A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

sustainable grocery shopping

Like many students I try to live as sustainable as possible, trying to take as many steps to leave as little impact on the enviroment as possible, while working to create a better world. Often we students start at the places closest to home, in the supermarket when making food purchases. Yet making an informed decision, with hundreds of different products in the shelves, which respectively have dozens of label, seems to make an informed decision nearly impossible. How do you know what you’re buying? To help you find your way around Dutch grocery stores, I’ll give you a quick guide to some of the labels you might run into, and what they mean!

Fair Trade Label


I’m going to start with a label that you might be familiar with, as it also exists outside the Netherlands. However because the logo is originally Dutch, I decided to include it as well. The Fair Trade or Max Havelaar keurmerk is a trademark that indicates farmers are fairly compensated for their product. It originally was only applied to coffee and chocolate, but has since then expanded to include other farm produced products, such as bananas and flowers. You might also find this logo on cereals and already processed foods, or even on cosmetics or cotton.


eko_grootIf you care wether the food you buy is grown biologically, this is the label to be on the lookout for. The EKO Label indicates that farmers don’t use chemical fertilizers, pesticides nor GMO seeds. If you want to be sure that the food you buy is procuded biologically, and that the farmers have taken the enviroment into account, you should probably be on the look-out for this label!

(On the way to) Planetproof

This one is a brand new label, and personally I’ve only seen it on milkpackages, but you’ll probably see it around more and more in the upcoming years or even months. This label tries to combine issues of animal wellbeing, as well as sustainable and enviromentally friendly production methodes, such as reducing emmisions of gasses and CO2. Like the Beter Leven Keurmerk, the label operates on a national level, thus these products are also from the Netherlands.

Beter Leven Keurmerk

20191201_131601The final label I’m sharing with you, is the Beter Leven Keurmerk. This is one of the most common labels when it comes to animal products that you’ll find in the Dutch supermarkets, and is an innitiative by the national animal protection service. It indicates how the circumstances of the animal of which you are buying the product are at the hand of a star system. The requirements for each animal species are different, so this description is a bit of a generalisation, but you can find more details here. In general, 1 yellow star indicates that the animals have their own space, and get fresh air, as well as little use of preventive antibiotics. 2 stars indicates more space, more comfortable living space (such as more straw to lay down on) and time outside. 3 stars indicates even more space and comfortable living areas as well as more time outside and entertainment.

20191201_131658Of course there are a lot of common labels that I didn’t cover in this blog post, such as Rain Forest Alliance, ASC & MSC (about the animal welfare of fish), UTZ, etc. etc. However these are all international labels and have English resources.  thus it’s easier for you to research on your own.

While consumer behaviour is not a and end all be all, products are often the first place where our awareness is raised about problems, and one of the easiest areas to make a change in. So if anything I hope this guide into sustainable shopping in the Netherlands has some use for you to, at least in the grocery store, be able to make a more informed decision when buying a product, and that you continue on the journey to creating a better world.

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2019 by in Ilse, Living in Holland, Practical Stuff, Uncategorized and tagged , , .

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