Since I started the search for a green lifestyle, I have had one big frustration: my garbage bin. One of the changes I would like to make in my lifestyle is to produce less waste, to reduce my ecological footprint. After analyzing what is actually in my garbage bin, I noticed that 90% is plastic wraps and packaging. As hard as I try to avoid plastic wraps and packaging, they always find their way to my bin. However, there are places that help to live a plastic-free life, and they are multiplying rapidly: Zero-waste shops!
A zero-waste shop aims to make shopping trash-free by offering as much as possible re-usable, organic and local everyday products. In this definition, "trash" needs to be taken in its broad sense, as it includes anything harmful for the planet, like for example CO2 emissions or toxic pesticides. Also, "trash-free" is an ideal state, it's the ultimate goal. With some products that are solid, like fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts, it's easier to attain this goal vs. liquids. That's why most zero-waste shops have a packaging-free section, together with products that are packaged, with attention to sustainable materials and fair trade.
Why avoid trash if we can recycle? Avoiding trash altogether helps to preserve natural resources, to reduce CO2 emissions, to reduce landfills, to encourage local production, and - don’t forget - by paying solely for the item, and not its packaging, we're saving money.
These shops promote a sustainable lifestyle, respecting nature and fair trade. We can usually find a broad range of products, like fruit and vegetables, bread, dairy, rice, pasta, drinks and cosmetics.
It's important to come prepared to a zero-waste shop. We will need our own shopping bags; smaller bags for small items and containers for liquids.
Photo by theessentialists.com
What about price? When I go shopping, I consider four aspects before buying something: (1) quality (industrially-made or home-made), (2) production location (local or overseas), (3) preferably plastic-free, (4) lifetime (how long can I use it before discarding).
To be honest, the advantage of a regular supermarket is that I can find all items in one place. However, I bring back a lot of plastic trash. With zero-waste shops, I can't always find everything I need at once. I have to do several shopping trips, but my ecological footprint is lower. I prefer to invest in the growth of zero-waste shops. What is worthwhile, takes some effort.. ;)
Here are the zero-waste shops that I've visited in Brussels:
You can find more zero-waste and eco-friendly zero-waste shops in Brussels in the Mixua online discovery guide.
Le Bio Marché – “Marché des Tanneurs”
I first visited the shop on a Saturday, and promptly realized how popular it was upon taking in the busy scene. In this spacious zero-waste shop, we find an amazingly large offer of fruits and vegetables - with very good prices! Additionally, they offer organic bread, cheese, cereals, meat, yoghurts, and more. Farmers directly supply the shop, which result in high quality goods and great prices.
Rue des tanneurs 58
Day by Day – “Mon épicerie en vrac”
Day by Day offers one of the largest dry foods in bulk with about 500 different products. Their dry foods include everything but fruits and vegetables, and it’s a mix of organic and non-organic food. This mix makes it possible to have a bigger amount of items in bulk, in comparison with other zero-waste shops. Every product states very clearly if it's organic or not, where it comes from, etc. Here I finally found cookies and pet food in bulk! The shop has a wide range of prices, making it affordable for a smaller budget too. I enjoyed the shop’s friendly community feeling, fostered by the two passionate shop keepers - Florian and Arsenios.
Avenue Paul Dejaer 29
La Grainerie is a beautiful and cosy shop offering 100% vegan catering. Here too, the focus is on dry foods, such as pasta, rice, tea herbs, healthy juices, and oils. If you are in the neighbourhood, be sure to stop by for a tea and a black bomb. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not an alcoholic drink. A black bomb is an energy ball made of guarana and cacao, covered completely with roasted black sesame seeds. A great superfood to bolster your health against the coming winter cold!
112 rue de Tenbosch facebook.com/lagraineriebxl
Färm - "Good food, good people"
Färm is the first zero-waste shop I have ever visited, and I’ve fallen in love with it for two reasons. First, it has a wonderful broad offer of (local) products. The full first floor is dedicated to cosmetics and hygienic products (see pic). Second, it's a co-operation. This means that all involved parties - such as producers, distributors, employees and even consumers - own and control the organization. This results in full transparency, high quality products, sustainable practices, correct prices and short (local) chains. Even if we don't have the time or money to join a cooperative, we can shop here. Thanks to its success, Färm already opened 5 stores in Brussels.