From the jagged mountains of the Julian Alps to the crystal clear rivers in the Soca Valley, the picture perfect Lake Bled to the quaint old capital city, Ljubljana – this little country sure does pack a punch for such a tiny country. Slovenia has been in my travel bucket list for a few years, but it moved swiftly to the top as my passion for countries with an abundance of local produce and strong drive to combat food waste blossomed.
When you’re nestled in between Italy, Austria and Hungary, its inevitable there is going to be some amazing culinary fusion going on. Despite a small population of just over 2 million people, Slovenia’s 24 different culinary regions and over 172 national dishes is enough to attract any foodie! I could harp on about how amazing Slovenia was until the cows come home, however my focus today is on their capital city’s impressive food waste management programme.
Whilst on an insightful food tour with Ljubljanajam (highly recommended), our delightful guide marched to a halt outside a long row of bins found all across the city – not quite your average food tour sight! With the same pride that she’d gone through the local delicacies with, she told us all about Ljubljana’s waste management system, which has helped the city gain Europe’s Green Capital award in 2016.
So, how does it work?
Well, this capital city uses a “pay as you throw” method. Glass, packaging and paper can be disposed of by anyone free of charge, while a card is required to deposit organic (food) and residual waste. The underground recycling bins automatically weigh the discarded waste per individual, and fees are billed on a monthly basis based on the weight of the food/residual waste each property generates. What’s more, if the city hits their monthly waste target, the fee is waived for all.
This incredible system has been introduced in just 10 years, proof that altering an entire nations’ habit is possible in a relatively short period, Ljubljana has become a front runner in waste management as a whole and is now 20% above the EU’s recycling rate and 10 points ahead of the EU’s 2020 targets (Zero Waste Europe).
On average, 61% of waste is separated generating only 121kg of non-recyclable waste per inhabitant per year. In contrast, the EU averages at 42%, with 285kg per inhabitant per year (Eurostat). An inspirational example, and somewhat of a contract compared to the UK - where we top the EU’s chart for food waste (a fact that has been the driving force behind me starting my musings on this blog).
The Slovenian mindset with regards to a more sustainable food system is evident throughout the country. Enjoying home-grown fruits, vegetables and other local farm produce is an important part of the way of life in Slovenia – therefore it’s no surprise that Slovenia’s food self-sufficiency index (the rate between home production and consumption) is considered low when compared to countries of Western Europe (Permaculture Research News).
Strongly focused on local ingredients, the local food focuses heavily on rural dishes containing dairy products, meat (especially pork), sea and freshwater fish such as trout, vegetables, legumes, olives and grapes.
Throughout our 2 week adventure, we travelled around Slovenia and wherever we went, there was a vegetable patch nearby. Nearly every house had its own kitchen garden/orchard – and it didn’t stop at residential houses, even some train stations and doctors surgeries were growing produce! I stopped in awe on many occasion, much to the amusement of my travel buddy (“Just how many photos of other people’s vegetable gardens does one need?”.) In more rural areas, chickens featured in many gardens, as well as smaller farmyard animals such as goats, sheep and pigs.
The small population and copious “green” space is a strong reason for Slovenia’s well-manicured vegetable plots, something that many UK households may lack. However, rising food prices and television lifestyle shows are turning Britons into more avid home vegetable growers, with increasing numbers of gardeners digging up their floral displays to replace them with veggie patches. After all, home grown produce tastes better too - doesn't it?
In my concrete square of a garden, I’m growing kale, tomatoes, chillies, mange tout, lettuce and an abundance of different herbs. What are you growing in your garden?
Wonky Parsnips is an awareness-raising blog that aims to change the way we engage with food.
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3rd October 2016 - Recipe: Rack of Kid Goat with Moroccan Couscous
1st October 2016 - Putting Kid Goat on the Menu for the UK's first #Goatober Campaign
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8th September 2016 - Nose-to-Tail Recipe: Pomegranate Beef Cheeks with Butternut Mash
16th August 2016 -
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16th August 2016 - Sustainably Sourced Meat + Nose-to-Tail Cooking: The Beginning
10th August 2016 - Volunteering with FoodCycle
7th August 2016 - How Slovenia Tackles Food Waste
2nd August 2016 - Recipe: Raw Broccoli Stem and Green Apple 'Ceviche' Salad
18th July 2016 - Eating Locally - The Challenge
13th July 2016 - 10 Practical Tips to Reduce Food Waste at Home
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