Zero-waste stores or “unverpackt laden” are increasingly popular in Germany. This could make an expat think: Why do we need to shop at a zero-waste store? Are these stores more expensive than normal stores? Is there a way to shop without much waste at normal supermarkets and shops?
This article will answer all of these questions.
What is a zero-waste lifestyle?
Zero-waste is a movement to reduce things that a person consumes and consequently throws away. It is known as one of the most sustainable ways of living. Almost everything we use in our daily lives comes in plastic packaging. Until now, we had no other option but to buy these products till zero-waste stores or unpackaged stores came along.
Zero-waste stores essentially help you to shop sustainably without plastic packaging or other environmentally harmful substances. Grains, lentils, fruits, and vegetables can all be bought from a zero-waste store without the persistent plastic packaging they usually come in at supermarkets. At times, these stores also have refillable shampoos and body soaps which reduces your guilt of throwing away a plastic bottle every time your shower gel gets over.
Zero-waste movement in Germany
Consumerism and capitalism have taken over the world by making cheap options in clothes, food, etc. that generate more waste. This makes living zero-waste living quite expensive for normal people. Hence, this type of living is still associated with people that are better off financially.
Germany consists of environmentally conscious people. A vast number of Germans also take concrete steps with the environment in mind whether it be cutting down energy consumption, choosing eco-friendly modes of travel, separating trash for recycling, etc. The majority of Germans agree that they would be prepared to buy environmentally friendly products even if they cost a little more.
How to start living zero-waste in Germany?
Climate protection begins at home. Apart from participating in flea markets, shopping second hand and composting at home, you can also start making other smaller changes. Like the way, you do your grocery shopping, for example.
Here are some Zero-waste stores or Unverpackt Laden in Berlin to help you kick-start your zero-waste journey:
1. Original Unverpackt
This store that opened in 2014 was the first store that did not use single-use packaging in Berlin. All the food comes in bulk and can be purchased without packaging from dispensing systems. Empty Milk bottles can also be returned for refilling.
They have 600 items from food, cosmetics, spirits, cleaning agents, etc.
Wiener Straße 16, Kreuzberg and Großbeerenstraße 27A, Kreuzberg
2. Der Sache wegen
Translated to “because of the cause”, they not only sell plastic-free products, but also palm oil and sugar-free products. They take responsibility for being a responsible retailer by being fair trade, organic, regional, vegan, and cruelty-free. You can take your container, weigh it before you take things, and pay for the difference.
Lychener Str. 47, 10437 Berlin
A family business of vinegars, oils, herbs, and spices, and liqueurs, you can fill these items here when you run out of them.
Bahnhofstrasse 33-38 in Forum Köpenick .
This soap manufactory produces palm oil-free and vegan soap, which is sold plastic-free. The special plastic look-alike packaging is compostable. Health and care products like hand soaps, shampoo, deodorants, are also available here.
Nikolaiviertel in Probststraße 1
5. Kugu Nussrösterei
Here, you can find candied and roasted nuts and dried fruit. On request, these can be filled into your own containers.
Kottbusser Damm 13
6. Dr. Pogo
At Dr. Pogo, vegan food, care products, pet food, household items, and sweets can be found. The shop has been run by 12 people in collective self-management since 2013. As a part of Berlin’s vegan community, they want to supply the city with vegan products at a fair price.
Karl-Marx-Platz 24 in Neukölln
7. Bio Company
The Bio Company is one of the largest organic market chains in Berlin which is also represented in other German states. In Berlin, the Bio Company branch that offers parts of the range unpackaged is on Prenzlauer Allee.
Prenzlauer Allee 180, 10405 Berlin
8. Ferment Haus
Not only are there many food and care products here, but you can also get advice on topics such as healthy eating, strengthening the immune system, and rejuvenation. There also have paper bags on-site for customers without their own containers.
Spree Center Hellersdorf, Hellersdorfer Str. 77-83, 12619 Berlin
A small organic shop supplies the residents with unpackaged food, but also some products wrapped in plastic. Even beginners in the zero-waste movement can quickly find their way around here. The owner grants people with low incomes a discount on their purchases!
