Do you want to contribute to a positive change in cities but are living on a tiny student budget and don’t know where to start? Look no further – here is the ultimate guide on how to live sustainably in Prague without spending fortunes.
Food is one of the basic needs a human needs to fulfill. At the same time, however, its production, transport and distribution sets free the biggest chunk of CO2-emissions, packaging waste and damaging pesticides. Therefore, what you decide to eat and where to buy your food are decisions that have a huge influence on the health of our planet.
“If you decide to change your eating habits, I suggest you learn how to cook,” said Stefan Fiedler, organizer of the ECO-week at Anglo- American University. “If you are able to cook, you will realize the value of good quality products, and care about what you put into your body. It has to do with self-esteem and respect, in some ways.”
Learning how to cook nowadays is easier than ever before. You can just type cooking lessons into Youtube, and receive hundreds of suggested videos to watch. Otherwise, you could also invest in a cookbook. “Jamie’s Ministry of food: Anyone Can Learn to Cook in 24 Hours” is an excellent book for anyone who wants to acquire a few basic recipes with step-by-step pictures and easy explanations.
But even if you do not decide to learn how to cook better, or are already a decent chef, here is how you can change your consumerism: Instead of going to the big food chain stores like Tesco and Lidl, you should rather choose to spend your money on bulk goods, local and organic food, or even decide to produce your own vegetables.
BUY BULK GOODS
By buying food that is not packed in plastic, you reduce the amount of plastic landing in landfills and the oceans but also cut down on the usage of raw oil.
Fiedler used to live completely plastic-free, making it a priority to buy dry products such as beans, flour, pasta, and muesli at “Bezobalu” and “Nebaleno”.
Nebaleno has two stores in Prague, one located in Vinohrady, close to Riegovy Sady, and the second one in the Vysehrad area. Bezobalu has three stores in Prague, one located at Florenc, another one around Dejvice, and the third one between Flora and Vinohrady.
Dominika Szapuova, a journalism major from AAU, tries to buy most of the basic groceries, such as rice and beans, but also nuts and seeds packaging free. Her choice is “Bezobalu” because she lives close to it.
“Recently I started buying waste free washing gel and fabric softener and some personal hygiene products as well,” she said. For such hygienic products, she goes to DM, a German drug-store chain located all around Prague that specializes in selling organic, natural, and cruelty-free brands. Szapuova brings her own containers, fills them with the detergent she needs and pays for it based on how much it weighs.
By deciding to consume local products, you also cut the amount of plastic produced and used, as local products do not need to be packaged as carefully because farmers can just bring their products into the stores or markets. Fruits and vegetables from further away need to be packed more carefully because of the jolty transport.
Hunter Andrews, head of the former “Urban Gardening” Club at AAU, almost exclusively gets his fruit and vegetables on farmer’s markets because the quality of the goods is higher, and he wants to support small-scale local farmers rather than the conventional farming industry.
The one closest to his home was the one at Jiriho Z Podebrad, a farmer’s market held from April until October, from Mondays to Fridays. They offer a variety of products including milk, cheese, fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. The year-round farmer’s market at Naplavka is probably Prague’s most famous one. Every Saturday, on the shores of the “Vltava”, farmers and merchants build their stands and sell items like those at Jiriho, but there are also a few vendors who offer hand-crafted pottery, exotic spices and delicious pastries. Finally, there is the market hall “Pražská tržnice“ in Prague 7, whose hall number 22 is specialized on food. Producers and vendors sell, next to the classic fresh products, also local honey, herbs, and cold cuts.
The decision to buy at farmer’s markets gives farmers also the possibility to sell food that is not “perfect” and would not be sold in a conventional grocery store. All of the products that are not considered beautiful and do not conform to international standards of size, color and form are thrown away. Thus, purchasing locally diminishes the amount of food wasted every day.
When buying local meat, you also have more control over the way animals were held: Fiedler suggests asking for free-range chicken and cruelty free beef. Buying directly from the farmers establishes credibility and rapport with what you put into your body and how the farmers treat the world we live on.
Buying organic cuts the amount of harmful pesticides emitted into the environment, and is healthier for you, as pest control causes cancer and other lethal diseases.
While it is easy to find organic fresh products on the farmer’s markets, it is more difficult to find dry products that have been produced without the use of chemicals, but there are some shops that exclusively sell organic goods.
Bio Obchod Rozmaryna in Andel, for example, is one of the cheaper organic stores located in Prague, therefore perfect for students who want to make a change but not spend a fortune on their food. Biooo is another store that offers mostly organic and also some packaging-free products. The food store chain can be found all over Prague, just like Country Life, another health food shop.
Herbivore in Podskali, close to Naplavka, has a slightly different concept: customers can order vegan food from a daily menu and buy organic and packaging-free products in their shop-corner.
PRODUCE YOUR OWN FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
If you love being outside and value knowing where your food comes from, you could decide to produce your own fruit and vegetables.
“Community gardens are a way of connecting the food you eat and a great way to encounter new people and exchange on gardening and cooking,” said Andrews, who sees his future in Permaculture. Prague has many small community gardens, but two of the biggest are “Kotlaska” and “Prazelenina”.
Kotlaska is located a little further out of town, in the district of Liben, while Prazelenina is located in Prague 7, on the shore of the Vltava. Everyone can ask to join by filling out admission forms, and then plant and harvest fruit and vegetables. As the community is mostly Czech, you might want to join with a Czech friend.
Another way of planting your own food might be raised beds on your terrace or balcony. Hanna Thomaseth, a humanities student in Vienna, has built one herself. Now she plants and harvests salad, cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs – and loves to do so because it makes her feel accomplished.
If you do not have time to build your own raised beds, you could also go to “Hornbach” on the Outskirts of Prague and get everything you need, or order it online. If you do not have enough space for a raised bed, you could also invest into some smaller plant pots you keep in a sunny place in your apartment and still grow your own herbs.
The dirt you will need can also be bought at Hornbach or other various, smaller nurseries across the city. The seeds you will need to grow your own vegetables can be bought at the “Sonnentor” – store, located close to “Jindřišská věž” not far from the Metro-station Mustek. Sonnentor works exclusively organic and as much locally as possible. If you would rather work with seedlings, the Market hall 22 in Prague 7 makes for you. Often, seedlings and seeds are also offered at different farmers markets.
Deciding to live a healthier life for the planet and yourself gives you as a consumer the power to change the world just a little. “As long as courage, perseverance and love for life prevails, all is good,” said Fiedler. “Then, change can happen.”