Sustainability in London

During my last class on British life and culture, my peers and I were assigned group ‘walks’ through various areas of London. We were instructed to research the area, take an hour-walk through its streets, and note what we saw and learned with regards to sustainability efforts there. I was interested to learn about sustainability in London more thoroughly through this walk and our subsequent class presentations. I was intrigued by the extent to which many different areas in London are intentionally operating in ways that are highly conscious of the environment, but I also came to better understand the ways in which climate awareness and action relating to this issue can be improved upon.

During my and my partner’s own sustainability walk through the areas between Hammersmith and Fulham stations, combined with research from online sources and government website information, we learned that the area boasts award-winning green spaces which are publicly accessible. Ravenscourt Park won the Green Flag Award for 2020/2021, recognizing its status among other  “…well managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world”. We became aware that the use of climate-friendly transportation in this area is on track with goals set by the city and its governments, and operating successfully: 83 percent of commuters walk, bike, or take public transit rather than driving polluting cars (Near me | Friends of the Earth). However, it also became clear after our research that there are less-visible sustainability issues as well; the housing in general is very poorly insulated, and very little recyclable and compostable items are actually composted or recycled, according to Friends of the Earth. This all went to show that, like many communities in London and around the globe, sustainability efforts are being practised and implemented, though they are not necessarily on track to meet the set targets and goals.

Still, as an American living in London, I continue to be impressed by the general awareness of Londoners regarding the climate, and even their general acceptance that climate change is real and has tangible effects on the planet. It is refreshing to see legislative action being taken towards global sustainability, and reassuring to consider all the possible practices that, implemented over time, could contribute to a healthier planet. The extent to which people generally seem to want to take action against climate change motivates me to become more involved in climate justice in the US, which at times feels like too big a challenge to tackle.

In the United States, the situation can sometimes feel particularly dire; climate anxiety may be worsened by the feeling that ‘nothing is being done’; as of 2019, a majority of Americans (around 67%) reported that they felt the federal government is not doing enough to protect the environment and to reduce the effects of climate change (US Public Views on Climate and Energy | Pew Research Center). Still, there is much work to be done, and living in London, it is becoming clearer to me that collective efforts are the way to do it.