With incredible natural attractions and great year-round weather, Los Angeles is the perfect place for people with a strong appreciation for the outdoors and the environment. That focus on the natural world also fuels a local commitment to preserving natural spaces and working toward becoming one of the greenest big cities in the United States.
When it comes to getting around, few things are as eco-friendly as public transit. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) can take visitors to just about any Los Angeles attraction they want to visit, and they’ll do it using the largest fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles in the United States (more than 2,300 buses, totaling more than 90 percent of its operating fleet). Metro was the first transportation agency in the country to commit to alternative fuel on a massive scale. If you’d rather rent a car, California-Rent-A-Car rents Toyota Priuses, while EV Rental at LAX rents Honda Civic Hybrids and Toyota Highlander Hybrids — the perfect vehicles for exploring Los Angeles and reducing your carbon footprint.
Begin your day at the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles, which provides proof that an office building can have a knockout architectural design and also be environmentally friendly. Designed by famed architect Thom Mayne, the building has received a silver rating from the United States Green Building Council. The 13-story structure’s “skin” produces electricity through the use of photovoltaics, while other energy-saving features make it a model of sustainability. Visitors are not permitted beyond the front desk, but the spacious plaza offers vistas to appreciate the postmodern design.
Head north of Downtown Los Angeles a few miles to the Audubon Center at Debs Park. This cutting-edge, environmentally minded center and monitoring program is an excellent place to appreciate the diversity of bird life within the 300-acre park. The center is also the first Los Angeles building to function entirely “off the grid” and has received a platinum rating — the highest possible — from the United States Green Building Council.
Griffith Park, the largest urban park in the United States, offers a myriad of hiking trails, including Oak Canyon, Lower Skyline, Rattlesnake and Amir’s Garden.
Ferndell trails are popular and end at the Griffith Observatory. Visit the park ranger's office to get up-to-date information and recommended hikes.
The Café at the End of the Universe at the Griffith Observatory is an indoor/outdoor spot perfect for lunch after your hike or Observatory visit. Overlooking the park, this is one of Wolfgang Puck’s eateries, and his organization has committed to serving fresh, seasonal and organic produce as well as naturally raised animals.
After lunch, you can spend the afternoon at the STAR ECO Station in Culver City. This exotic wildlife rescue center is in the middle of LA’s Westside. To encourage a sense of responsibility for these animals, the Station offers up-close visits with tropical birds, reptiles, wildcats and ocean life.
A trip to LA is also a good time to check out all the eco-friendly stores the city has to offer. On Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a number of stores have waved the green banner. Ten Women, a local artists’ coop which has grown into 22 members since 1994, puts out everything from paintings to ceramics to fabrics — many created from recycled material. The artistry isn’t lost in the coop’s eco-friendly consciousness, and the products continue to thrive on creativity and originality. Meanwhile, Vert is the a haven for the eco-conscious provides an emerald green alternative for skin, body, hair, home and baby. A draw for many smart celebs, including Molly Sims and Jennifer Jason Leigh, Vert carries voluminous expert advice and an amazing line of products from the hottest talents in the industry. This Venice Beach gem will help you shine.
For dinner, it’s back Downtown to Border Grill, which specializes in seasonal, locally grown ingredients. The upscale, modern Mexican cuisine comes from two of the most famous chefs in Los Angeles — the Too Hot Tamales, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. In partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, the restaurant serves only sustainable seafood, as well as dishes made from at least 80 percent plant-based ingredients.
You can also swing by Topanga State Park and Topanga Beach for sand and surf; the beach has more than 36 miles of hiking trails and great views of the Pacific Ocean.
There are also plenty of green events in Los Angeles worth checking out, depending on when you’re visiting. Eco-Home is a living research center offering tours on alternate Sundays (call in advance for reservations). Located on a typical city lot, the charming, tree-shaded Eco-Home features many green features: xeriscape, food garden, composting, photovoltaics, solar hot water, graywater system and more. LA Eco-Village is home to about 35 green activists who have moved to the immediate area to work together on sustainable urban living. They often host lectures and classes focused on ecology and environmentalism.
If you’re truly serious about conservation, take some time out of your vacation to volunteer with a local environmental organization. The Surfrider Foundation, for example, is dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, waves and beaches. You can join them and participate in a beach clean-up day. Another organization, Friends of the Los Angeles River, exists to protect and restore the Los Angeles River and its riparian habitat through planning, education and wise stewardship. They offer educational river tours six times a year.