Sustainable Ways to See LA
Mindful tours and activities that leave less of a footprint
There are a multitude of organized activities, tours, and things to do here in Los Angeles that are not only fun, but also benefit the greater good. We looked at some sustainable LA excursions – from hiking with wolfdogs to electric bike tours – that offer invaluable connection with the city, with nature, and ultimately with each other.
For over 40 years, LA-based non-profit TreePeople has been bringing Southern Californians together to plant and care for trees, harvest rain, and to renew depleted landscapes. Using its unique Citizen Forester model, it unites communities to create a greener, shadier, and more water-secure city in homes, schools, neighborhoods, and local mountains. Its efforts include guided activities led by TreePeople educators that are fun, informative, and family-friendly. Depending on the time of year, these include Family Tours at Coldwater Canyon Park; age/grade-appropriate Eco-Tours; interactive K-2 Virtual Enrichment Lessons; Moonlight Hikes tailored to all ages and experience levels; and inviting TreePeople’s Traveling Dirt Doctor into your classroom to learn about the importance of healthy soil.
Hugging the western slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains, Wolf Connection is a unique educational sanctuary and wilderness retreat that brings people together through interaction with its pack of hybrid wolfdogs. With programs tailored towards young people, at-risk groups, families, veterans, corporate organizations and more, this singular 165-acre facility helps humans to reconnect with nature and to be of service by responsibly caring for other beings. Its evening Walk with the Wolf Pack events let visitors bond with the majestic wolfdogs while strolling through the stunning Angeles National Forest, with ample time for photos and just sheer appreciation of the canine company and epic surrounds. Future plans include opportunities for overnight and weekly stays.
Bikes and Hikes
Bikes and Hikes offers a broad variety of daily outdoor sightseeing tours of LA for both individuals and groups. Even for native Angelenos, these healthy and social excursions reveal facets of this great city, while burning calories and building relationships. From a full-day, 32-mile LA City Tour on electric or regular bikes or the 2.5-hour Griffith Observatory Hike, including an exclusive, skip-the-line insider’s Griffith Observatory museum tour, to novel options like Group Sandcastle Sculpting with an experienced instructor. Bikes and Hikes has been hosting safe, sustainable experiences since 2010, helmed by CPR/first aid-certified tour guides who know this city’s most bike-friendly roads and hiker-heaven trails.
The Real Los Angeles Tours
If you’re keen to explore the vibrant vastness of Los Angeles, consider The Real Los Angeles Tours. Since 2013, this local company has hosted thousands of Fitbit-friendly walking, cycling, and public-transport tours which make the most of our city in minimally polluting manner. Offering a variety of both geographically-specific and themed itineraries – from its ‘LA in a Day Tour’ and ‘Mount Hollywood Hike’ to the ‘LA: Food + History + Design Tour’ and ‘DTLA Murder Mystery Ghost Tour’, The Real Los Angeles Tours put you much closer to the city and its people than any touristy open-top van excursion.
Food Future Institute
Food Future Institute is a forward-thinking culinary education experience helmed by plant-based food pioneer, Chef Matthew Kenney. It encourages more conscious approaches to consumption, a food paradigm driven by health, and shifts towards a more sustainable future. Originally an online platform, FFI is now planning hands-on classes at its Venice premises above Kenney’s flagship Plant Food + Wine restaurant. For $2,500, these two-week onsite courses – Essentials, Raw, Pastry + Dessert, and Evolution – are rare opportunities for personal yet comprehensive training alongside Kenney’s team of chef instructors. Pre-sales/deposits begin in late spring 2022 for classes starting this summer. In the meantime, try your hand with FFI’s virtual Plant-Based Home Cooking Course or Art + Technique of Elevated Plant-Based Cooking class.
Los Angeles Eco-Village
Comprising two blocks of Bimini Place and White House Place in the north end of Koreatown, The Los Angeles Eco-Village Intentional Community gathers around 40 people who moved to the neighborhood to live more ecologically and cooperatively. Their goal is to raise the quality of community life while lowering their environmental impacts and promoting public awareness of more sustainable urban living. We can all take an up-close look at this thought-provoking living experiment through in-person tours held on alternate Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ($15-$25 self-selected sliding scale; reservations required). Bring a brown bag and join the lunch discussion or continue an enlightening dialogue at one of the amazing restaurants or coffee stops nearby.
