There will always be arguments about where is truly cool in NYC. It's always shifting, roaming, looking for a new place to alight and throw a warehouse party. But there's no arguing with the fact that for a full day of delicious organic and local food, craft cocktails, and authentically local shopping, you can't beat the long list of sustainable things to do in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
My friend Rachel Fry, who is a photographer who focuses on sustainable businesses, came up to NYC for a visit. So I put together a walking tour for us that took up the entire day. All the gorgeous pictures are hers unless otherwise noted.
By the way, if you want the complete guide to sustainable New York City, download it here:
Put on comfortable shoes (if only because we Brooklyn girls don't wear heels) and get a taste of conscious culture:
80 Wythe Avenue (between N 11th & N 12th St), Brooklyn
With gorgeous views across the East River to the Manhattan sunset, this is the hotel where all the famous artists and DJs stay when they come to Williamsburg. If you can't afford one of the rooms – beautifully renovated from an old factory – then pop in for a morning espresso, lunch or dinner at Reynard, the farm-to-table restaurant, or a drink in The Ides, the rooftop bar.
(open weekends) 70 North 7th Street (between Kent & Wythe), Brooklyn
I brought a friend here four years ago, and I still see her sporting the vintage fox medallion she bought there in pictures to this day. Find a charming array of vintage and handmade sellers that make Etsy look out of touch. No matter what you buy, you can be assured it's a uniquely Brooklyn find.
219 Bedford Avenue (between N 4th & 5th St), Brooklyn
Get back on the main drag Bedford and squeeze inside this tiny shop of sparkly things. Find all the everyday earrings you need for your first, second, third, and fifth piercings, pretty cards and gifts, and tiny bottles of perfume, all sourced from local designers, and made with ethically sourced or recycled stones and gold.
109 North 3rd Street (near Berry St), Brooklyn
Start with an affordable but filling southern-style breakfast at this famously good breakfast spot. The locally-sourced and organic ingredients are certainly not vegetarian, but when you're offered country ham, you take it. (Or you could get the granola bowl, don't freak out.)
85 North 3rd Street (at Wythe Ave), Brooklyn
Time to put on your big girl pants. This store will do what it takes to find you your forever jeans, the ones that you will love so much, you'll break in the knees yourself. They carry several sustainable denim brands like EcoCult favorite Nudie, their in-house brand, and the other brands from the U.S.
242 Wythe Ave (at North 3rd), Brooklyn
Pop across the street and pick up all the pretty reusable bags you will ever need from Baggu. Or splurge and get one of their bucket bags, which are quickly becoming iconic, or a lovely canvas backpack.
265 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn
Wondering what souvenirs to bring home to your family and friends? Walk inside (new location!) and pick up delicious somethings like chocolate, popcorn, jam, condiments, pasta, cured meats, and – of course – cheese. And it's all stuff from small businesses.
98 S 4th Street (at Berry Street)
Again, not exclusively dedicated to sustainable clothing, but if you ask, they will enthusiastically point you in the right direction, like to Kowtow, Fanmail men's clothing (made in Greenpoint from sustainable, non-GMO fabrics that are naturally dyed), Jed and Marne (foot-loomed textiles), and Skin (produces in Peru from natural, organic fibers).
85 Broadway (at Berry St), Brooklyn
If you're feeling really peckish, see if you can get a seat for lunch or dinner at this unassuming restaurant on the south side of Williamsburg. (Hint: It's not actually a Diner. So clever!) There's no menu. Instead, a server will write down the specials for you, which usually involves a lot of meticulously sourced meat and organic vegetable sides.
Feeling inspired by all the amazing, edgy haircuts you've been seeing around? Or just want to pick up some non-toxic Brooklyn beauty products? Here's your place. This hair salon avoids products that use sodium laurel sulfate, phthalates, and parabens, plus sells fave natural brands like Flynn & King, Earth Tu, and more.
171 South 4th Street (at Driggs Ave), Brooklyn
Tap your inner witch and pick up some gifts for yourself and your bff at this hip store. There is wiccan-like bronze and crystal jewelry, sage mist, dream catchers, candles and all manner of oddities.
93 South 6th Street (between Berry St & Bedford Ave), Brooklyn
This has become the golden standard for delicious vegan cheese, but beside from artful wedges of "cheese," you'll also find little chocolate truffles and other vegan products in this tiny storefront.
79 North 11th Street (between Wythe Ave & Berry St), Brooklyn
This iconic sustainable beer brewery has a beer garden, and also offers tours of the facility. But beware: you need to sign up a month in advance for the tour!
141 Havemeyer Street (between S 1st St & S 2nd St), Brooklyn
You mad at me for sending you to a meat-heavy restaurant? Sowry. May I offer you this vegan creperie instead? If you're not hungry but need a nibble, get a truffle, or sit down upstairs and relax with some tea or a smoothie.
227 Grand Street (at Driggs Ave), Brooklyn
This is by far my favorite non-toxic nail salon in New York City, with a zen like atmosphere, a panoply of 5-free nail colors to choose from, and experienced technicians. You might need a break after all that walking!
285 North 6th Street (at Meeker Ave), Brooklyn
It wouldn't be a proper Brooklyn visit without some vintage. And this shop is tops. Find literally any vintage thing you could hope for: Doc Martens, band tees, 70s leather motorcycle jackets, fur coats, bandanas, tutus, ponchos, denim, the list goes on. Next door is the original Stella Dallas for home, with kilim rugs and throw pillows and checkered tablecloths.
502 Lorimer Street (at Powers St), Brooklyn
Ok, first of all, you will not find a better biscuit in all the Northeast. Theirs is like crack, so if you get there for breakfast, get one. This is also a great place to stop if you want to have a picnic in McCarren Park, or if you are on your way to a friend's apartment and want to show up with some fancy snacks, beer, or cider. Or if you want a truly orgasmic, melt-y sandwich. Or a gorgeous gift for a wannabe chef or homemaker back home. The only drawback is the feeling of want you have when you realize you can't buy everything in the store.
228 Manhattan Avenue (between Grand St & Maujer St), Brooklyn
Exhausted? We were by the end of the day! We finished our tour by wearily dropping all our stuff and collapsing on one of the benches in the idyllic backyard of The Drink, a great little bar in Williamsburg that makes its own teas, syrups and mustards, plus composts and recycles.