Eco-friendly Budapest – how to go green around town


  • Petra Berende

24/01/2019 6.00pm

From visiting zero-waste shops to discovering the city by bike, there are numerous ways to keep your carbon footprint low in Budapest. The city is also among those urban destinations that take part in annual international movements such as Earth Hour and Earth Day, two increasingly important environmental initiatives raising awareness of global climate change and promoting a sustainable planet.

According to recent scientific reports, the Earth’s oceans had their warmest year on record in 2018, indicating an enormous amount of heat being absorbed by the sea as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. This relates to new analysis that shows the intensifying energy of ocean waves due to global warming.

Further threats to our waters are continually underlined by global environmental organisations such as WWF and Greenpeace, who have issued alerts about the ominous level of plastic pollution in the oceans. Due to heat, noise and gas emissions, travelling by motorised vehicles has a negative impact on the environment.

Recognising these tendencies, cities such as Budapest have been introducing green measures to help balance the harmful environmental effects of urban activity. If you visit or live in the Hungarian capital, here’s how you can contribute to the city’s nature-friendly initiatives:

Photo: Mudra László - We Love Budapest

Shop at zero-waste stores


In 2018, Budapest welcomed the city’s first zero-waste shop to eliminate synthetic packaging. Customers at these outlets can bring containers and canvas bags to pack their purchases displayed at the shop in bulk. First launched at Ligeti Bolt in central Pest, this sustainable trading practice soon spread across the Danube and now anyone can shop plastic-free on the Buda side, where Ne Pazarolj fill milk, pasta and nuts into eco-friendly containers.

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Balaton

Skip the straw when ordering a drink


Last August, a planet-friendly campaign requested guests to skip the plastic straw when ordering drinks. To support this project through the last month of summer and beyond, many city hangouts have committed to not offering plastic disposables automatically to customers. You can stick to this practice year-round by refusing synthetic straws at restaurants and bars or – where possible – opting for varieties that are easier to decompose and don’t harm the environment.

Photo: WWF

Tune in for Earth Hour 2019


Every year, Budapest is among the many cities to join Earth Hour, a powerful global campaign by WWF that helps connect communities around the world to shine a light on climate change with an hour-long power cut. On 30 March 2019, nocturnal illumination of major Budapest landmarks will be turned off for 60 minutes to save energy, an initiative that is usually joined by restaurants and bars. Wherever you are during this year’s Earth Hour, you can also take part by keeping your lights turned off between 8:30pm and 9:30pm local time.

Photo: Rockstar Photographers

Get your drink in a reusable cup


With a lifespan of 100 uses, more solid disposable cups are winning over single-use plastic at Budapest hangouts. Last summer, several bars started replacing ordinary plastic cups with thicker drinking containers, mostly at summer-only hangouts such as PONTOON, Valyo Beach, Kabin and Fellini. But you can find reusable cups at ruin bars Fogas Ház and Instant year-round, as well as at major festivals, like Sziget. This is a positive step forward for venues and festivals that eschew glass glasses to prevent accidents.

Photo: Bódis Krisztián - We Love Budapest

Discover the city by bike


Whether it’s for the daily commute or city sightseeing, hopping on a bike is a fun, fast and fundamental way to save the environment. Thanks to an ever-growing number of bike-rental companies and shops, it’s easy to get hold of human-powered conveyances, including vintage-style vehicles or modern e-bikes. Operated by the BKK public-transport company, MOL Bubi has several docking stations for their green bikes, where you can pick up and drop off a cycle at your convenience.

Photo: Major Kata - We Love Budapest

Join sustainable activities for Earth Day


On 22 April, the annual Earth Day event promotes the importance of a sustainable planet through various actions worldwide. Last year, the Budapest leg of this educational initiative embraced activities such as planting saplings and cleaning parks. This spring, the event is focused on protecting species and raising awareness of the increasing rate of extinction as a result of harmful human activity. Check out the local Earth Day Foundation website for more details about the agenda (in Hungarian only).

Photo: Hartyányi Norbert - We Love Budapest

Visit meat-free eateries


From excessive water usage to gas emission, animal farming has its own detrimental impact on the environment. If you are already a vegetarian or vegan or just want to cut down on your meat consumption, staying in Budapest shouldn’t pose a challenge to your dietary preferences. Restaurants that completely avoid using products of animal origin include lunch specialists Great Bistro, canteen-style Vega City and traditional restaurant Napfényes. For plant-based burgers, go to Tökmag or Vegan Love, and for pizza, Vegażżi. Fill Good is a vegan bakery. Reopening in March 2019, Vegan Garden in the party hub of District VII assembles food trucks selling only vegan treats. As a bonus, many of these vegan hangouts are committed to offering only eco-friendly packaging for takeaway.

Photo: Krisztián Bódis - We Love Budapest

Be part of the I Bike Budapest procession


The 2019 dates are still to be announced for the I Bike Budapest procession, an annual mass-cycling event to promote the activity and draw attention to the continuing need for better routes around the city. Having coincided with Earth Day last year, I Bike Budapest took in the most spectacular views around the city centre, along streets cleared of cars for the event, including Chain Bridge, Andrássy út and the City Park. Check the festival’s Facebook page for more details.

Photo: Szabó Gábor - We Love Budapest

Eat local food and seasonal produce


From pre-packed noodle soups to kobe beef and oversized plantains, internationally sourced food available in Budapest often involves the extensive use of chemicals during production and long transportation. Opting for locally produced supplies is a way of demonstrating support for the protection of our planet. To source fine-quality seasonal produce, browse the bio market by MOM Park on Saturdays or visit farmers’ markets taking place at ruin bars – Czakó Kert on Saturdays, Szimpla and Élesztő every Sunday. For restaurants that promote sustainability, the local Felelős Gasztrohős (‘Heroes of Responsible Dining’) foundation lists relevant places on their website (in Hungarian only).

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