One of the first steps that is quite easy to make is trying to buy food without packaging. Ok, maybe it seems difficult. Fruits and vegetables, we get it, but chocolate, pizzas, milk, jam … without packaging? I was buying many food items in France in bulk but When I arrived in Latvia it took me time to spot the places where I could buy food without plastics and so on. But it is logic: less packaging is … in markets! Actually, a lot of supermarkets also have bulk sections for nuts and grains. In Latvia, I also discovered these cardboard boxes with every types of biscuits that you can imagine.
So, how? Here is the thing: anticipation and organization. I have to say, I always have in my handbag or in my backpack some little fabric bags (see on picture). You can also use jars, but they are heavier to carry :) I use Them at home instead. Want to try a first step? Fruits and vegetables! Please do not use a single-use plastic bag for that … I put them in my bag like this or use a fabric bag instead.
So 2 weeks ago, I decided to take some pictures in the central market. This is what I got without packaging (so easy!) And the containers I’m using:
(Click on the picture to see it bigger)
Fresh spinach in a tote-bag, clementines in a fabric bag, lentils (yes, the pink ones) in a jar, an amazing spicy sauce in a jar (I will just give back the glass jar to the retailer), cashew nuts in fabric bag, a nice fresh bread (Maaaaizeee) wrapped in a dishcloths, carrots in a fabric bag, mushrooms in a paper bag that I re-use again and again, and a large piece of some kind of pumpkin That the retailer kindly put in my Tupperware. Was it easy? Yes Even though people Sseem a bit surprised when I insist on “the plastic ‘(Which I barely translate as” no plastic please “) when They want to give me one. As I do not speak Latvian, it also helped me to learn some new words and to have funny conversations with retailers in the market, asking why I do not want the plastic bags (as it is free;)) In the central market, as well as in Āgenskalns Market, I find a lot of items and goods that I can not find like this in France: so many Different spices, grains, legumes, nuts, and cottage cheese and even milk …
So, go for it, try, use re-usable bags and spot the great places to buy in bulk! There is a map in process with Zero Waste Latvia That can help a lot, have a look here , and you can also join the facebook group called ” Zero Waste Latvia ” for some more support.
Next steps for me? Stopping to be lazy and buy everything in bulk. And finding all other goods that I have not found yet. At the moment, regarding food, I do not know where to buy yogurt, quinoa, peanut butter. But … I spotted this nice cheese shop that I want to try. Yes, I’m French;)
What about you? What is easy to buy in Latvia and what is not? Do you have advice or Questions?
Ok so Lucie went to a market, I took the lazy option and went to the supermarket. I entered the supermarket and for the first time in my life it hits me how much plastic and excess packaging there is, and how much will end up in landfill or the ocean. It’s weird how going with a purpose changes your whole perception of something you do every week.
So anyways what did I buy? I wanted some mail, some pasta sauce, fruits, vegetables, and some stuff from the bakery. Certain things you are not going to be able to buy packaging free (i.e pasta sauce for obvious reasons), in situations like these it was for me to pick the least bad option. I know this is not the best option but “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” right? Right ?! I am definitely on one mile.
So I opted for the glass jar of sauce vowing to myself that I will learn to make it from scratch next time (maybe a future blog dedicated to my kitchen fight with tomatoes). It was the same story with pasta, grabbed the cardboard box rather than plastic and continued on my way.
I reached the fruit and vegetable section. Finally somewhere I could-in food with no packaging. Ignoring the little pointless plastic bags I grabbed my fruit and vegetables and moved on to the bakery section of the store. Certain supermarkets want you to use their own branded paper bags for baked goods. I’ve tried and failed to explain in super bad Latvian that I want to use cotton bags for them. So, instead I just reuse the same paper bag every time I go. So for this past month I’ve returned with the same paper bag, used it then folded it and carefully placed in in my bag for the next day’s lunch, not exactly perfect but a simple solution to supermarket bureaucracy.
By this stage my level of guilt is high, so I walk past the chocolate bars (stupid plastic packaging) and make my way to the checkout. When I reach there the cashier looks at me as if I am crazy for setting bare fruit and vegetables on the conveyor belt. Then the drama starts, how dare I place two different pieces of pastry in the one bag, blasphemy! I tried again to explain but I think he the told me to use a different bag for different products. Latvian problems of an Irish guy in Riga.
After paying I take out my reusable cloth bag (kindly donated by Lucie) and place my purchases inside, vowing to be more conscious when I am shopping from now on.
Let’s say just shopping in a supermarket with the mindset of zero waste is at best interesting, at worst infuriating … my lesson from this, go to the market like Lucie.