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The Nude Food Movement, From New Zealand To Colombia

What's the point of pretty produce if you can't squeeze it and smell it too? Columnist Michelle Arévalo Zuleta makes the case for plastic-free fruits and veggies.

'Shop with a fabric bag'
"Shop with a fabric bag"
Michelle Arévalo Zuleta

BOGOTÁ — I can see the object of my desire through the transparent wrap covering it from head to toe, but I can't feel its texture or breathe in its aroma. The "clothing" is unnecessary, in my mind. But more than that, it's infuriating — because it'll take 400 years to decompose, while the fruit inside lasts but a day.

Pollution and global warming are real. What's not is the false idea that our lives are somehow improved by absurd packaging for fruits and vegetables that already have their own, natural protection. Covered tangerines. Wrapped and peeled garlic. Vacuum-sealed French fries even. We've been led so far down the path of minimal effort and indiscriminate and unfettered consumption. And sadly, very few people seem to know that fruit peels (unlike plastic wrapping) don't need 400 years to degrade.

This is where the "Nude Food" trend comes in. It's a movement, started in New Zealand, that seeks to end the use of packaging for fresh produce in supermarkets. And it's taking off (no pun intended) around the world.

The trend is here to make us think.

The elimination of single-use plastics in supermarkets, far from costing these establishments money, is starting to have the complete opposite effect. A case in point is the New World supermarket in Bishopdale, Christchurch, which saw earnings rise after switching to nude food. There's no reason why we can't try the same thing here in Colombia, especially since a few pioneer shops in Bogotá are already operating that way. Here are a few "nude food" markets I found in the capital:

Metkalü, on Carrera 4a # 57-41 in the mid-town district of Chapinero, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It is a welcoming little market that offers not just organic products but also leafy and other vegetables, laid out on recycled wooden shelves. Its name comes from the native Wayuu language. The shop offers responsible products, without plastic and derived from organic farming techniques practiced by families, native Colombians and small-scale farmers committed to protecting the fertility of Colombian soils.

Clorofila, on Park Way (41st street # Carrera 24-20), began in the countryside but is now one of the city's big alternative markets. It too works around clean, family farming and natural, holistic practices. Like a traditional market and unlike supermarkets, the buyer can touch, feel and smell the produce here, which is ideal for testing the freshness of products. It makes the consumer conscious of what he is taking away. Besides advising customers, Clorofila has explanatory notes beside labels, and products come from checked suppliers. The shop delivers nationwide.

And if convenience is an issue, there's also the option of getting naked food sent right to your home through Sembrandoconfianza.com (Sowing Trust), an online platform. Consumers can get organic fruit and veggies — plus freshly laid eggs and traditional food preparations — delivered every Thursday to their doorsteps. The platform works with small-scale farmers inside the city or surrounding villages, all committed to organic, chemical-free production. Register with the webpage to start a fruitful partnership.

The trend isn't just here to stay. It's also here to make us all think, to remind us that as consumers, we have a right to demand quality. More than that even, we have a duty to make sure the products we use every day will not have a major impact on the environment. Indeed, it is high time that large-scale supermarket chains and producers start reducing the plastic on their shelves.

We should also keep in mind that returning to traditional market shopping is a way to start using our basic senses again: It's about simple gestures like choosing a piece of fruit, engaging with what we eat. After all, we recall just 1% of everything we touch, 2% of everything we hear and 5% of what we see, but 15% what we try and 35% of what we smell! Let us be conscious of what we consume.

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