Why zero-waste shops are booming in Belgium

When I sat down to watch the documentary Food Inc., I did not realize it would a life-changing experience. I felt enlightened. For the first time in my life, I understood fully how a delicious steak ends up on my plate… and it was not from a happy cow. It did not make me full-on stop consuming meat, but I did significantly reduce it to the necessary minimum. I started to investigate where the rest of my food came from, and change my ways of consumption to not be fooled again.

 

Through the rise of critical documentaries tackling health and environmental scandals (ex. Food Inc., An Inconvenient Truth), we are increasingly becoming aware that we cannot blindly trust the products offered in supermarkets or other shops. Only very recently, fears over a public health threat have flared up again, with several European governments (Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium) announcing that eggs available at supermarkets might be infected with Fibronil (an insecticide which can be harmful when ingested).

We are increasingly demanding to know where our food comes from. These days, figuring out how an item is produced from start to finish can be very tricky. Especially big multinationals have very long supply chains which take time to investigate. However, instead of waiting a few years until the next health scandal blows up, we can research by ourselves and protect our health preventively.

 

Research becomes even more vital when faced with a food industry that artificially sweetens, colorizes, and genetically modify our food. We cannot trust our senses anymore to choose which food is more nutritious than others. Based on its appearance, many would judge the tomatoes sold at a supermarket to be superior. They will likely look flawless, without a single bruise or spot, compared to the ones at a local farm.

However, the opposite is true in some cases, according to this study published by a peer-reviewed journal. The nutritious value of organic crops was found to be higher than conventional crops. Nutritious value depends on various elements, such as processing, packaging, storage and transportation conditions, and time span from harvest to consumption. At a supermarket, we will not have this information available. At a farmer’s market, however, we can simply ask the farmer.

 

The idea of offering fresh, quality foods made in full transparency, while respecting nature, is at the heart of zero-waste shops.

 

They offer goods (from natural foods to cosmetics) supplied directly from private farmers, agricultural cooperatives, and social enterprises. It eliminates the middlemen that bump up prices for their own share of profit.

 

Zero-waste shops are basically farmers’ markets, but more convenient. They are open all days of the week. Here we can know exactly where our foods come from and how they are produced. As the name suggests, the goal of these shops is to eliminate all wasteful and harmful impacts of our consumption: from excess (plastic) packaging to carbon emissions.

 

Zero-waste shops are popping up like mushrooms everywhere for several reasons. One of them is a missing sense of community with our neighbors. Living in big urban cities, surrounded by noise and social media, we often don’t know our neighbors. We don’t greet each other on the street and even avoid eye-contact. However, I was surprised to feel instantly more at home in my neighborhood after a simple trip to a local market. These market owners have a stake in my neighborhood; I can trust that they care about their shop, their products, and their customers. We already have so much in common, I realized. Our shared concerns and interests, that’s the community feeling I was missing.

Shops selling local products from my neighborhood allow my hard-earned money to be re-invested in our local community. This way it benefits my neighbors, and not wealthy shareholders from an international supermarket. Neighbors who produce can continue to do good business, neighbors that consume can rely on transparent information and stable prices, and the whole community can buffer itself from deteriorating market conditions that are happening far away from it. Overall, living standards for everyone in the community improve. So really, it’s win-win.

 

This video explains really well what happens when people and nature get connected: 

If you don't have a zero-waste shop closely, it's still possible to shop more eco-friendly in a regular supermarket. Click here to find out how.

 

I would love to know your view on this as well, so please let me know in the comments below! <3 

 

The photos are property of Miuxua

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