The wave of Anglicisms inundating the Spanish language has reached the environmental field. Being ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’ is not an insult but a sign of concern for the fate of the planet. And Barcelona, which is always in the forefront, has taken up the banner of other European cities on this road toward sustainability. Not only in the public sphere –for example with bike lanes and collective transport– but via private initiatives. Projects that started out small but are seeking to form a network that will change consumer habits.
A course of action that starts with things closest to us. That follows the maxim “think globally, act locally.” Purchasing cooperatives, fair trade shops, , craftsmen that promote local work, or restaurants where the primary aim is that the food damage the environment as little as possible. “Kilometre Zero Food” is the name given to this by Daniele Rossi, a 50-year-old Italian who has been living in Barcelona for the past two decades. With his companion, Chiara Bombardi, 45 and also Italian, he directs the Slow Food Barcelona Vázquez Montalbán platform, named after the late writer and gourmet. “We have two areas of action,” he says, “a market where we sell farm products from different associations, and a series of shops that are certified supporters of this movement.”
A movement that opposes the rush in cooking, the rush in eating and the rush in buying. In sum, “slowness” in following the natural cycles of the Earth. In consuming what blooms in each season, without intensive farming methods. In realising that a good meal requires care in the kitchen. “We began in 2005 and we’ve really seen some development,” says Rossi. Seventeen years ago, he says, few people knew the meaning of ‘food sovereignty’, ‘organic fruit’ or ‘not genetically modified’.”
“It’s taken some hard work but now we’re very well received, there’s more interest and concern,” he concludes. Participants tend to repeat the word ‘trend’. This is not to trivialise their proposal, but at times one has the feeling that many customers have adopted these healthy, environmentally-respectful options just to be ‘in’. “It may be somewhat temporary, but most people are aware of all this,” they say at Xarxa de Consum Solidari, a group that distributes local products and tries to make people aware of the effect of our daily behaviour. “We were established in 1995 and have been working since 1998. Now we have some 200 members, and of course there’s been a boom, although it’s slowed down somewhat with the economic crisis,” they add.
In the long run, these groups and businesses want to change such habits as importing food from the other side of the world when it can be found closer to home, and support a more equitable sharing in the production process. They want each person’s ‘carbon footprint’ –the impact on the environment of everything we do– to be as low as possible by reducing the amount of fuel necessary to transport food, the water used to irrigate it, or the amount of land used to grow it. Also that there not be such a disparity between what the grower earns and what the middleman takes.
How is this achieved? Olokuti, a chain with three stores in central Barcelona, supports fair trade. Its name, which means ‘the whole world’ in the Masai language, has been heard in Barcelona for the past 13 years thanks to several foreign and Spanish partners who want to develop the project all the way. “We were pioneers and now you can see that our model is being duplicated. We are among those people who believe you can change things little by little,” says Bibi Shong, one of the founders.
Shong, a Dutch woman of 43, says that this system is not so much a trend as a case of realising that “there’s no going back… What we once considered something remote is now beginning to affect us. That’s why you now see a garment and know what’s behind it. And you want to make your small contribution.” Its shops offer everything from food to nappies, toothbrushes or pacifiers. All of it’s made with the materials that do the least damage to the environment.
Cleia Armengol, from Home on Earth, puts it this way: “The aim is to bring back what’s essential. Our way of working and thinking is the backbone of what we do. And our custom as a company is to use the natural, long-lasting materials that respect the cycle of production. We always use the same families and groups of craftsmen, with whom we are also friends. There’s an interest beyond the purely aesthetic. There’s an important social component. We believe that the way in which a business is set up can also contribute to another kind of economy, one that’s more accessible and respectful. It should reject mass production, the large company chains, plastic and exploiting people in the workplace. So we hope this isn’t just a passing fashion but a concrete way of looking toward the future,” she says.