How do they do it in Dublin?

In the beginning of December I had a chance to re-visit Dublin – a city that I consider to be my second home, because some (not such a long) time ago I spent there two years of my life. I have almost exclusively good memories from my life in the Irish capital – partially for sentimental reasons, partially because – at least at a certain stage – it is simply a great place to live. This is due to Dublin being a small but vibrant city, with a friendly and open-minded society and an interesting culture. Plus, the nature in Ireland is absolutely breathtaking and easily accessible with suburban trains, even if you live in the city centre.

As much as I love Ireland and the super-friendly Irish people, I have never considered Dublin as a particularly sustainable city. Dubliners (both native Irish and foreigners from all over of the world) happily buy food in single-use plastic packaging and drink their coffee and beer from disposable cups. They also eagerly shop in popular, inexpensive retailer stores for clothes the production of which is probably very far from being ethical and fair trade. The culmination of these practices takes place around Christmas, Saint Patrick’s Day or on warm summer days when it’s not raining. These are the moments when the streets of Dublin are particularly vibrant, the general consumption is at its peak and the river Liffey is carrying a considerable amount of plastic waste towards the sea.

But hey, let’s don’t be so negative. Like any other city, Dublin also has interesting places and initiatives promoting a zero waste lifestyle, eco-friendly transport or sustainable fashion. This post is my subjective eco-guide to Dublin – if you ever consider travelling to this lovely city, you might find it handy. Enjoy the reading!

Dublin and zero waste lifestyle

After a year away from the Emerald Island, I have noticed that in the meantime a zero waste lifestyle has become fashionable in Ireland as well. In March 2017 the zero waste guru Bea Johnson visited Dublin and gave a speech at the Trinity College to the crowds of enthusiastic people. In the Irish capital there are more and more places offering bulk food to be packed to your own containers. One of these shops is Hopsack, located in the area of Rathmines. It is a store with healthy food and natural cosmetics with a zero (or minimal) waste section where you can come and shop with your own packaging. To me, the absolute number one at Hopsack is the peanut butter machine which fills the jars brought by customers with a freshly ground peanut butter. At Hopsack you can also buy ecological washing liquids and other cleaning products sold in multiple-use containers which you can later bring back for refilling.

The minimal waste section at Hopsack, Rathmines, Dublin.
The refill station for cleaning products at Hopsack.
This magical machine turns peanuts into delicious peanut butter before your very eyes! And you can use your own jar of course!
At Hopsack you can also purchase a reusable coffee mug.

Healthy organic food (often Fair Trade certified) can be also bought at Dublin Food Coop, located close to the city centre, near Saint Patrick’s Cathedral – one of the most popular points of interest on the touristic map of the Irish capital.

Another company that deserves attention is Bring Your Own, selling bulk flour and different types of grains packed directly to the containers brought by the customer. Apart from their stationary shop located in Drumcondra, they also have pop-up stalls that appear regularly at festivals, Christmas markets and in the city parks – dates and places are announced at the company’s Facebook page.

Another project worth noting is Minimal Waste Grocery. They do their main business at Red Stables Market every Saturday where they are doing really well. They also sell online and offer home delivery. They sell fruits, grains, nuts, spices as well as household cleaning products. The first order arrives in either BioBags or brown paper. However, when it is delivered, you can give the delivery person your jars, bags, tins etc. to fill up for your following order.

When it comes to beauty products, in Dublin there are two stores of my beloved company – Lush. Each visit to their store is a source of a childish joy for me – because of the sweet smell and omnipresent beautiful colours. Lush offers solid shampoos, soaps, parfume or make-up products, many of which are sold in multiple-use packaging and metal tins. Their products are not tested on animals.

Fighting food waste

In Dublin there is a group of volunteers called Food Waste Heroes who occasionally also use the OLIO app. One of our friends – Malte – is an active member of this group. Volunteers communicate mainly using Whatssap and this way they organize times and shifts for their food rescue actions. The volunteers’ task is to collect unsold bread from Dunnes – a network of popular supermarkets. After it is rescued, the surplus bread is then distributed in the streets of Dublin to random passers-by, but also to homeless people as, unfortunately, the problem of homelessness is considerable in Ireland.

Sustainable fashion

As already mentioned, the most popular places to shop in Dublin are (of course) multi-national clothing-retail stores. However, it is also possible to find some alternatives to this fast-fashion shopping style. There are small shops where you can buy some unique, high-quality clothes produced in a way respecting the environment and employees rights. My personal favourite is Scout located in the lively district of Temple Bar, full of pubs and famous for its cultural events and nightlife. Scout has a variety of Irish design products, beautiful scarves, hats, gloves and blankets. They also sell trousers, shoes, bags, T-shirts and tops made of Flocert-certified cotton. When I still lived in Dublin, I bought a white and navy striped jumper and a lovely yellow hat – both things in my opinion are very beautiful and of a very high quality. Of course, each of them cost more than what I would pay in a popular retail store, but I know both these elements have such a classic, timeless character and are so well-made that I am sure I will be able to use them for years.

Flocert certified striped jumpers available at Scout.
Last years I bought a hat from this collection.
Scout offers also beautiful scarves and cosy blankets.
Sustainable transport

As much as I love riding a bike, when living in Dublin, I never really felt safe using this method of transport. There are very few cycle paths in the city, that’s why the cyclists are forced to ride alongside cars and buses. Some bikers don’t see it as a problem, but some (like myself) feel at least uncomfortable about it. These issues don’t go unnoticed by the Dublin Cycling Campaign. This is an independent, voluntary group working towards improved conditions for cyclists, so they can feel comfortable and safe in the city traffic. Among their members there are transport specialists and urban planners, but also many people who simply would like to live in a bicycle-friendly city. One of them is my friend Giulia. The activists promote cycling as a sustainable mode of transport, organize workshops and events and lobby the local and national government to create new infrastructure for bikers (such as cycle paths or city bikes). They also coordinate the cyclists’ presence in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Vegan and vegetarian cuisine

Irish people are very fond of meat and a generally not-so-healthy food. However in Dublin you will find quite a few shops and restaurants for vegetarians and vegans. On the top of my list is Sova Vegan Butcher – a cosy restaurant run by – nota bene – Polish people. The dishes served at Sova are nothing like the shapeless vegetable mass sold at many vegetarian or vegan places. Quite the contrary – at Sova each dish is a miniature work of art. If you visit this restaurant, you will have a chance to taste such specialties as potato and cauliflower pancakes with saffron and mushroom veloute and smoked tofu shavings or a “turkey” roulade (“turkey” in this case is seitan) with cranberry and sage stuffing, rosemary jus and parsnip puree. If you would like to see some pictures of these dishes, you can look here.

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