Interview: Špela Bobič, Ekola

It seems that ecological awareness is growing in the society, the recycling is also growing, children are being educated on ecological issues already in kindergartens and schools, even the elderly do not miss the warnings, but on the other hand, we produce more and more waste. An alternative to such a way of life is represented by “zero waste” shops, one could call them a community that advocates and spreads the idea of reducing waste.

We interviewed Špela Bobič, the owner of the first zero waste store in Koper about the functioning of her store and individual’s contribution to producing less waste, and last but not least, to take care of their health and the environment, being largely related to the BalanCed project goals.

Špela, welcome. First of all, congratulations for your courage and perseverance, resulting in opening “zero waste” store in Koper – Ekola. We would like to know more about your activities, so we have prepared some questions.

When and why did you decide to open the store?
I decided to open a store 4 years ago, because I didn’t like my shopping habits. I didn’t like coming out of the store with more waste than products. At that time, Rifuzl was already open in Ljubljana and I decided that we needed such a store in the Coastal area as well.

Are we, the people from Koper, receptive to the concept of living with less or zero waste?

During the corona, when people could leave the house only for urgent errands, Ekola worked much better than now. Now people have fallen back into the routine, everything happens faster and that’s why it’s easier for them to shop in regular stores. We are also burdened by the city policemen, who often write fines in front of our store. But it is also true that such way of shopping is more demanding, because it is necessary to bring the packaging, which is usually glass and therefore also heavier. I have quite a few regular customers, but still not enough to ensure the normal business of the store.

Are the products in your store better than those in regular stores?

I try to act according to the “zero kilometre” policy – meaning that products make the shortest possible journey from the producer to the consumer. I am providing seasonal products, goat’s milk, for example, cannot be obtained all year round. The products in the store are of high quality, smaller manufacturers have easier control over their production, so I think that the products in Ekola are of very high quality.
Of course, it has already happened that I received a complaint, sometimes even from the producer himself, when he saw that there was something wrong with the batch.

Do you have a “bestseller” among your products?

I sell a lot of alcoholic vinegar, which is multi useful at home. I also sell a lot of toilet paper in a cardboard box, and customers prefer to buy yogurts and fruit curds from store’s refrigerator.

How would you convince our readers to live a life with less waste? What are the advantages?

It’s hard to convince someone of something they don’t originally believe. Such a way of life should be started gradually and consciously. I already recognize the taste difference if something is packaged in plastic. The simplest example is Coca-Cola – the same liquid tastes completely different in plastic, can or glass.
I was also convinced by the fact that I no longer had to carry the trash so often. Now I carry the trash when it stinks and not when it fills up.

Is there any hope for our nature and the mountains of waste around the world?

Honestly, I doubt it. While in Europe we are being taught to recycle, in Asia people are swimming in waste. Stores like Ekola are welcome, but this problem needs to be solved holistically all around the globe.

Thank you, we wish you as many customers as possible and may the practice of living with less waste spread even faster throughout Koper and the surrounding area.