Many green-minded people know their way to de Groene Passage, the one-stop-shop for an eco-conscious lifestyle since 1997. In case you don’t, Roosmarijn Saat, owner of the organic supermarket Gimsel, Gimsel Academy and restaurant Spirit, welcomes people from all walks of life to come in, experience, learn and shop green.
Sustainable living is on its way to becoming mainstream these days. But there was a time when maintaining an organic lifestyle was seen as the realm of the “tree hugging hippie” types. For Roosmarijn Saat though, it never had that image to it. “My parents ran a health food store and spiritual centre. It’s great that eco-conscious living appears to be gaining traction at the moment, but for me, there’s simply never been any other way. I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life and making green choices is second nature.”
Roosmarijn followed in her parents’ footsteps with supermarket Gimsel, the vegetarian buffet restaurant Spirit and the learning centre Gimsel Academy, which she runs together with her brother and husband. The ventures branch from de Groene Passage, the only fair-trade shopping centre in the Netherlands, which was the first to open in 1997. Seven shop owners form an association and make business decisions together. “We share a united vision and philosophy on green living. We want our businesses to do well, while doing good for others and the planet at the same time” says Roosmarijn.
These ideas can be seen in all aspects of the store, even though they might not all be immediately noticeable to the visitor. “At the entrance, there’s a green wall entirely consisting of plants for a pleasant indoor climate. All materials we use, from the paint on the walls to the biodegradable corn-starch bags to transport your vegetables in, are eco-friendly.”
Inspiration and information
Keeping up with the times through contemporary furnishings and signage, the idea behind De Groene Passage remains unchanged: to offer consumers all they need for living eco-consciously under one roof. “Whether you’re new to this lifestyle or not, we try to show everyone the possibilities. At Spirit, you can see and try a huge variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, from which all ingredients can be bought at Gimsel. At our academy you can enrol in a cooking course. We also inspire and inform our customers through a magazine and of course, our employees on the shop floor are always ready to provide answers and information.”
Even though organic food is becoming more mainstream, it’s sometimes still seen as quite expensive. Roosmarijn is trying to change that perception. “Dutch consumers are known to be quite focused on price. We don’t use price as a motivator. Rather, we try to really make a difference in quality. With all bio supermarkets, we’ve launched a campaign to focus on the real price of food. What does our food cost if you calculate the toll production and transportation takes on our soil, on biodiversity and on the climate? We want to make people aware that we all need to start paying a fair price for our daily groceries. Interestingly, the many foreigners who eat and shop here are often used to spending more on good food. They might be price-conscious as well, but on a different level. And it’s not like everything is expensive in our supermarket. As with other supermarkets, we offer a wide variety of choice, including basic products for a lower price. We sell all products by the piece and things like cereals and nuts in bulk.”
What’s in store for the future? “We might expand, but for now we’ll continue to deliver consistent quality and reach out to more people while contributing to a better planet.”