate Cars assures me they are now updating the braking software on those 15 cars.) I used each of these carbon-neutral car services during my recent visit and had equally positive experiences. Climate Cars offered me a complimentary newspaper while my driver from GoGreenCar even inquired as to my preferred route – something a London cab driver would never do! www.climatecars.com and www.gogreencar.co.uk

British Airways

Though British Airways has received more attention lately for its striking staff than for its efforts towards sustainability, the largest airline in the UK announced in February that it has partnered with the Washington DC-based bio fuel company Solena Group to establish Europe’s first sustainable jet fuel plant. Based in East London, the plant will produce 16 million gallons of low-carbon fuel from 500,000 tons of waste which will be used to power a selection of BA’s planes starting in 2014. The process that converts the waste into “green” fuel reportedly saves 95% of greenhouse gases as compared to fuel derived from kerosene. BA has also upgraded its carbon offset scheme which uses UN-certified emissions reductions to help finance clean energy projects in developing countries. Customers who choose to offset their flight emissions will be supporting a new windfarm in one of the poorest provinces of China as well as hydro-electric plants in Brazil. The new scheme is designed to be more user-friendly, enabling customers to buy their offset in the same transaction as their flight purchase at www.ba.com. www.britishairways.com

Kristan Schiller
Kristan Schiller

Latest posts by Kristan Schiller (see all)