I highly doubt that eco-friendly living is your immediate association with Paris. It certainly is not mine: when I moved here from a small Sussex village, I was certain my new lifestyle would be a million miles away from self-sufficiency, carbon-footprint worries and organic/fair-trade eating.
Of course, in many ways, I was right, but there are tons of tactics to ‘green up’ your Parisian lifestyle. So, this is a guide for those of you who want to stick to your organic, fair-trade, carbon-clean ways in this hectic, 21st century metropolis.
In terms of your everyday groceries and weekly shop, you have many choices for green eating. All French supermarkets offer some organic produce, and also boast fair-trade sections, but if you can’t find something, or if you want to buy everything organic, the chain store Naturalia is a safe bet. They offer a wide selection of groceries, as well as make-up and cleaning products for the house. There is also a super gluten-free range, with pasta, biscuits, cakes, even ready-meals (so you can keep your frantically-paced days and feel reasonably healthy about it!)
You could also try a similar chain called Bio C’ bon. This shop is much the same as Naturalia, and can likewise be found in most arrondissements, however, it is worth mentioning their excellent selection of wines and fresh cheeses.
If you are looking for a more special, one-off sort of place, Touch of Bio is an independent store situated at 30, boulevard Saint Germain. Here you can find fresh, seasonal groceries, organic wines and champagnes as well as fancy organic beauty products. It is an ideal place for buying gifts.
You might think (as I did until recently) it would be an impossible feat to find a restaurant in Paris offering an organic menu. Not so: Le Comptoir (not to be confused with the prestigious restaurant of the same name at Saint-Germain-des-Pres) is to be found in the rue Berger near Metro Chatelet les Halles, and offers organic fruit smoothies, cocktails, salads and vaguely oriental dishes, most of which are scattered over/smothered with many bean-sprouts.
I would personally recommend 97 Bio, which you will find at 97, rue Jouffroy d’Abbans in the 17th arrondissement. This is a high-quality restaurant/take-away/ tea-room sort of joint. On the menu are fresh salads, pasta, and various fish and chicken dishes. They also do a lovely Sunday brunch (a popular function at many Parisian cafes, but this one comes without the drunk or hungover customers. 25 euros for adults, 15 for children.) You have to order 48 hours in advance, but, trust me, the pancakes are well worth it.
If you want organic clothing, you could obviously order online from any organic clothing retailer. I would actually recommend you do this, because (without sounding snobbish) you are more likely to get garments that are aesthetically compatible with Paris! But if you like to try things on, try Fibris, at 40 boulevard St Marcel in the 5th. This cute little shop offers organic clothes and lingerie for women and men. However, comfortable, breathable, and of course, organic as the clothes are, the style is decidedly frumpy – not exactly Parisian chic!
Everyone knows that the inconveniences of public transport are greatly outweighed by those of having a car in the capital. The Velib system of public bikes is also cheap and easy to use, giving you a chance to exercise between engagements, which is always a plus! As of yesterday, Autolib has been established, which means that, for 12 euros 60 a month, you can rent an electric car whenever and wherever you want.
As you can see, it is possible to live a reasonably green life in Paris. But don’t forget that this is Paris, and that most of us cannot be growing veg in our window boxes or wearing un-flattering organic gear on the Champs-Elysees. This is the city of lights – not of energy-efficient light-bulbs. Paris is a city of excess, a city of extremes, and I wouldn’t change it, not for all the fair-trade tea in China.