Mexico City won’t make anyone’s list of top eco-friendly destinations anytime soon. But leftist mayor Marcelo Ebrard is combating the capital’s long-running reputation for smog and snarling traffic with his Plan Verde (Green Plan), a 15-year, $550 million effort that he introduced in 2007 to create a more sustainable city. Measures include adding a Metrobus public transport system, extending the Hoy no Circula traffic ban (permission to drive is rotated according to license plate numbers), and requiring city employees (including Ebrard) to bike to work once a month. Plan Verde still has room for improvement, but there’s plenty of evidence that enterprising locals (called chilangos) are offering up contributions to their own unofficial greenplan.
Start with Roma's tree-lined alvaro obregon boulevard to soak up the early–20th century architecture and the edgy, independent art galleries filling the side streets.
If you don’t want to wear down your heels, stop by Plaza Luis Cabrera for a free bike rental. (Another two-wheeler tip: Every Sunday, the city’s main avenue, Paseo de la Reforma, is closed to cars, forming a 26-mile cycling track.)
Chapultepec Park provides opportunities for outdoor strolling and houses the noteworthy National Anthropology Museum and the Museo Tamayo, a museum of contemporary art. Finally, visit the college UNAM, where the gardens are divided into sections based on the country’s regions and their indigenous species.
For a splashy night out, book a table at Cafe Bistro MP (052-555-281-0592, opentable.com for reservations), which features Monica Patiño’s Asian-Mexican organic fusion cuisine.
The reasonably priced The Green Corner—with locations in the Condesa, Polanco, Coyoacan, and Cuajimalpa neighborhoods—serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and offers local organic products in adjoining shops.
Orígenes Orgánicos in Condesa is a smaller café and shop with an impressive salad bar and a selection of organic wines and beers on the menu.
If you want a slightly smaller souvenir, browse the made-fromtrash accessories of SWEETIEPURSE, part of a sustainable-development project that, among other things, sells colorful handbags and belts handmade from recycled materials.
If you’re after liquid souvenirs, go for a bottle of certified-organic Del Maguey mezcal, a beverage that is coming into its own after lurking in the shadow of tequila for so long.
Story by Tara Fitzgerald. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008.