Look Before You Book: A Sustainable Travel Guide to Seattle, Washington

March 29th, 2023
Reading time: 12 minutes

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If you’re searching for a vacation spot that hits both your fix for city life and access to nature, Seattle is the perfect place to visit. Located in Washington, it’s part of a state that is home to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the country. Not only is it easy to access beautiful national parks, day hikes, and scenery from Seattle, but the city itself is far from a concrete jungle, filled with parks and nature trails that show off the beauty of Puget Sound. If you’re looking for a great place to visit that is also full of sustainable options, the Emerald City is the perfect destination.


Lowering your footprint: Getting here and getting around

Depending on where you are traveling from, Seattle is accessible either by plane or by train. SeaTac airport sits right in between Seattle and Tacoma and is a 40-minute ride on the Link light rail, Seattle’s shuttle system. The Link is conveniently located in the airport and runs every 15 minutes. You can also take the Amtrak train, which will take you to King Station, located at the heart of the city. 

Once in Seattle, there are plenty of eco-friendly options to get around, as it has one of the best public transit systems in the country. The Link light rail travels from North Seattle to South Seattle. This is a great way to explore Seattle and is extremely affordable, costing about $2.25 – $3.50 for an adult one-way ticket. In addition to the Link,  there is also a metro system that runs across the city. Buses come every 5-15 minutes, depending on the route, and you can get just about anywhere with the metro. Similar to the light rail, the metro is extremely affordable, costing $2.75 for adult passengers. 

However, if you’re like me and like to walk or bike around, Seattle is a great place to do just that. You can get almost anywhere you need on foot. Just be prepared for a good workout because Seattle is known to be hilly!


Sustainable hotels

When trying to travel more sustainably, where you stay can make a big difference in your environmental footprint. To help provide guidance, I compiled a list of three hotels in Seattle that are known for their eco-friendly practices:

Hampton Inn and Suites By Hilton: Location: 9550 1st Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115
About the space: If traveling on a budget, Hampton Inn and Suites is a great option to save money while still practicing sustainability. They have multiple locations around Seattle and have multiple sustainable initiatives: Hampton has a recycling and food waste program, donates excess food, uses compostable food containers and cutlery, and has an energy conservation program. They also offer vegan and vegetarian options and source local seafood for all the seafood lovers.

Sheraton Grand Hotel: Location: 1400 6th Ave, Seattle, WA, 98101
About the space: If looking for a mid-budget option, Sheraton Grand Hotel is an upscale hotel that is located close to downtown Seattle and has various amenities, such as a pool, a breakfast buffet, and a fitness center. They also employ numerous green practices, such as locally sourcing their food and beverages, employing an energy conservation program, and donating all of their excess food. 

Hotel 1000: Location: 1000 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
About the space: If you’re looking to splurge on a luxurious hotel, Hotel 1000 is a great option. Much like the previous hotels, it also boasts an energy conservation program, a recycling program, and locally sourced food. Hotel 1000 also has a soap and toiletry donation program and only uses compostable containers and cutlery. It is located right in the heart of the city and offers multiple amenities and a great view.


Sustainable shopping

Seattle is abundant in sustainable shopping options, whether you are looking for clothes, antiques, or something in between. Neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, Fremont, and University District are known for their shopping options and have an array of places to splurge while still minimizing your environmental impact.



Lifelong Thrift Store: Location: 312 Broadway E, Seattle, WA 98102
About the space: Lifelong is a non-profit thrift store that supports individuals with HIV/AIDS, as well as other chronic diseases. They have an array of goods, from clothes to furniture and records. Located in Capitol Hill, it’s a perfect place to stop by to find hidden gems for an affordable price.

University Village: Location: 2623 NE University Village St, Seattle, WA 98105
About the space: If you’re looking for a one-stop shopping area, then definitely check out University Village, or U-Ville, located right by the University of Washington. The outdoor mall offers an array of well-known brands and local businesses that cater to various needs. You can shop for clothes, shoes, furniture, groceries, and even get a bite to eat from multiple places. What I love about U-Ville is the outdoor landscape that’s completely walkable, the variety of local brands, and the homey atmosphere it exudes, especially in the summer. 

