The city of high fashion, corporate America, and miles of concrete may not necessarily conjure up thoughts of conscious travel…
However, the city also has a big sustainability scene, with plenty of ethical shops, green initiatives, slow food restaurants, vegan bakeries and the like. I especially noticed the availability of Fair Trade & organic coffee options and the farm-to-table dining spots!
During the week my boyfriend and I spend in New York City, we came across quite a few photo-worthy and review-worthy spots. So without further ado, here are my highlights from our trip. I hope that this list of of the conscious places we saw and activities we did, along with the sustainable-minded places we dined and sipped at will give you some ideas for your trip to NYC!
Ethical Fashion Shops
Probably one of the first things you think of when you hear NYC is fashion (just me?). The number of stores in New York is pretty staggering and I was happy to see quite a few ethical fashion storefronts here too. We didn’t dedicate a ton of time to shopping in New York since there were so many other things we wanted to do in a short period of time, but here were a few of the sustainable shops we paid a visit to:
Reformation (SoHo, Lower East Side, LES)
This Los Angeles-based sustainable fashion brand has been on my must-visit stores to shop at for quite some time. So needless to say, I was stoked to go to one of their locations and try on a few pieces. The experience was a bit disappointing — nothing ended up working out well enough and the customer service felt more off-putting than welcoming. Turns out many people have reported similar experiences.
Albirds is a shoe brand making sneakers out of natural materials. And with their claim that they have “the world’s most comfortable shoes”, we had to give them a try. While I can’t say I’ve tried on all the shoes in the world, their sneakers were definitely the comfiest I’ve ever put my feet into! I decided to not make any purchases here because I have enough sneakers at the moment, but Allbirds will be my go-to brand when I do need a pair. (note: these are made with wool, so if you’re looking for vegan shoes, check out my guide to 14 vegan, eco, and ethically made shoes.)
Restaurants & Bars
Westville (West Village, East Village, Dumbo, Chelsea, Hudson and Wall Street locations)
Westville was my favorite restaurant that we went to! They had plenty of vegetarian options and some vegan options too.. I chose from a variety of vegetables and tofu, along with some sparkling rosé! We went to the one in Dumbo, and there are quite a few Westville locations throughout the city as well.
Superiority Burger (East Village)
Okay so going beyond the unassuming exterior, this veggie burger spot definitely had one of the best meat-free patties I’ve ever had. I ordered their original “Superiority Burger”, which was delicious, but a bit smaller than I was expecting. If you’re hungry and want to make a full meal out of this spot, I recommend ordering the “Mega Mouth”.
Narcissca (East Village)
Narcissa is a New American restaurant with seasonal items from their own farm in Hudson Valley. A bit on the pricier end, but worth it if you’re looking to splurge on some high-quality, fresh, and unique food. Their garden seating is beautiful, so be sure to request an outdoor table if you head there during the warmer months.
Sadelle’s is ranked as one of NYC’s best brunch and bagel spots by a few media outlets and is highly rated online, so we decided to give this spot a try. Unfortunately it’s not super vegetarian-friendly, but the food is good and the interior is gorgeous!
Rosemary’s (West Village)
Italian cuisine from fresh ingredients from their own rooftop garden? I was immediately sold on this restaurant the second I read their “About” page! We really enjoyed the atmosphere and the wine was absolutely incredible.
The fast-casual salad spot makes for a quick and healthy bite if you’re walking around Manhattan. Nothing super special, but my salad there was good. They do have a few vegetarian options.
Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company (Astoria, Chelsea)
We heard this was the best spot in NYC to grab a bagel, so obviously this was one of the first stops on our trip! I don’t have a ton of others to compare to, but the bagels were definitely delicious. It was pretty easy to go vegetarian here, but I don’t believe there were vegan options.
Cafés, Smoothies & Sweets
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream & Vegan Ice Cream (Numerous locations around NYC)
Van Leeuwen’s was easily one of my favorite stops in NYC! They have dairy and vegan choices made from coconut milk. I opted for their vegan “Planet Earth” flavor both times we stopped by this artisan ice cream shop.
Dunwell Doughnuts (East Williamsburg, Lower East Side)
Dunwell is New York City’s first all-vegan doughnut shop and it’s definitely clear they’ve mastered their craft! Loved the cute shop they had and the variety of flavors offered. Since most doughnut shops just have a couple vegan options (if that), this is definitely the spot for vegan breakfast pastry lovers.
Grounded Coffee House (West Village)
Grounded Coffee House is a chill and café with organic and Fair Trade options. I loved the calm vibe here and all of the plants they had in the sitting area!
Joe & The Juice (Numerous locations in Manhattan area)
This juice and smoothie spot is global but they have quite a few locations in NYC. To be honest, I mostly went here for the free, reliable WiFi, but the smoothies and juices looked really good too.
So these spots aren’t necessarily sustainable, but I wanted to include them because make for a really fun way to spend the night out in the city…
St. Cloud (Midtown)
Living in Chicago, the main skyscraper-type sites of New York City are relatively similar. So, we opted out of the going to the top of the Empire State Building or other observatories. However, one can never tire of rooftop bars! And with a view of Times Square and an ultra-chic lounge, St. Cloud hit the mark. (Well, minus the sky-high prices… but what can you expect at a rooftop bar in the heart of NYC?!)
Top of the Strand (Midtown)
Top of the Strand is another rooftop bar in Midtown with some seriously sweet views. You can have a look straight out at the Empire State Building from the bar at this spot. I enjoyed our view (and the lack of crowds!) at 6pm, but I imagine the experience goes up a notch at night when the buildings are lit up.
Dear Irving (Gramercy)
This speakeasy has a stunning interior, top-notch cocktails, and best of all… reusable metal straws! This was the first bar I’ve seen completely switch over to reusable straws. I definitely could not keep my cool and was was way too excited about a straw for how chic this spot was. But hey, we gotta celebrate the small wins, right?!
Designing Waste was a fascinating exhibit that we stumbled upon while we were heading to Washington Square Park. The spot immediately caught my eye so we headed in, and to our surprise, the exhibit was completely free!
The project from the Center for Architecture was all about the structural changes that will be required in order to meet New York City’s goal to become zero waste by 2030. Essentially, the goal is that by having the proper waste infrastructure, the right items will be sent to recycling and compost facilities instead of ending up in the landfill. There’s a lot to learn here so stop by if you’ll be in NYC before September 1st when the exhibit closes!
And saving the best for last… I have to profess my love for Central Park! I actually didn’t have super high expectations—how great can some trees in the middle of a huge city be? Well, I was definitely wrong. On the outskirts it’s (obviously) filled with plenty of people, but once you get far enough in, it feels as if you’ve been transported to a completely different world. It was a pleasant surprise to find such tranquility amongst all the hustle and bustle. It really made me wish that Chicago had a park of this size!
Do you have any conscious NYC recommendations to add? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram!