Amsterdam is a beautiful old city. It is also one of the most sustainable cities in Europe. The city knows how to use energy, space, and resources efficiently. To be sure, it is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, with over 400 kilometers of bike paths available. Trams and subways run on green electricity and canal boats are powered by natural gas and other sustainable fuels.
Half of all hotel rooms are sustainable with more than 50 hotels being rewarded a Green Key certificate, particularly in the 4 and 5-star hotels. For those who are concerned about being eco-conscious on their vacations, Amsterdam is the perfect city for you.
1. Getting around in Amsterdam in a responsible way
There are many ways to get around in Amsterdam. Due to the city having a very compact city center, almost all major sights and attractions are perfectly doable on foot. This instantly gives you a great opportunity to do some sightseeing and shoot the most awesome pictures. Nevertheless, for those in a hurry, this paragraph will highlight a few sustainable options to get around in a fun and quick way.
1.1. By tram
An easy and convenient way to move around in the Centre of Amsterdam is the trams. They depart regularly, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get to know the network. At every stop, you can find a city map with the tramlines on it. And even if you’re not sure there’s always someone in the tram who can help you out. Are you planning on using the tram a lot? Consider purchasing an I Amsterdam city card which allows unlimited free travel by tram.
1.2. By bicycle
One of the best ways to get around Amsterdam is by bicycle. When you visit Amsterdam, you may want to rent a bike to make your way around to the sites and attractions. Ask around at your hotel or a tourist information center to find the details of any bike tours that fit into your schedule. It will greatly add to your Dutch holiday as you experience the city in the same way many of the locals do.
A bicycle is a major mean of transportation in the Netherlands and the Dutch take traveling by bike seriously. It is important for tourists to know the rules of the road and abide by them. When you are in the heart of the city, bike lanes can be filled with heavy traffic. But if you follow the rules and the bike paths, you will have an enjoyable adventure. If you will be riding after dark, make sure your headlight and taillight are working. These are required by law.
Simply follow the traffic rules, if you can, avoid riding during rush hour and stay in the bike lanes. Always remember to secure your bike to a bike rack with a chain lock, if possible. In Amsterdam, an unlocked bicycle is one that will disappear, possibly within minutes.
For other tips on traveling wisely and responsibly, check out the following article about how to become a more responsible traveler.
1.3. The Biro car
EEZZGO is a brand-new company with a desire to help Amsterdam become emission-free by 2025. They rent “small, environment-friendly vehicles” that you can use to explore the city and surrounding areas instead of using buses.
The Biro is a completely electric car that can travel up to 28-30 miles per hour. These little cars feature a guided 2, 3 or 4-hour tour you can request. Hourly and daily rates are available online.
Only two people can fit inside this rather small vehicle. Two average-sized people would be somewhat tightly packed in. Currently, there are no restrictions as to where you can drive and park a Biro, so even a bicycle path could be used. Although those might be too crowded in the center of Amsterdam, these would be perfect for exploring the nearby towns like Volendam, Ouderkerk, and Muiden.
2. Sustainable experiences in Amsterdam
The key to getting more aware of the environment is education. Besides, it’s easier to remember fun things. Therefore, the NEMO Science Museum and the Plastic Whale cruises are two must-dos for those who’re looking for an educational, fun experience.
2.1. A Different Type of Fishing
Take a canal cruise and try your hand at fishing. On this trip, however, you will not be trying to catch fish, but litter. The Plastic Whale offers its guests a 2-hour outing, seeing some of the sites that are best viewed from the many canals. Included in those two hours will be a snack and drinks for each person. At the same time, you are invited to participate in collecting some of the waste that is littering these beautiful waterways.
As the guide shares commentary (in English and Dutch) about Amsterdam, pieces of interesting and historical facts about the sites, they will also pause to give you time to scoop up any trash they may see.
This is a great opportunity for children to get involved with a sustainable activity, although collecting plastic is not mandatory for any guest. The Plastic Whale holds competitions between groups onboard awarding prizes for the team with the largest amount of plastic recovered, as well as one for the most original object that is fished out of the water.
Having the chance to help keep Amsterdam’s canals beautiful can become a fun and habitual activity for your family. When your canal cruise is complete, you can leave with the satisfaction that the plastic you’ve collected will be recycled and the city will be a cleaner place because of your efforts.
2.2. Nemo Science Museum
NEMO is an interactive museum where you and your family can participate in experiments, learn about electricity, gravity and so much more. In this place, museum visitors learn by doing. The focus is on a hands-on approach, allowing anyone to create their own experiences.
The NEMO Science Museum is a 5-floor structure filled with stimulating science and technology adventures for people of all ages. Each floor has something unique for you to become involved with and to discover. Their goal is for people to stop, think, and ask questions about what is happening before their eyes.
