Eco and ethical destinations are en mode in travel, and not necessarily synonymous with 'off-the-beaten-track'. Sustainable travel is now more oh-la-la than révolution and gone are the days that the words 'green' and 'ethical' in France were politically loaded terms in bohemian Paris.
Paris, like Copenhagen, London and many other European cities is becoming more and more eco-friendly. From parks to hotels, to attractions, there is now an array of 'green' hotspots in Paris to satisfy even the most discerning of eco-tourists, without missing out on the crème de la crème of Paris.
A green your trip to Paris starts in more than one of the city's 400 parks and gardens. The Jardins de Luxembourg in the 17th arrondissement is Paris' oldest public gardens. Created in 1617 by Boyeau de la Bareaubaudière, it is one of the locals' most popular gardens retreats away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.
From here take to the streets, Parisian style - on a bicycle, sans baguette and sailor stripes, of course. In 2007, the City of Paris introduced a public bike hire system, Vélib'. So if you're more into free-wheeling than chauffeured tours, then you can always hire one of the city's 20,000 rental bikes for the day. What's more, cycling Paris allows you to see more of the city, at your pace while lowering your carbon footprint.
A Vélib' ride away is the Arc de Triomphe, situated at the top of the Champs Elysées, and in the middle of the legendary roundabout, Place d'Etoile. The Place d'Etoile, with 13 exits and no marked routes or lanes, is encircled by Parisian chaos.
Pedestrians are to avoid crossing, or attempting to cross it at all costs. This anarchic roundabout is set to become more tourist friendly in the near future when the City of Paris, in a move towards a greener city, trials its ban on vehicle in the city centre – with the exception of electric cars.
Halfway between the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower in the seventh arrondissement (metro Tour Eiffel) is Paris' very own living wall. The Musée du Quai Branly, a museum dedicated to arts and civilisations, boasts an impressive vertical garden with over 170 trees and 15,000 species of plants. This lush green space designed by Gilles Clément, demonstrates Paris' progress as a sustainable destination. Its tranquil atmosphere provides the ultimate location for an afternoon sièste, fragrantly surrounded by cherry blossoms and sweet magnolias.
No visit to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Even the luminosity of this famous landmark has been taken into consideration. The Eiffel now uses green energy and it has reduced the sparkling evening light show from 10 minutes to five, every hour. Views from the top of the tower are even more spectacular (tip: if you have the time and fitness, take the stairs for a cheaper and greener way to the top).
Shopping in Paris is almost an obligatory activity for visitors. Leave the Vélib' behind this time and take some time to stroll along the streets of the Marais. The Marais district, covering the third and fourth arrondissements, is a paradise for boutique shopping. From Bastille to Rue Saint Antoine and Rue de Rivoli, this is also one of the best quartiers to seek out Paris' ethical shopping hotspots.
Solidarity in France has historical roots dating back to the French Revolution, so naturally, ethical shopping in Paris is based around the concept of organic, socially sound and artisanal products. You can find anything from clothing and accessories, to homewares and food. If it's local and artisanal you're after the Marais is teeming with hip boutiques of up-and-coming local designers. Shop 'til you drop for eclectic fashion, unique jewellery and fine arts.
For longer visits try to visit one of the many outdoor markets early in the morning for fresh, local and sustainable produce. Markets and their produce differ depending on their quartier. Two of the better-known markets are found in Batignolles on Saturdays and Boulevard de Raspail on Sundays. Produce is local and organic.
For any creative soul, Paris is the ultimate destination for museums and art galleries. The Musée du Louvre, one of the most famous and respected collections of art in the world, is also home to the legendary La Jaconde, or the Mona Lisa. There's a rumour that if you stop to look at each of the Louvre's artworks for 30 seconds, it would take nine months to see the entire museum. Although it's not the largest museum in the world, with over 8.5 million visitors a year, this monstrosity of a gallery generates one of the largest visitor footprints in the art world.
In September 2010, the Louvre signed a Sustainable Development Charter with a plan of action to reduce its carbon emissions. The Charter, which forms part of France's National Strategy for Sustainable Development aims to raise awareness of museum's sustainable development issues to the public, with a large social emphasis. After all, so many artworks require many, many staff to look after them. And Paris would not be Paris without its legendary art and culture.
For some eco-sightseeing, EcoVisitParis offers eco-sightseeing tours around Paris chauffeured in hybrid vehicles. The tours start at €80 for one hour and include all the usual Paris attractions such as the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysée, as well as the greener side of Paris.
A Vélib' bicycle can be rented short-term for around €1-4 per day. When you're done, just drop it off at one of the 1,800 Vélib' stations around Paris.
Green Shuttle offers sustainable hybrid private transfers around Paris from €43.
5 rue Gavarni, Paris 75016
Phone 33 1 45245282 www.gavarni.com