Stand out, Go North

How to live a sustainable life in Oslo: Food

Green food and recycling is a high sustainability priority in Norway, and Oslo is no exception. This article may help you start your sustainable journey!

Written by: Anastasiia Ponomarenko

In 2019, Oslo received a prestigious title – European Green Capital. This achievement resulted because of combined efforts of the city council and citizens, who support green initiatives and behave accordingly.

Why did Oslo receive this prestigious award? And how are we, students in this city, contributing? Here are some explanation of local policies and small tips on how to make your experience of studying in Oslo more sustainable. 

The award “European Green Capital” is given based on 12 indicators such as Climate Change, Local Transport, Energy Performance, etc. Since it will take us forever to go through every single indicator, we decided to concentrate on two of the most concerning topics for students: food and transportation.

In the previous article, we talked about green transportation options in Oslo. Here, we will dive into the lifespan of food products from the shop to the trash bin.

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Shopping

The most standard and popular way to get some nutrition is of course sneaking into the usual shop. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you probably will end up with some vegetables wrapped into plastic, which will be thrown away the second you open it. To tackle this issue, some shops are introducing paper bags – a one-time alternative of plastic ones. We, on our side, propose to purchase multiple-use bags for vegetables/fruits or avoid them all together.

Oslo has many different grocery supermarkets. Still, all of them provide a standard set of fruits and vegetables. If you are looking for something special (and cheap) to diversify the “green diet”, we strongly encourage you to visit the local international market at Grønland.

Besides purchasing in big grocery chains, it is also exciting to discover places with locally produced food. One of such destinations is Ekte Vare – a zero-waste shop and cafe with a variety of local products spanning from usual grains to luxurious chocolate and cheese. Also, if you are eager to learn more about local producers and to engage with Oslo green society – visit one of the garden parties hosted by ByKuben and join the Environmental Capital Challenge.

In addition to shops and markets, Oslo is flourishing with green restaurants and cafes. For instance, once you come to the Grønland area, make sure to try drinks made of house-grown ingredients at Bruket Oslo – a part of the so-called "Landbrukskvartalet", an upcoming agricultural district. Another eco-friendly destination located right by the Oslo Fjord is an international vibrant food court, lecture and concert hall – Vippa Oslo. Lastly, make sure to pay visit to Nordvegan – a full-vegan restaurant, with dishes created by Michelin-starred chef Reuben Waller and daily new plant-based menu options. For wider collection of organic and vegetarian destinations in Oslo, check out Visit Oslo's guide to green menus.

Lastly, we can be more sustainable by tackling the issue of food waste. For instance, quite often shops have a special sale on products when “best before” dates are approaching – a great deal for the student wallet. To find these deals, you will need to look around the shop for special containers with such products (disclaimer: usually they are gone quite fast). Alternatively, you are almost guaranteed to fall in love with the Too Good To Go app  – a service that resells leftover café meals and grocery products on a significantly reduced price.

 

Recycling

One of the fundamental concepts of circular economy is recycling. Undoubtedly, recycling is irreplaceable part of “Norwegian experience”. In Oslo, all students living in student houses are obliged to sort their everyday trash according to color-coding system: organic waste (goes to the green bag), clean plastic packaging (the blue bag), residual waste (normal shopping bag) and paper/cardboard (stored separately in container for paper/cardboard). Green and blue plastic bags for the recycling are available for free in every grocery store. Containers for sorted trash are available almost on every corner.

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Upon arrival in Norway, you might feel initially confused with this system and spend several seconds thinking every time when you want to throw the garbage. As soon as you get used to it though, trust me, you won’t understand how you previously lived without it.

In addition to sorting by these categories, trash can be further sorted into glass/metal, fabric/clothes/shoes, hazardous waste, etc. The full list of categories and places of the utilization is available on the city council website.

There is one category – pant, which deserves a special attention. No, this category is not the one for your old pair of jeans as you might have already thought.

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This category is for plastic and aluminium beverage bottles and cans. Every plastic bottle of juice, water or soda, as well as every can of beer or soft drink, has a “pant” value written on them. One pant is equivalent to 1 NOK, and the number of pants attributed varies based on the size of the bottle from 1 to 3 NOK. This indicates the sum you pay in addition to regular price for choosing a plastic/can option. Upon consumption of a drink, people can return this money by placing such types of bottles in special panting machines, available in the majority of stores. The process is rather simple – you place the bottle in allocated slot and receive a receipt equivalent for the total number of pants. You can later use this receipt to pay for goods at the supermarket or donate it to charity via the machine.

All that said, Oslo provides a wide variety of options to live a sustainable life when it comes to food consumption and recycling. It takes a one step from each of us to make a difference in this world. Pick a one point from this article and start your green journey now!