Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Bored of Beefeaters? Try London's green trends tour

By Matthew Knight for CNN
  • "Green" tour is an alternative to London's well-worn tourist trails
  • Focusing on sustainable projects and design, tour shows off some of London's best projects
  • Highlights include tube trains turned into offices and floating gardens near Tower Bridge

London, England (CNN) -- Floating gardens, re-purposed red buses and energy efficient skyscrapers aren't your typical London tourist fare, but if you're tired of treading London's well-trodden trails an alternative green tour of the UK capital might be just the ticket.

Unlike most of London's historic walkabouts, the "Cutting Edge Green Tour" has its eyes firmly fixed on the capital's future, exploring some of the best examples of progressive environmentalism.

Whether it's the novel rendering of barges as gardens at Downings Road Moorings, Southwark or the reinvention of an old Routemaster bus as the "Rootmaster" vegan restaurant in London's East End, there's plenty to catch the environmentalist's eye.

The tour is the brainchild of 27-year-old Cate Trotter -- an eco-design graduate and ethical marketeer -- who, when she's not acting as London's chief green guide, runs the trend analysis and innovation consultancy, Insider Trends.

"The idea didn't come from me wanting to save the planet, but rather thinking this is just a better way to do business," Trotter told CNN.

Trotter describes herself as a "trendspotter" and her tours are, she says, all about "showing people what's coming next" and "what you can do."

"It's very much about taking people into businesses and showing them how these eco-ideals are coming to life for them. Giving the tangible examples of things happening now," she said.

As well as attracting regular tourist types, Trotter's clients also include a growing band of public and private companies keen to learn how they can profit from these new green trends.

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office commissioned a trip focusing on how personal actions can help reduce carbon emissions, while employees of American Express and Eurostar have also taken the three-hour tour.

The journey from London's East End to the southern banks of the Thames takes in quirky industrial recycling as well as alighting on some of London's larger examples of sustainable architecture.

From decommissioned tube trains transformed into office space and imaginative "skip gardens," to the corporate towers of The Square Mile -- London's financial district -- where the steel and glass edifices of Norman Foster (30 St Mary Axe aka "The Gherkin") and Richard Rogers (Lloyds Building) exemplify how London is embracing sustainable practices on a larger scale.

Since the green tour started in 2008, Trotter has been slowly expanding her portfolio of "Insider tours" which now include "London Retail Design, "The Sustainable City," "Street Art and Graffiti." Glancing through the itineraries on her Web site, there are plenty of highlights to pique your curiosity.

"Green is hitting the mainstream. You can no longer talk about trends within green," she says. "You have to talk about larger trends."

If you're a tourist bored of Beefeaters or a Londoner wearying of your hometown, these offbeat tours could regenerate your enthusiasm for a city leading the way towards a new sustainable future.