You are invited to conduct experiments in the science lab, like testing for vitamin C in different materials. NEMO Amsterdam also allows you to look at DNA. Elsewhere, you can learn about the human mind and perform experiments with memory tests.
Some museum attractions change regularly so be sure to check the website if you have something you particularly would like to see.
2.3. Up on the Roof – Rooftop Square
The Energetica exhibition is outside, on the top of the building. From there, you can “experience the energy captured from the wind, water, and the sun, and battle the forces of nature.”
The young children will enjoy playing in the waters at the top of the Water Cascade. This area is safe for them and they will be entertained as fountains of water pop up unexpectedly all around the cascade.
The Rainbow Maker, found in the middle of the Water Cascade area, is a great way to experience the transaction between light and water. You can “create” a rainbow by pointing your fountain at the sun. As the water gets to a certain point, it refracts the light, making your rainbow.
On Wind Island, observe the wind turbine, a smaller version of the energy-producing larger turbines you can see around the country. You can test your strength against an interactive kite. Find out if you are stronger than the wind.
Solar Island has three chairs covered with a film that contains solar cells. If you turn any of those chairs directly into the sunlight they will produce more energy to operate the Water Cascade fountains. Watch the LED display in each chair to find out how much energy the chair is contributing.
When you stand in the middle of the Sundial Stage, you become a very important part of the sundial. You will make it possible for those standing nearby to tell the current time of day.
2.4. NEMO Summer Roof
Beyond the Energetica exhibition, this Rooftop Square is offering a weekly concert series this summer. As always, entrance to the rooftop is freely accessible, so you can drop in any Thursday evening to enjoy the concert which begins at either 5.30 pm or 5.45 pm. In case of bad weather, performances will be moved into the restaurant.
This year, NEMO Amsterdam is joining with Filmtheater Kriterion to offer a weekend of movies on the roof. Between 31 August through 2 September the events will begin at 7.30 pm with concerts provided by the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. The film program, which has not yet been decided, will start at 8.45 pm. In case of bad weather, films will be screened in NEMOs auditorium.
3. Eco-friendly hotels in Amsterdam
A huge part of the emissions that we produce is caused by households and the places where we spend the night. Many natural resources like gas and water are consumed simply living. As you are on holiday, it’s important to enjoy as much as possible. Since it’s finally time to relaxed and try to clear your head by being in a new place. Choosing green accommodation that cares for the environment, will allow you some peace of mind, while away. Take a quick look if the hotel or hostel has the Green key certificate and you’re good to go.
Since Amsterdam is a very green city, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find accommodation that is sustainability conscious. Here is a good example of an eco-friendly hotel.
3.1. The Conscious Hotels
The Conscious Hotel has three locations in the city. They serve a big, healthy breakfast of organic food. If you need to pick something up from their convenience area, they sell eco products like organic toothpaste, solar-powered phone chargers, and reusable water bottles, things which are always good to use. The furniture is made from recycled plastics and the hotel shampoo is non-toxic and comes in large, refillable pump bottles, not those tiny travel-size plastic containers that get thrown away.
When you’re ready to explore the city, the Conscious Hotel has bikes for you to rent during your stay.
4. Where to eat in Amsterdam
4.1. Healthy and ethical restaurants in Amsterdam
This city is filled with a host of international variety when it comes to cuisine. You may be overwhelmed and spoiled for choice, needing to pick between Dutch food, Indonesian, Surinamese, Italian and the list goes on and on. Many of the city’s restaurants use seasonal and local ingredients, but here are just a few you might like to consider.
Spelt, in Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 5A, serves lunch and dinner and uses local, organic ingredients.
Instock, Czaar Peterstraat 21. This restaurant uses surplus food that would have otherwise become waste in 80% of its food preparations. They offer both vegan dishes and vegetarian options.
Balthazar’s Kuchen, Elandsgracht 108, Jordaan. They serve a 3-course set menu which is changed as the seasonal ingredients change. You should make reservations before coming here.
Culinaire Werkplaats, Fannius Scholtenstraat 10. The atmosphere will change every few weeks according to their desired theme and a 5-course meal built around seasonal fruits, vegetables, and grains are created.
All over the city, smaller grocery stores can be found. Local, biological, and fairtrade products are the only products that you can buy here. The two most common shops are Marqt and Ecoplaza.
The very beautiful city of Amsterdam, located on the Amstel River, has centuries of history for you to discover. It’s often called the Venice of the North because of its numerous canals. It’s even partially below sea level. But the Dutch people are taking good care of this, the largest city in their country. They are working to make the city emission-free in less than 10 years. There is even a museum that has exhibits to show people how they can become more ecologically friendly.
Amsterdam is a wonderfully sustainable European city, have you been? Do you have any other tips for a sustainable trip to Amsterdam? Let us know in the comments below!