Go Green: Ecofriendly Guide to Washington

Green your DC visit with this ecoguide to the city. From getting around and staying here to where to shop and eat, we’ve got ideas for how to minimize your environmental impact while still enjoying what DC has to offer.

Better Bikes (202-293-2080). Rent a bike and see DC on two wheels. Better Bikes offers mountain bikes ($38 a day) and hybrids ($48 a day) along with children’s bikes and buggies for the little ones. Follow one of Better Bikes' suggested routes or tour the city as you like. The company will even deliver your bike to and pick up it from anywhere in the region. Also included in the rental fee are helmets, locks, and a local trail map.

EnviroCab (703-920-3333). Why take a standard taxi when an ecofriendly cab is available? EnviroCab, an Arlington-based cab company, offers rides in its hybrid fleet to and from Arlington, Virginia. The company strives to be carbon-neutral by purchasing offset credits to make up for its carbon emissions. On June 15, it’s launching EnviroSedan, a black-car service that will pick up and drop off fares anywhere in the area.

Public Transportation
. Washington’s Metro system—composed of subway and bus lines—is one of the easiest, cheapest, and greenest ways to get around. The system facilitates more than 300 million trips each year and serves 42 percent of the region’s commuters daily—saving the environment a bundle in gas emissions. With service throughout DC and the surrounding Virginia and Maryland suburbs, Metro can usually get you where you need to go. Use Metro’s Trip Planner for step-by-step directions to help you get around.

Kimpton Hotels (several throughout the area; visit the Web site for a complete list). Each hotel in this chain participates in Earthcare, a Kimpton program promoting sustainability. Through the program, every hotel is required to do something to help minimize its environmental impact—anything from using soy ink on printed materials to donating unused amenities, such as soaps and shampoos, to charities. At Morrison House Hotel (116 S. Alfred St., Alexandria; 703-838-8000), you’ll find recycling bins in each room as well as organic or fair-trade coffee in the lobby. The hotel also practices water and energy conservation. DC’s Hotel Madera (1310 New Hampshire Ave, NW; 202-296-7600) offers guests environmentally friendly Aveda products in each bathroom, and if you drive a hybrid car you get free parking.

Marriott Bethesda (5151 Pooks Hill Rd., Bethesda; 301-897-9400). Along with the goals and guidelines the Marriott chain has established to green its hotels, this outpost has replaced incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, installed low-flow toilets and shower heads, and is actively involved in water and energy conservation. The hotel is waste-neutral, thanks to its recycling and composting programs, and it’s recently begun using biodegradable Spudware, utensils made of potato, sugar cane, and cornstarch.

By 2009, the Bethesda Marriott hopes to gain LEED-Existing Building status, a U.S. Green Building Council certification awarded to buildings that are environmentally responsible and sound.

Willard InterContinental (1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-637-7440). Earth Day events in nearby Pershing Park—which the Willard owns—are only a small part of what this hotel offers an ecotraveler. It has launched sustainability programs to move toward becoming completely wind-powered and to conserve water. The hotel also composts most materials it uses, including fluorescent light bulbs, old paint, and guest-room furniture.

Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary (15200 Mt. Nebo Rd., Poolesville; 301-428-8128). Take a tour through this 400-acre rehabilitation center and permanent refuge for unwanted or abandoned farm animals. The nonprofit offers one-hour tours to see its animals including sheep, pigs, horses, turkeys, and more. Accessible by car, it’s approximately one hour from DC.

Take a hike
Rock Creek Park offers a quiet sanctuary from the city buzz. The park extends approximately nine miles from the Maryland-DC border to the Potomac River. Hike, bike, or take a guided tour to explore this area’s wilder side. Visit the park’s Web site for directions and hours.

• For an outdoor excursion a bit farther from DC, head to Catoctin Mountain Park, a 5,810-acre hardwood forest. Home to several threatened and endangered species, this park is an example of a second-growth ecosystem, bouncing back from being overlogged. Visit the Web site for directions and hours. (Unfortunately, a car is necessary to get there from DC.)US Botanic Garden (245 First St., SW; 202-225-8333). Take a few hours and stroll through this glass-enclosed super-garden, home to plants both ordinary and exotic. Glean some gardening tips and ask about the Plant Rescue Center Program that works to ensure the survival of plants from around the world. Admission is free, and the conservatory is open from 10 to 5 every day.

Washington Walks (819 G St., SW; 202-848-1565). Learn DC’s darkest secrets, see the memorials light up at night, or view the ornate architecture along Embassy Row all by foot. Forgo CO2-emitting modes of transportation and take a group or private walk with this tour group that offers a variety of tour options.

