Sustainable Travel Guide: Portugal

Portugal has bounced back pretty strongly from the global financial crisis, with employment going from about 16% in the peak to just over 6% today. The streets are bustling with tourists which has great implications for the economy, but challenges for locals. About 20% of their GDP comes from tourism so the country needs tourists, although it is changing the social fabric of many suburbs. When chatting with locals, gentrification (largely driven by Air BnB hosts who buy up chunks of apartments to rent them out) and minimum wage are their biggest social challenges. Due to housing prices increasing and the minimum wage stagnating, it is quite common to hear that the minimum wage only covers rent, which is not sustainable by any means. The Government have started zoning areas so there is a quota of accommodation in each zone. Although there are challenges, there is a lot happening in the bustling hubs of Lisbon and Porto. This is where my travels took me and I managed to find some little sustainability nuggets along the way!

Sustainable Food

The Portuguese love their meat! There is no denying that! It was often difficult to find vegetarian options at ‘normal’ restaurants, so it was good to find some local vegan/vegetarian places.

Porto: Epoca

This little beauty offers delicious, local food with great coffee! It is run by 2 young couples who have a created a highly sought after little cafe. There were people waiting for seats as I ate my lunch at 3pm. They strive to source everything organically and locally which is great for local farmers and reducing environmental impact of pesticides and food miles.

Porto: Da Terra

I was not really prepared for this one… An absolutely scrumptious vegetarian buffet jam packed with fresh vegetables and amazing flavours. I think I had about 4 servings from soup to curry to salads to quiches. It was a dream and a half. They also serve organic wine! It was 9.90 euros for dinner which is amazing value and you can even bring in a container and fill it up for an extra fee. I was feeling a bit worn out from London food, so this injection of nutrients was just what I needed. They have a few stores

Lisbon: Naked

The food here was good but not the best. The vibe was also a little too bustly and touristy, but that is Lisbon in general. The reason I loved them was that they used metal straws!!! And they used edible flowers which I still find some weird but I love the novelty factor!

Metal straws are great!

Lisbon: My Mother’s Daughter

I became addicted to their oat milk lattes even though they are like a million euros. So worth it! This place is quite expensive and a bit out of the way, but the food and coffee are to die for!


Sustainable Business

Porto: Cru Co-Working and Shop

Porto is trying to rejuvenate its economy by investing in creative industries. Porto currently exports the majority of the world’s cork, which is declining in the wine industry thanks to the awesome Aussie invention of screw caps. They now have an art block where you can check out local artists, pop into some cute cafes and see workmanship on the streets of Porto. In the heart of the art block is Cru Co-Working and Shop. Out the back they have a collaborative space for local designers and creatives to come up with their latest and greatest ideas. Their shopfront showcases the designs with everything ranging from vintage scrunchies to architecturally designed lamps! It had such a cool vibe and the shop manager was so passionate about her work and using the space to help designers grow their brands.

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Stumbled across the amazing @cru_cowork and @cru_loja in Porto last week in the Art block. They are a hub for creative entrepreneurs! Cru have a co-working space and a shop with all the amazing goodies from their artists. They have everything from origami jewellery, cartoons about the city, architecturally designed lamps, clothes made from vintage fabrics…The list goes on! I was lucky enough to meet the shop manager who was so passionate about all the designers. She said that empowering creative entrepreneurs is an important way for Portugal to recover from the financial crisis! Follow us for more unique insights about local businesses changing their communities. Also I picked up a little gift from my face designer there and will be running a competition in the next few days! Stay tuned..! #sustainability #localbusiness #localdesigner #design #portugal #porto #entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #localartist #socialenterprise #socialchange #socialchangemakers #planetbinsights #legend #win #creative #creativepreneur

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Lisbon: Startup Portugal

Lisbon has put itself on the map recently as a global startup hub, but make sure you don’t liken them to Silicon Valley! The Government created a startup strategy to attract more investment into the country and rebuild the economy after the global financial crisis. They have a series of initiatives to drive this growth, however one of that they are well known for is hosting the Web Summit every year for 10 years. This brings is a strong branding exercise as well as attracting talent from around the world to see what Lisbon has to offer.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Joao Borga, the Director of Startup Portugal who talked through some of their successes and lessons learnt since they started. Check out the blog here!

Startup Portugal’s sign in their office!

Lisbon: Lisbon Investment Summit

I attended the Lisbon Investment Summit and met with entrepreneurs, corporates and investors who are basing themselves in Lisbon. There were quite a few startups who were solving social or environmental issues in their approach. There was a swimwear company using plastic bottles in their materials, a startup helping people make more ethical fashion decisions and a group who were trying to reinvent festivals that had a focus on sustainability. The summit was good, but some of the speakers were a bit bland. There were topics on the circular economy and impact investing, however they weren’t overly enlightening. A highlight was hearing Andrew Keen’s keynote address. Check out the blog about his keynote here.

Sustainable Living

Portugal 2020 sustainability is the Government’s plan (funded by the European Commission) to make the country cleaner and greener. According to Government Europa website, they are on track to reach their goals which includes being carbon neutral (by 2050)! The three focus areas are:

  1. To support the transition and development of a low carbon economy
  2. To promote action in climate change and preventing the risks associated with climate change in terms of floods, unstable cliffs, mountains, etc.
  3. To protect the environment and promote resource efficiency.

Their focus is on energy and developing a circular economy. From what I saw with their waste management, there is a lot of work to do!

One of their big projects is to replace more than 500 buses in Porto and Lisbon, which will run as electric powered vehicles as well as investing in the two underground rail networks. I found the metro system in Lisbon to be really efficient and quite cheap (about 1.5 euros per trip).

Electric scooters are a really popular mode of transport, especially in Lisbon. Lisbon is quite spread out with lots of hills so there electric scooters and bikes are popular. Uber has a fleet of electric bikes called ‘Jump’ which can be accessed through the app.


The Portuguese Government seem to be very active with trying to shift the economy and deal with large scale issues like housing, climate change and growing the economy. It is a really interesting place because it feels like a place in transition. It seems like people are quite optimistic about their country and their futures!

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