Take 5 with... Eunice Maia from Maria Granel!
It is actually hard to come up with a reason why this did not happen earlier, but here it is finally, and as they say, better late than never! The queen of zero-waste movement in Lisbon, kick-ass female entrepreneur and an incredibly warm and charming person - we bring you Eunice Maia from Maria Granel!
1. Please tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up doing what you do.
Nothing in my career and in my past gave me indications that today I would be fighting for a better world by reducing waste. On the contrary, I was extremely consumerist. It was Maria Granel's mission that transformed my life and gave me a purpose. My academic background and education were focused on teaching and literature and research in this area. At a certain point, however, I realised that preparing future generations can not be limited to literature and teaching; it has be more about giving tools to intervene actively in the world, transforming it. And so two worlds were united in my life: teaching and sustainability.
2. What are your personal values and how do they translate into your professional choices?
I was fortunate to have a childhood spent in the countryside in deep communion with nature; these roots were lost to return in the form of appeal much later in my life. Longing for that past inspired the creation of Maria Granel, the first organic bulk grocery in Portugal. Before and after this project, what has always moved me was the passion I put to whatever I do. I only do and give myself to what I believe in and to what I fall in love with. The second value that guides my life project is to contribute to a better world. In every little gesture. I feel strongly the sense of responsibility - perhaps for dealing a lot as a teacher with the younger ones - to take care of our (their) legacy, to create a sense of sustainable future.
3. What do you think about the sustainable debate in Portugal in general and to what extent do you think it drives real tangible change?
I can confess that I have been able to watch the change and it is undeniable. 2018 in Portugal was a turning point. Maybe thanks to the European directive, in the case of plastic, that banned the use of disposables, or because of the "Planet or Plastic" issue of National Geographic, or because of Greta's inspiring figure and struggle, the country seems to have woken up to this problem and it seems to want to take steps to solve it. And even if in some cases the changes are mere greenwashing, the truth is that the market is incorporating those changes - the voice of consumers is being heard. And that is power! I find particularly interesting what has been happening for example in the case of fashion, with the big chains adopting "conscious collections". It is a sign of what the future will be like. But it is also a wake-up call to what we need to do to critically dismantle those who take advantage of a tendency to profit, without changing deeply and structurally fast fashion practices, and also an opportunity to highlight the small brands that do it in an authentic and intentional way since ever.
4. What do you consider the hardest part of implementing a more zero-waste approach?
The eco-anxiety it can generate. Seriously, when we set the goal at “zero”, which is impossible in our society and the type of consumption we practice, it is difficult to know how to deal with the sense of guilt caused by not always being able to escape the plastic and the waste. I had to realise along the way that instead of being frustrated with what I could not do yet, I should celebrate what I have already been able to change. As Anne-Marie, Zero Waste Chef, says, "We do not need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly." For me, this is a very important aspect: no fundamentalisms or judgments, what matters is that we are walking. Each (small and imperfect) gesture counts!
5. What are some of your personal heroes, sources of inspiration?
Bea Johnson, Ana Pêgo, Lauren Singer, Greta [Thunberg], Fê Canna, and so many other amazing women that Maria Granel brought to my life.