For the past few months there has been a new place in Vilnius where you can taste raw cakes made from ecological products, enjoy the flavour of fresh organic tea, and do your ecological zero-waste shopping.
Say hello to Žaliuomenė - a vegan, organic, sustainable shop and café with a real feeling of community. Questions, thoughts, or If there are missing products you want, then don't be shy to ask and there is a real chance that soon enough you will find them on the shelves.
We asked Konstantin, part of the family behind Žaliuomenė to answer a few questions about the project and sustainability in general.
If 'Žaliuomenė' was a person how would they present themselves?
Always learning. Caring about health, relationships, and the planet.
Your business is socially responsible not just in theory but also in practice. A fairly large part of the profits are allocated to the preservation of Lithuania's ancient forests. You motivate buyers to bring their own packaging, you choose only organic products, thus promoting not only a healthy diet but also sustainable actions for the planet. First of all, thank you, but we wonder why this is important to you?
What matters to us really is how and on what kind of planet Earth we and our children are living now, and also how our future generations will live.
Clean water and clean air are important!
What criteria do you apply when choosing the products to stock?
Health and nature friendly products, basically. Things that are sustainable and good for our health as well as being ecologically friendly.
Plant based foods, and sustainable products for home and personal care.
A sustainable business is not just about products, it's also about packaging, transportation, the circular economy and so on. What specifically are you doing to ensure sustainability?
To start with we are reducing packaging waste. We receive our products in bulk packages, and we give people the opportunity to buy things packaging free, by bringing their own containers.
All of the waste from the café is composted, and we use that compost in our own garden.
We invite people to bring us their used jars, we wash and sterilise them, and then give them out free for people to use again. We also collect and reuse old boxes.
Education is important, and we try to educate the people around us, encouraging them to come with their own containers, to use reusable cups, etc.
We try to encourage our suppliers to use less packaging (and so to generate less waste).
Our invoices are all sent and received by e-mail. We ask our suppliers to do the same and encourage them not to print everything out.
When we have a choice of suppliers, we choose the ones that grow and produce their products closer to us, to reduce transportation.
Very often, organic products are much more expensive. Many people still choose environmentally unfriendly goods, because of the price difference.
But, looking at your price list, the prices don’t “bite” and are quite affordable for many. Do you agree that lower prices attract more people and are a great way of promoting sustainability (even if a debatable issue for profit)?
We agree! One of our goals is to keep the prices as affordable as possible. We can already offer goods at wholesale prices to customers purchasing in the original packaging sizes.
We think that a lot depends on education - people knowing what quality food is, and how it affects health. If someone is interested, there is training and information available.
The name (in Lithuanian) also reflects the concept of community. Why is that important to you and how do you involve your clients in becoming part of the project? Maybe customer feedback, or suggestions?
Quality food and sustainability are only parts of our bigger vision. At Žaliuomenė, and all around, we see people for whom these values are important, as well as warm relationships, trust, respect, and constant learning. We all communicate and learn from each other
For the future we are thinking about holding more community events, courses, and actions.
You’ve set up a really great business, but it’s hard to believe you didn't face any difficulties on the way. What challenges did you face? Were there any that arose specifically because of the nature of the project?
We did have difficulties but we didn't focus on them. When we had such a belief in an idea, we just took action and worked on it.
Can we hope that in the near future Žaliuomenė will become a place where it will be possible to buy a wide range of organic and sustainable products not just for cooking, but also for household and leisure?
Possibly, we are growing together with our customers and the people who surround us. Time will tell.
Many shoppers like me don’t like to spend time in stores, so they often choose a supermarket or mall where they can find everything they need. Unfortunately, organic, zero-waste retailers have a limited range. When will we see that kind of bigger project, maybe Žaliuomenė will set the example?
We think that there is a time for everything. We are learning to live each day, not planning too far into the future. We do it and on the way people and situations come along, and life itself leads you to your path.
We, each generation, make choices - where to live, what to do, and we also choose what and where to buy - if depends on what we value and support.
Living each day is great, but honestly we are dreaming that in the near future wherever we will travel around Lithuania we will see sustainable stores like Žaliuomenė all around!
We wish you good luck with the project and invite everyone to visit. As my friend Ieva said after visiting, even her partner who claims he is not a fan of raw vegan goodies, admitted to enjoying the cake and tea.
To find out more about Žaliuomenė, buy sustainable products, or check when they are open to serve you up some amazing raw cakes, go and take a look at their website: www.zaliuomene.lt