Green living in Riga

It always seemed strange to me that Latvia was ranked 2nd greenest country in the world according to the Environmental Performance Index in 2012.

As a simple consumer without a background in environmental studies, my key arguments to claim the opposite have always been “but we don’t even recycle!” and “we rely on central heating that can’t be regulated other than by opening windows to let any unwanted heat escape!”

Personally, I’m not surprised that we’ve been sliding down the rankings ever since (and I do realise they carry out a much deeper analysis to determine the rankings).

Nevertheless, it is possible and even easy to introduce some aspects of green living to your life in Riga!

Buying green

Judging from the number of health food and organic produce shops in Riga, there is clearly a large demand for it which is encouraging. You’ll often be able to recognise specialist shops by their signs – “eko veikals”, “eko preču veikals”, “dabīgi produkti”, “lauku labumi”.

Many of them operate both as bricks and mortar shops, and online shops. They tend to stock food, cleaning products and cosmetics, and some offer vegetable box schemes.

Here is a non-exhaustive list to point you in the right direction:

At the supermarket

At the supermarket, look out for the words “ekoloģisks”, “bioloģisks”, “no bioloģiskās lauksaimniecības”, and the “Latvijas ekoprodukts” stamp on packaging to determine whether the item is local and organic. Producers go through a strict certification process to attain the status. The European organic label is also in use.

For non-organic but local produce, look out for the “zaļā karotīte” or green spoon stamp. To attain said stamp, producers have to prove that at least 75% of the product’s ingredients are sourced in Latvia, and that the product is made in Latvia.

Tiešā pirkšana

Latvia has a network of “tiešās pirkšanas pulciņi” (direct buying groups) connecting consumers to local farmers and small scale entrepreneurs. The groups process orders weekly via an online system, and are run by group members on a voluntary basis.

Depending on the group, suppliers vary but the product range generally includes staples like seasonal vegetables, meat and dairy, as well as teas, honey, flour, and in some cases natural cosmetics.

As the groups are popular, many of them are full and you may need to join a waiting list. Once a member, you’ll be expected to take turns volunteering to help run the group.

Drinking water

Riga’s tap water is safe for consumption! Any problems lie in the quality of the pipes rather than the quality of the water so you can either install better filters, or buy a water filter jug.

Fortunately, more and more cafes and restaurants are providing tap water free of charge to customers, and the new national library is fitted with free drinking fountains – possibly a first for Latvia! Kudos.

Recycling

You have to be pretty keen to recycle in Riga as facilities are few and far between. It’s very unlikely that you’ll have separate bins in your courtyard, and more likely that you’ll have to walk, cycle or drive to the closest recycling point.

Arguably, the best source for finding your nearest point is this map by rubbish removal company Ecobaltia | Vide (though this has proved unreliable in the past as we’ve found bins to be located in locked courtyards).

In terms of regular household waste, in Riga, it’s currently possible to recycle PET and HDPE plastics, cardboard, paper, glass bottles and jars. Sadly, it’s not possible to recycle other types of plastic such as PP, often used in yoghurt, margarine, fruit and other plastic tubs.

An unexpected place to drop off paper and cardboard is Ulubele animal shelter. They get money in exchange for recycling, and can use large pieces of cardboard for lining litter trays etc. You can also donate old towels, blankets and clothing without zips or buttons.

Note, other council areas have different systems in place.

Donating unwanted items

Moving house? Kids outgrown their clothes? Whatever the reason, if you have anything worth donating (i.e. still usable!), there are a few places you can drop off items to give them another lease of life. See the excellent list of drop off points put together by Ziedot.lv.

Charity work

If you’re eager to get involved in environmental charity or volunteering projects, homo ecos: is an organisation that brings together local activists through activities ranging from movie nights to large scale awareness campaigns.

Do you have any good ideas or tips on green living in Riga? As always, we encourage contributions in the comments section below.

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