Eco-Green Living (1469 Church St., NW; 202-234-7110). This über-ecofriendly home store sells everything from organic and hemp clothing and cotton linens to tankless water heaters and bamboo and cork floors. Stop in for tips on how to live greener in the city or for Theo Chocolates, made by a Seattle-based chocolatier that roasts organic cocoa beans—the only US company to do so. Open Tuesday through Saturday 11 to 7.

Go Mama Go!
(1809 14th St. NW; 202-299-0850). Stocked with sustainable-bamboo kitchenware, this shop is a place to pick up a unique gift or buy for yourself.

Greater Goods
(1626 U St., NW; 202-449-6070). You may not be in the market for a water-saving shower head or a motion-sensing light socket while on your visit to DC, but this U Street store does boast a selection of travel-friendly items such as a portable, insulated picnic basket and reusable—and very durable—SIGG water bottles to help you stay green on the road.

Hoopla Traders Eco Boutique
(2314 18th St., NW; 202-797-0730). This Adams Morgan shop carries apparel, jewelry, and more from ecofriendly artisans and designers, such as Blueskies Glassworks and BuddhaFly. Bring in a reusable bag or purchase one from them and receive a 50-cent rebate; it’ll also donate another 50 cents to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Austin Grill (locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia; check the Web site for details). This local chain offers a Tex-Mex, kid-friendly menu and boasts an ecofriendly twist: All seven locations are 100 percent wind-powered. Bring in a Metro card to prove you took public transportation and receive a 10 percent discount.

Dolcezza (1560 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-4646). Tempt your sweet tooth in this gelateria that uses ingredients from nearby farms to create its gelato. Indulge with flavors such as dulce de leche and pistachio.

Equinox (818 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-331-8118). Ranked among the area’s top restaurants on The Washingtonian’s recent 100 Best Restaurants list, this downtown fine-dining spot serves locally grown and raised food, and the menu is printed on recycled paper.

Hook (3241 M St., NW; 202-625-4488). This Georgetown restaurant has been honored by the national conservation organization Blue Ocean Institute for its commitment to sustainability—it serves only fish caught using sustainable practices. The menu changes daily to accommodate a seasonal fish selection, and the restaurant uses only locally grown produce, meats, and dairy products from nearby farms that treat their stock humanely.

Java Green (1020 19th St., NW; 202-775-8899). This is no ordinary downtown cafe. Java Green offers a Korean-style vegan/vegetarian menu, meaning no egg is used, but there are some dairy options. Meat substitutes are abundant—and tasty—and the owners promote fair-trade farming and animal-free products. Open 9 to 8:30 Monday and Tuesday, 9 to 9 Wednesday through Friday, 10 to 7 Saturday; closed Sunday.

Poste Moderne Brasserie (555 Eighth St., NW; 202-783-6060). Chef Robert Weland cooks using veggies from his own organic garden located on the restaurant’s patio. Poste has also installed an ecofriendly AquaHealth water system that purifies tap water using UV light technology and can produce both still or sparkling results. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Restaurant Eve (110 Pitt St., Alexandria; 703-706-0450). Award-winning chef Cathal Armstrong turns out sustainable and organic dishes at his Old Town restaurant using foods grown by local farmers. Treat yourself to a night in the chef’s tasting room and sample his five- or nine-course prix fixe menus using seasonal ingredients. The five-course tasting menu costs $95, the nine-course $125.

Sticky Fingers Bakery (1370 Park Rd., NW; 202-299-9700). Treat yourself to Cowvin Cookies, oatmeal-cookie sandwiches with nondairy cream filling, or the Chocolate Chimp Bread, banana bread with chocolate bits. This vegan bakery and cafe also sells savory dishes such as chili cheese dogs and nachos. A bonus: free wi-fi.

Wellness Cafe (325 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-543-2266). Don’t be fooled by the vitamin selection near the doorway—with choices such as organic chicken wings, soups, and panini, this supplement-store/cafe offers tasty lunch fare that would make Mother Nature smile. In warm weather, grab the table outside and get a grand view of the Capitol building, just a few blocks away. Not in the mood for lunch? Try one of the concoctions from the juice bar.

Terry’s Healthy Food (12059 Nebel St., Rockville; 301-770-6778). A short walk from the White Flint Metro station in Maryland, this all-vegetarian shop offers a unique selection of faux meats such as soy-based duck, fish, and steak. It also sells wholesale and retail grocery items. The shop is open Saturday and Sunday 12:30 to 6:30.

Yes! Organic Market (four DC locations; click here for addresses). Though small, these stores are packed with all the organic food essentials plus wine, skin-care products, vitamins, and more.

This article is part of Washingtonian.com’s Visitors’ Guide. For more articles like it, click here.