The Ten: Hannah Van Der Veken
Name and job title Hannah Van Der Veken - founder and manager of Roots Store, Brussels
Where were you born, and where do you live now? Born in Dorchester, England and currently live in Brussels, Belgium
How would you describe what you do / your job? I opened my own organic shop in Brussels 5 years ago and have been running it ever since. The pillars of my shop are - organic, local and direct. What does that mean? The large majority of our products are certified organic. A few of our small-scale artisans don’t have the means to certify their products, but we can guarantee that they’re pesticide-free, environmentally friendly and, frankly, delicious. We work in direct contact with almost 100 local farmers and artisans, who deliver straight to us, thus cutting out the middlemen and wholesalers and reducing costs for all involved. We also aim for zero waste, with a large range of products sold in bulk - fruit and veg, dried food, oils and vinegars, chocolate and biscuits, bread, condiments, cleaning products and cosmetics. What can’t be sold in bulk, is often in a glass jar that has a deposit on it, so our producers take them back, wash them and reuse them. We also compost our organic waste and that of a handful of local families - it gets sent back to the farm and our local fruit grower, Bram, turns it into compost!
How much did you spend on your last cup of coffee? 2,50€
What is one ingredient that is crucial to your work and/or life? Meaning. I have had jobs in the past that paid better, but weren’t in line with my values, but I’m so much happier doing something I love and earning less. The days fly by!
What does a food and/or drinks system mean to you? Food and drink means everything to me! Buying locally and supporting responsible farming systems is my way of contributing to making the world a greener and more sustainable place. By having my own shop, I can also help others to do the same.
How does your immediate locale / environment affect your work? Brussels is a great city and very open minded. There are loads of cyclists! The government and local authorities often have calls for projects to support the circular economy and help new ideas develop. I’m not sure Roots would have worked elsewhere 5 years ago. Perhaps now, yes, but not 5 years ago.
Where do you draw inspiration from, in your work? The people I work with. Our farmers and artisans are so passionate about what they do, it’s infectious!
What impact do you want to have? Show people that another way is possible, and is also really easy! Often, I hear that people don’t dare to make changes to how they shop, as they’re scared it’ll be expensive, difficult, time consuming, … But it’s not true!
What change do you want to see in the food and/or drinks system? Make things easier for organic, local and eco-friendly produce and producers. Instead of having complicated certification systems for organic goods, for instance, how about labelling what’s conventional and making them pay more to use fertilisers etc?!
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