Being open to an ecological lifestyle seems to be not enough for a contemporary society that is demanding more and more engagement in ecological issues. These days, being directly involved in the green way of life seems to be the answer. As a result, a growing number of initiatives are spreading throughout Krakow and the Małopolska region with the aim of promoting a more hands-on involvement.
While considering the city and looking for evidence of activities promoting local food production, some end up believing that products sold at the Kleparz market are all healthy, while others try and save up in advance when planning a visit to a health food shop. The motto “you are what you eat” provokes much more consideration now than several years ago.
As a result of Polish participation in the Kyoto protocol, many initiatives filter down to smaller scale communities. Alexandra Szaflarska from the Aeris Futuro Foundation, an NGO founded in Krakow, organises campaigns and activities across the country: “We try to keep ourselves active on the home front, but attempts are often limited by logistical constraints. One of our flagship initiatives has been planting along the Greenways trail, which runs from Krakow to Vienna. In fact, this was one of our key planting locations for our popular ‘Dedicate a Tree’ projects, through which anyone can visit our website and sponsor a tree for a loved one.”
Returning to a city such as Krakow, it is necessary to begin with the local need for fresh and seasonal food to be found on the shop shelves. If there is strong encouragement from a community, the reaction of farmers’ markets is immediate. For now, the market circumstances in Poland are different, resulting from a customer force of habit. Sir Julian Rose, an early pioneer of organic farming methods in the UK, is, together with Jadwiga Łopata, directing the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside. Their headquarters are in Stryszów, near Wadowice. He explains that “Poland is only just getting stuck into the supermarket scenario and therefore the incentive to look for an alternative hasn’t quite happened yet, but I think it will.” Those waiting for a change hope that people will swiftly realise that food now available in the supermarkets is incomparable to the produce offered by local farmers, and most of all, is “fake.” The change must take place when the need for eating good quality food meets one’s financial possibilities. People have the choice between either eating bad or unknown quality food that is easy to find in the supermarkets for a cheap price, or they can change their eating habits and buy an expensive product in return for better quality. As good produce is usually sold at a high price, one might decide to eat expensive products more occasionally but stay healthy and closer to the local farmers.
Conversely, when it comes to the birth of new farms wishing to grow crops and sell their surplus, future farmers have to face governmental regulations, which are sometimes highly daunting. Julian Rose says: “Sanitary and hygiene regulation […] has been the death of thousands of small farmers right across Europe. They are deliberately setting standards far higher than necessary. I think the interesting evidence is that food poisoning cases are very low in Poland; in England they are about four times as high, with massive hygienic regulations. Every year we are losing 25,000 farmers off the land, because of all the stimuli there are to force production systems out of independence and into dependence upon corporate based world agriculture systems.”
For anyone who wants to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle and start afresh, Alexandra Szaflarska encourages making use of the footprint calculator that has been pioneered by the Aeris Futuro Foundation. “Anyone can use it free of charge on our website. While our calculator deals directly with carbon dioxide emissions, the analogy can be extended to include all sorts of environmental impacts. How much water do we use? How many plastic bags do we go through each week?”
These are all small steps on the path to a more eco-friendly lifestyle.