Fremont Vintage Mall: Location: 3419 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
About the space: The Fremont Vintage Mall is a perfect place to find all sorts of cool antiques, vintage fashion, and decor for the home. You’ll find unique knick-knacks and cool finds while still maintaining a green thumb, as everything is secondhand. Located in the Fremont neighborhood, you can stop by right after you visit the famous Fremont Troll.


Other fun options

Easy Street Records and Cafe: Location: 4559 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116
About the space: Seattle is known as one of the musical hubs of the world, with multiple rock icons coming from both Seattle and Washington State. If music is an interest, I recommend taking a trip to West Seattle and visiting Easy Street Records. It captures the eclectic essence of Seattle’s local music scene and has an impressive array of new and used CDs and vinyls to browse. Additionally, it has a great cafe, as well as live music events to promote local artists in the area. 

Ophelia’s Books: Location: 3504 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
About the space: If you’re a book-lover and want to visit any local bookstores, Ophelia’s books is a must. Located in Fremont, Ophelia’s offers a wide variety of used books. The atmosphere is quaint and cozy, and there are even live-in cats that walk around the store.

The Naked Grocer: Location: 620 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122
About the space: Located in downtown Seattle, The Naked Grocer is famous for being a “wasteless” grocery store. They offer locally-sourced organic products, and they are devoid of any and all single-use plastics and containers. Instead, customers bring reusable containers that they fill and weigh or buy containers and/or organic paper bags in-store. In addition, they have a little cafe where you can buy pastries on the way out. 


Sustainable dining

Seattle has a wide array of cuisines from all over the world, making it a great place to visit and try new kinds of food.  The city is also vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free friendly, with numerous options for people with dietary restrictions. Here are a few top options.



Street Bean Coffee Roasters: Location: 2711 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

About the space: Located in Belltown, which is about 10 minutes west of downtown, Street Bean is a coffee shop that prides itself on coffee that does good and is good. Street Bean is a non-profit cafe whose mission is to aid street-involved youth in the local area. They offer apprenticeship programs where they train youth to not only make coffee but teach them numerous other skills, such as resume building, job interviewing skills, and working under pressure. This is a great stop to get good coffee and support the local community.

Ugly Mug Cafe: Location: 1309 NE 43rd St, Seattle, WA, 98105

About the space: Ugly Mug Cafe is a great place to stop for coffee if you are looking for a quaint, artsy space to drink your coffee. There are two locations, one in University District and the other in Interbay, and both are sublime. Serving your coffee in unique “ugly” mugs, this is a great place to get unique coffee drinks while supporting a local business.



Rachel’s Ginger Beer: Location: 1610 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
About the space: Rachel’s ginger beer is definitely a must-stop when visiting Seattle. With multiple locations all around the city, they offer a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Their ginger beer is made with ingredients supplied by local farmers and is alcohol-free!  They also offer a variety of delicious cocktails and soft serve.

Fremont Brewing: Location: 1050 N 34th St, Seattle, WA 98103
About the space: Fremont Brewing is a great spot to visit if you want to support local business owners who are passionate about beer and the environment. They offer a wide outdoor space that is friendly for groups of all kinds, from families to couples with a wide variety of brews for every person. They have also been recognized for their sustainable business practices by local business publications. They also invest about 60% of their energy into renewable energy sources.



Conscious Eatery: Location: 5620 6th Ave S Building T, Seattle, WA 98108
About the space: Heading to South Seattle, Conscious Eatery is a great stop for breakfast or lunch, where they offer sandwiches and salads. While their food is wonderful, their mission is even better. Not only do they locally source all of their ingredients, but Conscious Eatery was founded on the mission to minimize hunger in the local community, and they do so by donating a meal to someone in need for every meal sold. 

