How to live a Zero Waste Lifestyle in Groningen
What is a Zero Waste Lifestyle?
A zero waste lifestyle is where you live your life producing little to no waste. This movement has been slowly growing over the last few years and has brought people’s attention to the waste that they themselves produce. Depending on who you ask, recycling is allowed and most people agree that composting is allowed too. But don’t be put off by the title. Many people don’t abide “perfectly” by this lifestyle but are still making an impact by reducing their waste.
Our supermarkets are full of packaged products where often the packaging goes in the bin once the product is used. We even over-package stuff! We’ve all seen those single cucumbers, paprikas and aubergines wrapped in a thin layer of packaging and thought “Why is this necessary?”. Well it’s not necessary for a lot of products. Sure it makes pricing easier and shopping quick when you can just grab a packet of 3 paprikas instead of pulling out a bag and counting out what you need. But right now the cost of this convenience is adding to the ever growing waste in our dumps.
So here’s a little guide for anyone who is interested in reducing their waste but doesn’t know where to start. It doesn’t include everything because there are more areas of life in which you can reduce your waste. I kept it small and to the basics because it may seem like a lot of work and it can be. I personally don’t always stick to this lifestyle as well as I want to, but this is what I do when I can!
Equipment - Bags & Jars
AH and Jumbo sell netting bags for 70c. Yes they’re made of plastic but it’s a great option if you’re short on cash as some cotton bags can be pricey. You can use your tupperware for meat and cheese at the market but some also offer paper wrap on the cheese. Let them know before they start bagging stuff. Be confident with your requests to use your own bags and containers because it’s not an unreasonable (or uncommon) request and it literally does not inconvenience the grocer at all!
For things like spices and other small amounts of dried food, having jars is super useful and you can also store your dried foods in them.
Fruit & Veg
Easy! The market! There are a lot of fears that the fruit and veg is more expensive than in the supermarket. For a lot of veg it’s not always true. You also get the option to only take what you need, rather than buying a big bag of onions that go off before you use them all. And if you’re looking specifically for local produce, the Ommelander Markt that takes place every second Sunday on the Harmonieplein and is a dedicated local farmer’s market.
Beans, Lentils, Rice - Market, Le Souk. There’s a stall on Fridays and Saturdays that sells some great (and organic) beans and lentils that you can have bagged with your own bag. The guy who’s usually there is also very friendly! Le Souk has some good basmati rice and it’s just on the Folkingestraat.
Oats - Le Souk, Albert Heijn. You can buy oats with your own bag from Le Souk but AH also has recyclable packaging on their 50c oats. Great deal!
Nuts and Dried Fruit - Le Souk, Ekoplaza. Both places have these cool “taps” for their nuts and dried fruit. Honestly they’re just fun to use. Le Souk also has some chocolate covered raisins!
Tea - Søstrene Grene. Søstrene Grene doesn’t have the widest variety of loose tea but their flavours are unique and very nice! I’ve seen some temporary stalls on the Vismarkt sell loose tea
Spices - Le Souk, Market. Here you can use your jars but the spice market stand also has paper packaging that you can recycle.
Market - The meat stalls at the market often display their meat unpackaged so before you say what you want, hand them your tupperware. I’m aware that high meat production has an impact on our environment but I decided to include this as you don’t have to go vegan/vegetarian to be environmentally conscious. I personally still eat meat but just eat less of it and try my best to stick to free range chicken.
Dairy & Honey
Milk - Ekoplaza, Ommelander Markt, Supermarket. Your local supermarket will have milk in recyclable plastic but there’s also other options. Milk is a little bit more expensive at Ekoplaza than at the Ommelander markt but both are really good (beware the market milk still has the cream!). For both Ekoplaza and the Ommelander milk you can return the glass jar for a deposit.
Yogurt - Ekoplaza. Back to Ekoplaza! It has a nice variety of some really good yogurts and I’ve found some cheap on sale sometimes. With the glass bottled yogurt in Ekoplaza you can again return the jar (or use it for something else!).
Honey - Market. There’s a lovely stand on Saturdays that sells such a wide variety of really good honey. You can bring back the jars or you can reuse or recycle them.
The alternative to bottled soap is soap bars and Dille & Kamille has plenty. They have shampoo bars as well as normal soap bars (anything you can use for body wash you can use for your hands and vice versa). You can also find some bars with recyclable packaging in kruidvat. As for detergent you can refill your bottle at Ekoplaza. I’m still searching for an alternative to toothpaste in the city. The closest I have got is stocking up on “tooth tabs” in Lush when I visit my hometown (Dublin, Ireland). Tooth tabs are basically dried and compressed toothpaste in the form of tablets that you chew on and brush against your teeth. The lather and they work just as well as normal toothpaste. Lush will recycle/reuse the packaging if you bring it back.
Now switching to this type of lifestyle is difficult and takes a lot of effort. It also asks us to give up some of the things we like, like sweets and treats that you always can’t get unpackaged which not everyone is ready to let go (e.g. me!). So it’s important to remember that there are many, many people out there trying their best, still paying for bin collection because they still have waste. I’m one of them. And we’re still making a difference because we’re reducing our waste. So whether you want to call it Low Waste or Zero Waste, what really matters at the end of the day is that you’re making an effort to reduce your waste. And that is all that any of us could ask from each other.