This weekend I took a trip into one of London’s trendiest and 'greenest' neighbourhoods; Shoreditch, part of Hackney which recently scored at number 5 in 'The Best Rated Areas in England & Wales (based on the energy efficiency of domestic dwellings)'. This area of London is unofficially seen as the capital’s largest hipster community; a melting pot of culture, fashion and street art. But hidden beneath the stylish buildings (which mainly comprise of tattoos parlours, coffee shops and burger joints) there is a real heart to the community that many visitors may not be aware of.
Shoreditch is actually full of businesses and people with sustainability and environmental agendas at the forefront of their minds. From sustainable coffee shops, to clever recycling methods and even by introducing the UK’s first ultra-low emissions scheme.
So let’s take a tour around the neighbourhoods to highlight some of the hippest bits…
Being trendy isn’t just about innovation, imagination and changing behaviours in the fashion and creativity industries, it’s about being brave enough and confident enough to challenge the mainstream in all elements of life. Living, working and operating sustainably is a trend that has to leak into the masses over the next 5 years and Shoreditch has the ability to help achieve that.
Old Street Station
The best way to get to Shoreditch (for me anyway) is to go into Old Street Station (in the neighbouring borough of Islington) which is located on the Northern Line and sits below the Old Street roundabout. The roundabout is actually a larger space than your typical roundabout and due to its complexity it has long been known as a rather dangerous junction – it terms of both road accidents and pollution.
To tackle this, this month sees the start of the new roundabout development which aims to rejuvenate the area and make it more accessible for both pedestrians and bikes. It will also aim to ease traffic by removing the roundabout junction, allowing for 2 way traffic and in turn allowing the space to become an enjoyable public area with less idling vehicles (which contributes to dangerous levels of bad air quality).
Work is due to be complete by 2020.
Another change that’s happened to Old Street station area in the past month includes a new drinking fountain. The fountain offers members of the public free water refills in order to help cut single-use plastic waste. The fountain is the first of 6 in the Islington area and was funded by Islington Council, The Mayor of London and #OneLess which aims for organisations and communities across London to set a trend by stopping their use of single-use plastic water bottles.
So now, with your free cup of water in hand (and hopefully soon a fresher amount of air in your lungs), if you walk east down the A501 you will pass some great food locations including a new doughnut shop which, while I’m unsure of how environmentally sustainable it is, looks very enticing! After 5 minutes or so (if you don’t get distracted) you will reach Rivington Street, one of London’s first ultra-low emission streets.
This pioneering new scheme bans petrol, diesel and older hybrid cars, allowing only the newest hybrids, hydrogen, bikes or e-bikes during the morning and evening rush hours. This scheme is currently unique to Hackney and Islington Councils with Councillor Claudia Webbe stating how proud she is to be leading from the front with Hackney.
The aim of the scheme is to further reduce people’s exposure to air pollution caused by fumes and emissions, while also making the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists (clearly a trend across the Old Street area as a whole).
So far, some pretty hip initiatives are in force!
After making your way down Rivington Street, Curtain Road and New Inn Yard, you will find yourself looking over at Box Park which sits on the corner of Shoreditch High Street and Bethan Green Road.
Box Park is a unique, recycled container retail park. It actually labels itself as “the world’s first pop-up mall” and a “retail revolution” which comprises of shops and street food. Of course, the first Box Park opened in Shoreditch in 2011 and since then Box Park has expanded into Wembley and Croydon (it’s a trend setter again!).
The park is entirely constructed out of refitted shipping containers which not only compliment the industrial-cool vibe of the Shoreditch neighbourhood; it also (more importantly) offers affordable and flexible leases to traders.
Ultimately Box Park is the epitome of how recycling an item such as a container can create unique community spaces and allow independent brands to grow on the highstreet at more affordable lease prices.
Another great food and shopping location in Shoreditch which utilises and recycles wasted space and materials is Dinerama, a food and drink market set in a former bullion truck depot. It is located close to Box Park and run by Street Feast, a London food market company.
All in all, both Box Park and Dinerama make up 2 of the hippest and unique food places in East London; I hope to see more pop up in the next few years.
So now that you’re well fed and watered, the last stop on the tour is Worship Street, home to the Long Arm pub; because now what you really need is home brewed beer!
The Long Arm is known as London’s first “fully sustainable pub”. Essentially the goal of the pub is to create a journey to closed-loop drinking and dining. This means that as an end goal they hope to have a fish farm that uses the waste grains of their brewing process. as feed. The fish waste would then be used as fertilizer for herbs in the kitchen and combined, the fish you get on your plate has been part of that process (and the herbs too!).
For now, they do have an eco-friendly beer which uses Tank Beer technology (click to read more about that) which allows them to reduce their carbon footprint due to its tank to glass design.
The pub also has its own micro-brewery.
Similar eco-warrior drinking spots in the Shoreditch area include Super Lyan (now moved to Amsterdam) and its sister bar Cub in Hoxton which has banned plastic straws, citrus fruits and ice in order to reduce its carbon footprint (they were the first in the world to do this) and Scout which focuses on minimal waste to ensure a conscious sustainable operation.
When it comes to Shoreditch, the eco sustainable mind-set goes beyond vegan eating (it was also the home of London’s first vegan pub) and vintage shopping; both trends which they set a good number years ago, and it’s great to see the community and council continue to push the sustainability boundaries even further.
Over the new few years I look forward to seeing how the Old Street roundabout development will progress and how the “hipster” community will continue to influence the way we eat, drink, dress, shop and live sustainably.
Until then, I recommend you pay this area of town a visit (just make sure you don’t drive there!).