Eco-friendly shopping in Bucharest: Young woman opens the city’s first zero waste shop
Ana Maria Răducanu is a curious and lively person who decided a while ago to adopt an eco-sustainable lifestyle. Now, she is close to opening the first "zero waste" shop in Bucharest - a new option for those who want to shop sustainably or give this alternative a try.
"I somehow trust that people who have become aware of certain things about themselves, those who are concerned about nature and somehow preoccupied about the way they live, will find something useful in this place. And for the others, I hope this shop will at least be a curiosity."
Ana Maria Răducanu, 29, loves to spend time in nature, cook, work with wood, and draw mandalas. She likes philosophy too, but the practical one, the one that helps her live according to her principles. She was also passionate about education, an area in which she worked for about eight years and which, she says, made her a more curious person, a person more concerned about knowing herself.
"The question that guides me is 'what does it mean to be human?' It's a question that is somehow like an onion - with many, many layers -, and I keep discovering things," Ana Maria told Romania-insider.com.
Interested in alternative lifestyles, she started traveling to different countries, living in ecovillages in India and Europe. A life-changing experience, she said, as it helped her understand that a life without waste is possible. Not long after, the idea of opening a zero waste store in Bucharest was born, out of necessity but also out of care for the environment.
"Back to Romania, I realized that no matter how much I wanted to practice what I had learned, I didn't have much support in the context here, I didn't have resources, I didn't have options. And so I decided that it is very important for me to have this lifestyle; I accepted it as a life mission, and this store is a step in this life mission because, somehow, without it, I wouldn't be able to cover my basic needs. The basic needs are these daily choices - what I eat today or where I buy my clothes. And all these little choices that we make every day are part of a system that, in the long run, is not very beneficial to the planet and us as a humanity," Ana Maria said.
But opening a store is not easy, especially as it involves a significant financial effort. Thus, Ana Maria went to the UK to work and save money for her big project. The store required an investment of EUR 20,000.
Things didn't quite go as planned, however, as the coronavirus pandemic hit the world, changing many people's lives and plans. And one of those people was Ana Maria, who felt the need to reevaluate this financial risk and revalidate that this store is wanted. So she launched a campaign on Patreon to see if other people need such a shop in Bucharest. And the "very positive response" came as a big but very pleasant surprise.
"Through this crowdfunding campaign, I asked the community to support us by paying the rent. This is, in fact, the riskiest cost, the highest, given the uncertain period we're going through," she explained.
So far, about 270 people answered the call, giving EUR 5 per month for the Zero Waste Shop's rent. But there's more: the small community formed during this campaign also helped Ana Maria arrange the future shop. They brought tools and volunteered to make the shelves, paint the walls, and get the place ready for opening. And, when the store will open its doors, they will be the first to try its offer.
The Zero Waste Shop will sell vegan food and non-food products in bulk or reusable packaging. Customers will find various types of cereals, seeds, nuts, tea & coffee, herbs, condiments, fruits & vegetables, or sweets here, but also eco-friendly personal care and house cleaning products, and reusable containers and bags. What they will not find is plastic or other items harmful to the environment. Plus, in the first stage, Bucharesters will have the option of home delivery - a service available in collaboration with a local bike courier company.
The "zero waste" shop is based on a different consumption model: people can buy what they need in the quantities they need, without generating waste. However, as Ana Maria explained, this is not new as a concept, "it is what our grandparents lived before we were somehow overwhelmed by the consumerism of the 21st century."
"In a way, that's what shopping used to be - our grandmothers going to the store or the fair with their own bag and buying only what they needed, or if they bought bags of flour, reusing those bags several times. So, somehow, the concept itself is reinvented from an older practice, but adapted to our days and probably to our current habits."
The store is built on the social enterprise model, and 90% of its profit will be reinvested in nature, in environmental protection projects. Part of the money, for example, will be dedicated to one of Ana Maria's biggest dreams: developing an ecovillage where the community can live in green houses and use only locally sourced materials. Of course, this is a "very long-term project," but a very important one for the small community formed around the "zero waste" shop in Bucharest.
As for what people and the authorities could do or should do to diminish food waste and plastic use and promote recycling and a more eco-friendly lifestyle, Ana Maria believes that early education plays an important role, but it's not enough. The authorities, for example, should focus more on awareness campaigns and on creating transparent and easily applicable laws. One such example is the composting law, which passed the Parliament vote in the summer and should come into force in the coming months, once the lawmakers complete the application rules.
At the individual level, people can make small but important changes in their lifestyles: recycle and reuse recipients, avoid overbuying at the grocery store, or consume less energy and water.
Ana Maria believes that understanding the products' life cycle can help people appreciate much more the things they have.
"If I have the opportunity to go into a supermarket and buy whatever products I need and then go back home and enjoy this peaceful and simple life, that means that I have a privilege because, somewhere in the bigger system, things are more complicated. It's not complicated for me, at my end of the chain, but that doesn't mean it's not complicated," she explained.
"So the more we learn about the life cycle of the products we use - where it comes from, what ingredients were used to make it, how it was made, how it was transported, how it got to me, how I consume it, what happens after I consume it - the more we understand and can start making conscious choices."
The opening of the Zero Waste Shop in Bucharest has been rescheduled several times this year due to the pandemic, but Ana Maria finally set the opening date for December 14. Until then, those interested can learn more about this project here.
Irina Marica, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo source: Facebook/Ana Maria Raducanu)