Electric Bike Tours
Silver Lake Electric Bikes offers a choice of four safe, sustainable electric bicycle and hiking tours conducted on provided Fuji Nevada e-bikes (motorized bicycles with an integrated electric motor to assist propulsion). Hikers will enjoy a 1.5-hour Silver Lake Urban Stair Hike or the more strenuous Wisdom Tree Hike in Griffith Park. E-bikers can choose the Hollywood Sign Electric Bike Ride through weaving canyon roads or the Verdugo Mtns. Electric Mountain Bike Ride, with its epic views and selfie ops. All healthy explorations and no-commitment gateways to the future-friendly world of e-biking. Spend half a day for a memorable, environmentally-friendly experience that just might change your commute – and even your waistline – forever.
Hiking with Rescue Dogs
Los Angeles is unusually blessed with opportunities for eco-friendly hiking and even overnight trekking, from Runyon Canyon Park above Hollywood to countless trails in city-adjacent mountains and coastlines. An unusual take on this popular LA pastime is a 2-hour Runyon hike with rescue dogs, hosted by the co-founder of non-profit animal welfare organization Free Animal Doctor. These morning hikes with like-minded fellow participants include stunning city views and, more importantly, exercise and socialization for the adoptable dogs while letting locals know that they are ready for their furever homes. Great for groups and teams, too, and includes oodles of cute canine photo ops.
The Gentle Barn
Located on the edge of Santa Clarita, where pristine housing developments make way to sprawling horse properties and scrubby hillsides, the Gentle Barn is a six-acre non-profit animal sanctuary. On Sundays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. it welcomes the public to come hug cows, tummy-rub pigs, cuddle turkeys, and experience all-around rejuvenation in rustic surrounds just 45 mins from LA Founded by Ellie Laks in Tarzana in 1999, the Gentle Barn moved to its current property in 2003 and now also has Missouri and Tennessee locations. And it’s not just about cooing over cute critters: the psychological benefits of a Gentle Barn visit are evidenced by its animal-assisted therapy programs for disabled and special-needs children, and for at-risk youth.
Farm LA is not your typical urban farm. Rather, this non-profit organization is dedicated to “rescuing” underutilized Los Angeles lots by repurposing them as solar or agricultural farms. It acquires vacant properties and transforms them into farms that nurture food (often easy-to-grow lima beans) for community distribution, or into solar farms that help the city generate its water and energy from renewable sources. You can help by signing-up to be notified of either scheduled group volunteer events, or of available days where you, solo or as a small group, can come to a given farm and help out as needed (likely with de-weeding). Your small effort will further cultural awareness of community gardening, while also promoting healthy eating and sustainable energy.
Campfire Programs at Leo Carrillo State Park
While savoring Malibu’s marvelous Leo Carrillo State Park, consider its educational Campfire Programs. Presented at the Campfire Center near the park’s huge campground, which has now fully reopened, a Park Ranger hosts these fascinating and family-friendly one-hour programs. Offered Memorial Day through Labor Day, they are free of charge to visitors who have paid park entrance or camping fees. Bring a flashlight! Additionally, this spectacular oceanside park offers a Junior Ranger Program for kids aged 7-12. Also free to paid visitors and held only during the summer, these fun hourlong programs teach youngsters about the park’s wildlife, plants, and history, while helping to instill interest in and respect for nature.
Self-tailored Sustainable Tours
If you’re more a create-my-own-itinerary type, consider self-tailoring a sustainable LA tour to your individual tastes and interests. All you’ll need is a loaded Metro TAP card, comfy clothes and walking shoes, and a little pre-planning. Theme you tour to take in multiple LA parks, eco-friendly organic eateries (for breakfast/brunch, lunch, and even dinner), architectural landmarks, or famous neighborhoods. Map your route using the Metro’s route planner, then enjoy a carefree, car-free adventure without worries about parking, traffic, or drinking one too many. Be sure to check the weather (Layers! Sunscreen!) before setting off.
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Participating Los Angeles charities include: The Gentle Barn California, Marine Mammal Care Center, The Midnight Mission, spcaLA, and Venice Family Clinic.