Restaurant Nolla: The Finnish eatery wanting to make zero-waste a norm in the wider restaurant industry

Three international chefs have made the Finnish city of Helsinki home for their zero-waste restaurant, the first of its kind in Finland.

Restaurant Nolla is the brainchild of three friends – Carlos Henriques from Portugal, Albert Franch Sunyer from Barcelona, and Luka Balac from Serbia – who wanted to do something about the “outdated” waste management practices in the restaurant industry.

Nolla works with local suppliers, designers, architects and engineers to rethink waste in all its facets: packaging, water, energy, and food. Located in Helsinki’s Design District, the zero-waste restaurant does not produce waste, nor does it cook from it. Instead, Nolla works with suppliers to source all ingredients without packaging and serves a set menu of seasonal dishes highlighting local Finnish organic ingredients. The beer is brewed on-site, and wine is sourced from eco-friendly producers.

At Nolla there is no waste bin in the kitchen nor can you find any single use plastic in the restaurant either. No produce wrapped in plastic, no cling film, no vacuum bags. Every detail from staff clothing and napkins to tableware has been thought of. Even the gift cards are made of compostable paper that has poppy seeds in them.

Luka Balac said: “All three of us come from strong roots of producing our own food, and we all felt very strongly that something was basically wrong with how things have been done with respect to waste of both food and food packaging – especially plastic, which is a huge problem. We arrived at the concept of zero-waste.

“We don’t produce waste nor do we cook from waste. We work directly with suppliers to rethink, reject and control packaging while at the same time sourcing local and organic produce, which are the core of our menus. We don’t use any single-use plastic or anything that is not reusable.”

Nolla’s serves diners a set 4-6 course menu, which is planned based on what’s in season and utilises all parts of the ingredients. Having a set menu rather than allowing customers to order specific dishes mean that Nolla is able to minimise waste to almost nothing, and so avoiding ending up with surplus ingredients if a particular item isn’t as popular.

At the end of each night, any leftover food is composted, with the resulting mulch sent on to farmers or given to customers to take home to use in their own gardens. Before anything is composted, however, the food is weighed and analysed using waste management software, providing Nolla’s chefs with data on what is thrown away so that they can better plan future menus.

Through their experience, the Nolla owners are keen to engage the wider restaurant industry in better waste management so that zero-waste practices become the norm rather than the exception. Albert Franch Sunyer said: “We hope that sustainability becomes more than just a marketing trick. Sustainability should be a natural part of running a restaurant. If we don’t do something to save the environment now, we will have nothing to leave for future generations.”

Even though the principles of Nolla are zero-waste and the operations are of this practice, it doesn’t shout out it’s zero-waste credentials so to speak, meaning that diners are unlikely to notice a difference. “We don’t preach,” Luka Balac said. “We keep it as a restaurant, and we think people should relax and enjoy it.”

Restaurant Nolla

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com

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