Half of Catalans consumed ecologically friendly food during 2015
More and more people in Catalonia are turning to ecologically friendly food. According to the Perception and Consumption of Organic Food barometer, half of all Catalans consumed ecologically friendly food during 2015. On the way towards an ecologically and environmentally friendly city, Barcelona City Hall is promoting some initiatives to make Barcelona a more ecological city in many facets like health, sustainability, trade and social welfare. Green Markets are integrated into the new municipal policies. The aim is to promote small- and medium-sized local and ecologically friendly Catalan producers within a maximum radius of 150 km around Barcelona. The intention of the City Hall is to spread the campaign to six markets this year and, bit by bit, to transform the whole network of markets in Barcelona into an example of respect for the environment.
Barcelona (CNA) - More and more people are turning to ecologically friendly food. According to the Perception and Consumption of Organic Food barometer, half of all Catalans consumed ecologically friendly food during 2015. On the way towards an ecologically and environmentally friendly city, the City Hall is currently creating some initiatives to make Barcelona a more ecological city in many facets like health, sustainability, trade and social welfare. One of these projects is Green Markets, which is integrated into the new municipal policies. It is a strategy to promote small and medium-sized local Catalan food producers from a maximum radius of 150 km around Barcelona. According to the Ecology Axis of 'Barcelona en Comú, the municipal party born from a citizen platform which governs the Catalan capital, this plan was created “to save energy, to secure a better quality of food and to favour the social economy”.
The project is still a pilot test, but the aim of the City Hall is to spread the campaign to six markets this year and, bit by bit, to transform the whole network of Barcelona markets into to an example of respect for the environment.
The project was designed by the City Hall to show how municipal markets can turn into spaces of healthy food. The demand for local or “zero kilometre” products is increasing amongst consumers. That is why many green cards hang from the ceilings to show three clear messages: “local product”, “ecological product” and “responsible fishing”. All these shops have been equipped with this distinctive label awarded by the European Union, the Catalan Council of Organic Production and other official organisations. However, in some cases the prices are higher than current products.
The Municipal Markets Institute (IMMB) told CNA what the Green Markets project is all about. “The aim is to increase the presence of local products, to reduce the impact of CO2 on the environment caused by transport, to strengthen the supply of local producers and also to consume more fresh products”, affirmed Jordi Torrades, the IMMB manager. All these products are obtained from responsible cultivation practices, which preserve natural resources. “There has to be a supply of products with ecological certification in each shop”, he concluded.
La Llibertat, the first green market in the Catalan capital
Located in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, La Llibertat market was a pioneering project. Until the 30th of July, the project will still be a pilot test. Afterwards, 25 markets will follow the steps of La Llibertat to make Barcelona a more sustainable and healthy city.
On a visit to this market, the Councillor for Enterprise and Tourism of Barcelona, Agustí Colom, stated: “It was discovered that currently markets offer 20% of fruits and vegetables and 60% of meat produced here in Catalonia under ecological guidelines. Therefore, the first idea is to assess the work done so far; secondly, to reinforce the process and finally, to make this project possible for all municipal markets”.
One of the establishments recently labelled “Green” is El Clot market, located in the El Clot neighbourhood. It was opened in 1889 and now, after 127 years, is considered a green market. The initiative is still takings its first steps in El Clot market, so it is too soon to know what its impact is. Horta and La Concepció are other markets that have also been qualified as green.
“We cannot reach any conclusion yet because we have not seen an increase in sales”, stated the president of the traders association of El Clot market, Vicente Balaguer. “However, we are very happy to see how people are interested in knowing more about this initiative”.
Seven markets from Barcelona will be considered green establishments this year and in total 24 markets will have the “Green Market” insignia by 2020. In this way, over the years more citizens will come to know what Green Markets are. Therefore, “the sales figures may increase”, Balaguer told CNA.
Market sellers, divided over the economic impact
Green Markets consist in using local products and means searching for them within a maximum radius of 150 kilometres around Barcelona. This is an added effort for shopkeepers because they have to find new producers: however travel time is reduced and the good quality of food is ensured, “finding a good local product is sometimes hard, so you have to dedicate more time to it, but it is worth the effort”, stated Íngrid, who has been working as a trader for 15 years.
On the other hand, some sellers don’t see the project as having a future. This is what Carlos, from El Clot, thinks about Green Markets. “We have not seen an economic impact. We have the same sales figures as in the last few weeks and people seem not to be interested in ecological products and if they are, they already bought them before the initiative was launched”.
Neighbourhoods welcome the project
“I did not know about this initiative until today”, said Carme, who has been a resident in El Clot since 1941. However, she stated that the municipal markets in Barcelona always offer fresh and local products. “The Green Markets project maybe can help something, but everyone who has lived for a lot of years here in the El Clot neighbourhood knows that every single product we consume is produced here in Catalonia and cares for the environment”.
Other people like Rafael declared themselves loyal to municipal markets, but proposed a reduction in the price of the products. “It is true that producing here in Catalonia is always more expensive than importing products from abroad, but if food companies reduce the prices, many more people would consume local and ecological products”.
Environmental organisations: “It is just an advertising campaign”
Some ecological associations are pushing initiatives like Green Markets to go further. Such is the case of Diego Durán, from Ecologists in Action. He said that although the project is well-intentioned, “the City Hall must take more valiant steps”. Duran explained that the Green Market is “just an advertising campaign” because “there are many posters around and, as some sellers explained to me, many of the products are not ecologically friendly”.
Along these lines, he added that industrial food “is heavily subsidised” by governments and Barcelona lives from exportations and importations. “This is not the model that Barcelona needs. The consumer has to be able to choose under the same conditions and right now organic food is below industrial products. If these two types of products were at the same level, then we could say that Barcelona has an ecologically sound model”, stated Durán.
Barcelona as an environmentally friendly city
Half of all Catalans consumed ecologically friendly food in 2015 and these figures are expected to increase. Barcelona has an important role in this success. Concurrent to the Green Markets project, municipal markets are carrying out other actions in favour of sustainability, like the campaign “Markets free of plastic bags” to contribute to the progressive reduction of single-use plastic bags. A total of 14 markets in Barcelona adopted the project last year, so now they charge their clientele for the use of such bags. Now, the European Union Directive obliges all businesses to collect all plastic bags.
According to the Ecology Axis of 'Barcelona en Comú', the City Hall is working “to save energy, to secure a better quality of food and to favour the social economy”. Barcelona is leading the whole network of ecological markets in Catalonia, partially thanks to municipal policies by the City Hall. However, the Catalan capital needs to approve more initiatives to convince consumers, sellers and organisations.