As a traveler coming from the small river town of Winona to the bustling metropolitan that is London, there can be a bit of a culture shock. Green space is a bit reduced from what we’re used to and towering buildings replace the green bluffs that line our beloved city.

The typical dirtiness of big cities in comparison to Winona is almost always overwhelming to most who have traveled.  However, here are three ways London keeps things clean and sustainable for the 8 million residents and 15 million plus tourists that visit the city each year.

  1. 5p charge for disposable cups and plastic bags

While a 5p charge (more or less $.05) seems insignificant, the implementation of the fee on these disposable items has resulted in an 86% decline in plastic bag consumption in the UK. New York City, which has a similar population to London of roughly 8 million people, consumed approximately 23 billion plastic bags in 2017 according to the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force Report.

In comparison, Londoners consumed roughly 2.1 billion plastic bags in 2016 from large retailers. The difference in consumption is absolutely astounding to me as a traveler! The US could learn a lot from the success of these bans.

Minneapolis attempted to introduce a plastic bag fee in May of 2017 and was blocked a day before the fee was to be implemented.

  1. Hybridized buses for public transport

As in most large cities, London has an extensive public transit system. Whether that be the Tube, which runs underground, or the on-street bus system, both are busy. Of the roughly 9,000 city buses that run through London, current improvements work to hybridize buses in order to reduce emissions. By 2019, the city plans to implement 3,000 ultra low-emission double decker buses among other emission friendly improvements.

  1. Collecting trash on the Thames

The Thames River which flows through the heart of London contains upwards of 10 PDC’s (passive driftwood or debris catchers) which collect debris in the Thames. This comes as part of an effort to clean up the river because of the massive plastic content within it, and to prevent that plastic from making its way to the ocean. The PLA (Port of London Authority) had 16 PDC’s positioned on the Thames in 2015. With the help of the PDC’s, some 440 tons of debris are caught and removed from the Thames annually.

All of these steps toward sustainability in London make a difference. According to the Arcadis index, London ranks as number five for most sustainable countries.

The Arcadis index takes into account planet, social, and economic factors making London truly one of the best cities in the world to live in.

– Dicey Spring ’21