Argentina’s capital lags behind other major metropolises in offerings like solar energy and green architecture, but it compensates with several earth-saving customs (often prompted by necessity) that are ingrained in the city’s daily life. Thousands of scrap recyclers known as cartoneros salvage enormous heaps of material as their primary income; and pretty much anything—from shoes to disposable lighters—is repaired or refilled at a cost amenable to the customer. Overall, the extensive recycling and reusing means far less gets trashed in the capital affectionately known as BA, one of the few grand cities where the American greenback still packs a punch.

SEE

Buenos Aires is one of Latin America’s most park-filled capitals. Palermo is the city’s grandest, but another standout is the Ecological Reserve along the Rio de la Plata. The Botanical Garden, just off dapper Santa Fe Avenue, is an oasis of winding red-brick paths, exotic flora, and hundreds of stray cats that call the garden home. For cultural offerings, don’t miss Gallery Nights (below right; artealdia.presencia.net/gallery), a walking tour of the city’s top art spots, or the popular film-under-the-stars series Proyeccine (proyeccine.blogspot.com), which benefits nonprofit ProyectArte.

TASTE

The land of the Gauchos isn’t just for grill-loving carnivores anymore. Organic stalwart La Esquina de las Flores (esquinadelasflores.com.ar) packs in health-conscious boutique shoppers who flock to Palermo Soho. Just a few blocks away, diminutive Krishna is a popular afternoon café and restaurant. For a unique dining experience, hit meatless speakeasy Casa Felix (left; diegofelix.com). Using indigenous South American products, young and talented Argentine chef Diego Felix and his girlfriend, Sanra, prepare delicate multicourse meals behind the unmarked door to their home. But for those who can’t resist the urge for one of those renowned Argentine steaks, hit classic La Brigada (labrigada.com) steakhouse in Buenos Aires’ picturesque San Telmo district. Hugo, the owner, is an undisputed master in all matters meat-related and serves only top-of-the-line, strictly grass-fed beef grilled to sublime perfection.

STAY

Booming tourism has resulted in bountiful options for visitors, but few if any are eco. Jet-setters flock to Faena Hotel + Universe (above; faenahotelanduniverse.com); boutique hotel junkies like Home (below; homebuenosaires.com) and 1555 Malabia House (malabiahouse.com.ar); and thrifty visitors hit hostels like El Aleph (hostelaleph.com) or Palermo House (palermohouse.com.ar). But a popular alternative is to book an apartment through a site like apartmentsba.com or bairesapartments.com. You’ll get more space and many of the same hotel amenities for far fewer pesos. Plus, even if the listings aren’t eco, at least they’re local.

BUY

Grab a tome from Eloisa Cartonera (eloisacartonera.com.ar), an innovative nonprofit publishing house that teaches cartoneros how to turn their recycled cardboard into beautiful books. Clean up with handmade soaps from Sabater Hnos (left; shnos.com.ar), a third-generation suds maker in Palermo Soho that crafts inventive and all natural varieties. Finally, nobody should leave Buenos Aires without a gourd and bombilla for sipping verdant, smoky yerba mate. The custom is de rigueur for locals—and mate is touted as quite the health tonic, too. Pick one up at the weekend crafts fair at Plaza Francia. Mate is also known around town as unos verdes, making this drinking vessel the ultimate green souvenir.

Story by Fernando Cwilich Gil. This article originally appeared in Plenty in August 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008.