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Brighton has always been one of the most progressive cities in the UK, with that open-minded vibe of places inhabited by young, creative people who are always seeking change and looking to the future. Its privileged setting, on the English Channel, just one hour from London, has made it the perfect place to take a break for a few hours in order to discover its charm and return refreshed and filled with optimism.
On arrival, you can rent a bike, which is a quick and sustainable way to get around in the city. In Brighton, anyone can join the BTN Bike Share programme which, with an easy to use app and a simple registration form, will allow you to discover the city on two wheels and enjoy cycling for as long as you want (the rates start at 3p per minute). There are many official bike parks available, dotted around the city from the seafront to the university campus, so you won’t have to worry about your bicycle being a nuisance at any time.
The revolution of artisan bakeries has come to Brighton, and the Open Bakery, with its homemade delights and sustainable credentials, is one of the best. In addition to guaranteeing animal welfare and the sustainable origin of their ingredients, which are local whenever possible, the bakery has a sustainable energy programme which helps it offset its annual carbon footprint through eco-friendly initiatives. What’s more, all the bread, buns, desserts and sandwiches are freshly made in their bakery, and their butter croissants, savoury and vegan options are all worth trying.
A good way to mix with the locals is to take part in a volunteering activity. The Hubbub Foundation is known for organising campaigns that seek to generate a positive, tangible environmental impact. One of its most successful campaigns was to transform an ice-cream cart into a “Waste Converter”, which saw people coming to the cart to deliver a piece of waste they had picked up off the street and receiving sweets in return. This initiative was so popular that it continues today and you may be lucky enough to see the cart on the city streets during your visit.
Considering its history of progressive policies, it is no surprise that Brighton was the first UK city to win the Sustainable Food Places Gold Award, which recognises the city’s dedication to integrating sustainable food policies into daily life. Brighton was the first to adopt a food strategy as a city, which included implementing policies to ensure that schools work with local suppliers that use sustainable methods. They were also the first to incorporate vegetable gardens into new buildings.
Many stores like Wastenot have decided to focus their efforts on promoting a more sustainable world. This small business sells items ranging from reusable water bottles to take-way coffee cups and raffia baskets, all based on a zero-waste philosophy to try and reduce our environmental impact.
Brighton is well known for its shops and markets filled with second-hand items, a true ode to reusing objects and giving new life to materials and products that would otherwise have ended up in the waste bin. Snoopers Attic is one such store that’s well worth a visit, as it’s home to fascinating antiques and original objects. Hope & Harlequin is considered one of the best pre-loved clothing stores in the country and for very good reason - if you’re a fan of vintage fashions, then this is the place for you. Another spot that is worth visiting is the Brighton Flea Market, which offers countless objects of all kinds and is a good opportunity to pick up a souvenir of Brighton while also giving new life to a used object, thus reducing the impact of the purchase. If you want to continue shopping, pay a visit to the maze that is The Lanes, with its many shops that are waiting to be explored.
In the afternoon, you can reunite with nature on the marvellous seafront. As well as enjoying the Atlantic breeze and seeing the rocky beaches that are typical of the area, you can also go back in time and imagine what a holiday would be like during the Victorian age, when the British spent their summers in the southern part of the country. The vintage beauty of Brighton Pier is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country outside London and gives you the opportunity to get swept up in nostalgia for bygone times.
Brighton is a food-lover’s paradise and there are many varied options for lunch in restaurants with good sustainable credentials. For those who like Japanese food, and sushi in particular, Moshimo is the place to go. As well as offering one of the best culinary experiences in Brighton, their Fishlove campaign, in which they managed to involve celebrities such as Dame Judi Dench, drew attention to the problems of overfishing in Europe. Their menu excludes fish species appearing on the Marine Conservation Society’s list of “fish to avoid” and includes many vegetarian and vegan options. The restaurant has won many prizes for its sustainability efforts, including Brighton’s Most Sustainable Eats award in 2019. Mange Tout, set up in 2009, is one of the most popular bistros in the city. Its philosophy is based on using local, seasonal produce, with popular options including squid with harissa, pepper sauce and roast peppers, and banana blossom with fried sweet potato and vegan tartar sauce. Their list of natural wines is also substantial. The Salt Room has one of the best views in the city, featuring the West Pier with Brighton Bay as a backdrop. Their menu is focused on local, sustainable seafood and in 2017 the restaurant won the Seafood Restaurant of the Year, thanks in part to its commitment to working only with responsible suppliers. Their dishes include Sussex Coast monkfish with beans and ‘nduja, tomato and cress, or fish stew, which varies depending on the fish of the day, but is usually served with toasted fennel and cherry tomato sauce. A more informal option is Lucky Beach, which won the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s three-star award from 2016 to 2020 and was also voted the UK’s Favourite Sustainable Restaurant in 2017-2018. The perfect place in which to enjoy fish and chips with sustainable credentials, their menu also includes classics such as halloumi, burritos, hash browns and hamburgers (meat and vegetarian). Whichever dish you choose, you can rest assured it will have been created according to the restaurant’s sustainable criteria. This even includes their organic coffee, which is from Red Roaster, a roastery in Brighton that also shares its profits with local social projects.
One fascinating project worth exploring is Earthship Brighton, which was created by the non-profit organisation, Low Carbon Trust. Earthships are sustainable buildings made with recycled materials, such as tyres, and which employ natural resources (water and solar energy) to supply heat, power and water. This was the first Earthship to be built in England and as such, it’s completely self-sufficient and is now used as a community centre by Stanmer Organics (accredited by the Soil Association). With a clear ambition to inspire a switch to more sustainable building methods, the project is open to visitors. The tours last between one hour and an hour-and-a-half and serve to educate about all the green technologies used on the Earthship.
The Sea Life Centre was inaugurated in 1872 and is thought to be the oldest operating aquarium in the world. It carries out important conservation work through its charitable foundation, the SEA LIFE Trust, as well as organising volunteering activities that attract dozens of people who are willing to spend their time cleaning up the beaches, which is yet another good way of doing some proactive work during your visit.
When it comes to parks, Brighton doesn’t disappoint, and although there are many options, one of the most interesting is The Rockery, the largest municipal rock garden in the UK. Located on Preston Road and designed by Captain B Maclaren in 1935, it still maintains all its former charm and, despite its small size, has bridges, benches and lakes, the best ingredients for spending time relaxing and enjoying nature.
If you feel like having a last supper before your departure, a few interesting options are Terre à Terre, with its sophisticated and exclusively vegetarian menus and The Chilli Pickle, with its Indian street food menu and its determination to work with local products. There’s also the gastro pub The Foragers, which, aside from serving local, ecological food, is one of those pubs in which everyone is welcome, including pets.