How do they do it in Lisbon?

In the beginning of June I had a chance to spend a few days in Portugal. The main goal of this trip was to visit my  university friend who lives there and use this opportunity to see Lisbon and its surroundings. However, as usually  when visiting new places, I was also curious to find out about projects interesting from the perspective of environmentally responsible way of living. I will be honest with you: Lisbon is a charming city, but probably it does not rank very high among the most sustainable cities in Europe. When I was visiting it in June, the Santo Antonio festival was taking place. It is a celebration of Portugal’s patron saint – St Anthony starting in the end of May and ending in early July.. This is a time when tourists and locals eat, drink and enjoy the festivities in the streets of Lisbon. You can hear loud music everywhere and Alfama – the oldest district in Lisbon – is full of food stands selling cheap beer, sangria, wine and some traditional snacks. For the residents of Lisbon (and for those visiting the city), the festival becomes an opportunity to enjoy the charms of life. Unfortunately, it also offers a lot of opportunities to create piles of garbage – single-use plastic cups, plates, cutlery, straws and food waste – spoiling the view of picturesque streets and most probably also enriching the ecosystem of the river Tagus.

Nevertheless, like anywhere else in the world, also in Lisbon live some creative people who are conscious of environmental issues and who come up with innovative ideas on how to tackle them. During my short stay I’ve come to know a few interesting initiatives (and I’m pretty sure there are much more). Maybe some of you will feel inspired by these sustainability projects born in the country of fado and port wine?


When I walked the steep streets of Alfama, my attention got caught by the magical word “upcycling” at the display of a shop. Of course, I didn’t hesitate for a moment but immediately decided to walk into this interesting store.  It turned out that Garbags – this is the name of the shop – sell accessories such as bags, backpacks, wallets, belts made of… garbage. And more specifically – of different kind of packaging (originally used to hold candies, crisps, cosmetics or pet food). I had a conversation with the shop assistant who told me that this business had already been running for 7 years. Garbags have two stationary stores and an online one. All the products available in the shop are made in Lisbon by 4 local designers. The upcycling material is mainly provided by businesses, but Garbags also collect the unwanted packaging from individuals. If you donate a certain number of used packages, you can receive one of Garbags products as a free gift.

Believe me or not, but most of the accessories sold in Garbags are very creative ideas and most of them look really cool. I would definitely buy some if I had more space in my luggage, but as I did not have enough I only purchased a few beautiful handmade magnets. Whether you like the accessories sold by Garbags or not (I perfectly understand that  not everyone has to dream about a handbag with a Whiskas logo for instance), I think most of you will agree that it is a great inititative. First of all – they look for ways on how to creatively reuse old packaging, rather than sending it directly to landfill sites or oceans.  Another reason is that their accessories are made locally rather than imported from another country or continent. And, last but not least, they are bringing to the public eye the gigantic amounts of garbage happily produced by the humanity and the dramatic consequences of this carefree attitude.


Garbags shop in Alfama
Bags, belts and wallets made of used packages.
Magnets made of bottle caps
Garbags collect the upcycling material from businesses and individuals.

Fruta Feia Co-Op

In Lisbon and a few other Portuguese cities there is a food Co-operative called Fruta Feia. They work with local farmers who grow fruits and vegetables. How does this project differ from other food co-ops? They buy exclusively these fruits and vegetables that would be disqualified elsewhere because of the aesthetic standards. In other words: they are too ugly to be sold elsewhere. This of course does not mean that they lack anything in terms of taste or nutritional values. Thanks to the co-op, local farmers find a way to sell the products they would otherwise have to throw away. And the co-op members gain the access to fresh, local products sold below the regular market price. Fruta Feia’s mission is of course to reduce food waste resulting from exaggerated aesthetic standards. The co-op’s motto is “Gente bonita come fruta feia”, meaning: “Beautiful people eat ugly fruit”.

Plant-based cuisine in Lisbon

Like any seaside country, Portugal takes great pride in its fish and seafood. Most restaurants and street food stalls will offer you the traditional Portuguese cod (bacalhau), grilled sardines, octopus or calamari. However, if during your holiday in Lisbon you prefer to stick to plant-based cuisine, you don’t have to worry as there are many places specialising in this kind of food.

If you feel hungry when visiting Alfama, you can stop for lunch or dinner at a small, Indian-style restaurant called “Princesa do Castelo”. What I ate there was a very tasty tofu tikka masala and a delicious ceviche served as a starter.  Originally, ceviche is a dish made from raw fish marinated in citrus juice and accompanied by different kinds of seasonings and herbs, such as cilantro, chilli, salt or onions. In this case, however, fish was successfully replaced with mushroom. I have to say mushroom was excellent in this role and my plan is to reproduce this recipe at home one day. “Princesa” offers also desserts, amont other things “Pastel sem nata” – a dairy-free version of the most famous Portuguese pastry.

Delicious mushroom ceviche.
Tofu tikka masala served at Princesa do Castelo.

Another place that I can recommend is Oasis. It is a cosy restaurant, located close to the Sao Sebastiao metro station and run by very friendly Ukrainian staff. In Oasis we tried among other things some delicious beetroot lasagne and seitan stew. The restaurant offers also a very wide variety of teas, they also serve lemonade, wine and beer which makes it a perfect spot for an evening spent with friends.

Seitan stew, beetroot lasagne and some veg served at Oasis.

Interesting links:

Garbags’ website (where you can find stores’ addresses and more)


Fruta Feia’s website (available in English and Portuguese):


About Princesa do Castelo:


More about Oasis:

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