Ba Bar: Location: 500 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
About the space: One of my favorite restaurants in Seattle is Ba Bar. They offer amazing Vietnamese food and have a great array of options for people with diet restrictions. They have multiple locations in Capitol Hill, University District, and South Lake Union. In addition, they recently opened Ba Bar Green, which is a completely vegan restaurant located downtown!

Humble Pie: Location: 525 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144
About the space: Whenever I’m craving good, hand-crafted pizza, Humble Pie is my go-to. Located in Seattle’s International District, Humble Pie is LEED-certified, uses 100% of its rainwater on-site, has a garden full of produce and chickens, and everything they use is 100% recyclable or compostable. It’s a wonderful place to sit and have lunch or dinner, with a space that shows its love for nature and the environment.

Agelgil Ethiopian Restaurant: Location: 2800 E Cherry St a, Seattle, WA 98122
About the space: If you have a big group, want vegetarian/vegan options, or just want to try a new cuisine, Agelgil is a great destination for quality Ethiopian food. Located in Central District, it’s a nice walk outside of downtown and into the more residential portions of the city. It’s a great place to share amazing food while supporting a local business.

Cafe Flora: Location: 2901 E Madison St, Seattle, WA 98112
About the space: While there are plenty of brunch spots around Seattle, Cafe Flora is unique for their delicious dishes that are all vegetarian. Gathering all of its produce from local, organic sources, it’s the perfect place to head with some friends for great breakfast options.


Get outside

Seattle is a great place to visit for any nature lover, as the city is full of trails, parks, and beaches for people to explore. While Seattle is known for its rain, the spring and summer are beautiful and are the perfect times to visit to truly appreciate the scenery the city has to offer.

Pike Place Market: Location: 85 Pike Street Seattle, WA 98101
About the space: Have you really visited Seattle if you haven’t visited Pike Place Market? Located right by the waterfront, Pike Place is a great place to visit on a bright sunny day and spend a leisurely afternoon at. There are numerous restaurants and cafes, including the first Starbucks location, as well as local vendors that sell a variety of products, from food to jewelry, to art. 

Washington Park Arboretum: Location: 2300 Arboretum Dr. E, Seattle, WA 98112
About the space: Seattle has many beautiful parks all around the city, however, my personal favorite is the Washington Park Arboretum. It’s a huge park with little trails to walk and Japanese gardens to admire, and it is located right by Lake Washington. It’s the perfect place to have a picnic, let your kids run around and play, or get your daily nature fix.

Fremont Sunday Market: Location: 3401 Evanston Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
About the space: If you’re a fan of Pike Place, the Fremont Sunday Market is another great place to spend a morning or afternoon. The market is a block filled with local vendors of all kinds, hawking food, clothes, live music, and more. Whether or not you buy anything, it’s a great place to explore what Seattle has to offer and meet locals.

Alki Beach: Location: Seattle, WA 98116
About the space: When visiting Seattle in the summer, I recommend taking a trip over to West Seattle and spending the day at Alki Beach. There are lots of activities, from beach volleyball to live music to scooters and bikes you can rent to cruise around the strip. In addition, the beach strip is also lined with multiple restaurants and breweries that have a variety of cuisines. 

Seattle is the perfect place for the sustainably-minded traveler while still having a trip filled with loads of fun and excitement. Being one of the greenest cities to live in within the U.S., it’s no wonder you can find numerous restaurants, parks, stores, and more during your time in the Emerald City. So, if you’re looking to travel somewhere that truly adheres to the great outdoors make sure to consider adding Seattle to your destination list the next time you get the travel bug.

Brightmark is not directly affiliated with, paid to promote, or receive any compensation from any of the businesses or entities mentioned in this feature.

Woman posing for photo
Liz Mugho
Marketing Intern

Liz is a passionate advocate who loves writing and nature. With a background in marketing, journalism, and nonprofits, she uses her skills in research, storytelling, and communication to ensure that she is bringing forth unique and compelling articles that aid Brightmark’s mission. Liz is a current undergraduate at the University of Washington pursuing a degree in Anthropology.

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