Weserstraße 212 in Neukölln
10. Denn’s Biomarkt
At Denn’s Organic Market branch on Kottbusser Damm, you can find a considerable selection of unpackaged products. More than 200 different items can be filled into reusable packaging here, from muesli and nut mixes to rice and pasta rice.
Kottbusser Damm 3, 10967 Berlin
Veganz makes it easier to find substitute products for everyone who would like to try vegan food or live vegetarian or vegan. This shop offers more than 2,500 purely vegan items of which 120 belong to Veganz’ own brand. There is also an unpackaged self-service counter with a wide variety of products.
Marheinekepl. 15, 10961 Berlin
12. Balera Weinhandlung
At the Balera Weinhandlung, wines come from a tap. So, if you bring your own bottle, you can refill it. Italian wines are offered both in bottles and as a “bag in a box”.
Karl Marx Platz 6.
Grocery without packaging
Most organic markets sell produce without plastic packaging. Some markets in Berlin also sell fruit, vegetables, nuts, cheese, etc. without packaging. You can bring your containers for olives, pastes, etc. You can also get regionally grown local produce at the farmer’s markets.
Sirplus saves food and works against food waste. In collaboration with 700 producers and wholesalers, this startup brings surplus groceries to supermarket shelves. There is also a small range of unpacked products here with a range of pasta, rice, lentils, care products, and other products.
Schloßstraße 94, 12163 Berlin
2. Maybachufer Market
Every Tuesday and Friday, in this most famous Turkish market in Kreuzberg, there is not only fruit and vegetables but also cheese, nuts, meat, and snacks. You can also bring your containers for olives, pastes, etc.
3. Ökomarkt am Kollwitzplatz
The organic market takes place every Thursday and the weekly market every Saturday. In addition to fruit and vegetables, there are a few snack stalls.
Kollwitzplatz, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg
Zero waste online stores
If you think it is inconvenient to visit a zero-waste physically, there are a few options to shop online from the comfort of your home. These online stores allow more people the opportunity to try out a sustainable lifestyle.
All things you need like eco-friendly cosmetics, baby material, stationery, kitchen, cleaning products can all be bought from this online store. To avoid waste, 99% of your orders are packed with materials that have already been used. Furthermore, all boxes are closed either with a biodegradable parcel cord made of natural jute or with paper tape without plastic.
This online store can be used to order everything else other than food. They also use second-hand packaging.
Delivery available in some areas of Mitte, Pankow, Lichtenberg and Friedrichshain. They bring the things you need in glass jars for which you have to pay a deposit of 1 euro each. Once you return the containers, you get the money back.
Sustainable living tips
If you would not like to go fully zero-waste, but still want to make small eco-friendly changes, here are a few tips we gathered from across the internet:
- Refuse what you do not need. For example- plastic straws at restaurants
- Reduce what you use. Do not buy things you might not use and reduce food waste
- Reuse what you already own till it cannot be used anymore
- Repairing what you can like broken umbrellas, tools, etc.
- Recycle when all the options above have been exhausted
- Bringing your own cloth or jute bag, backpack, or trolley to the supermarket. You don’t have to pay the extra money for the bags and can also save the environment some trash.
- Avoid buying plastic bottles for water. Most places in Germany have clean drinking water coming through the pipes. Make the best use of this resource.
- Avoid separate plastic packages for each of your fruits and vegetables unless you have a medical condition that requires you to be exceptionally hygienic. You would wash these vegetables and fruits at home anyway.
- Using soap and shampoo bars. You can save the plastic that it comes in.
- Wherever possible look for natural alternatives. For example, cleaning detergent made with natural ingredients that would not come in plastic packaging.
- Making sustainable switches like a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one or a menstrual cup instead of sanitary pads and tampons (also available at stores like DM).
Zero-waste living is becoming more popular with society taking environmental issues more seriously. It will be a gradual process till everyone is there but Berlin and Germany seems to be going in the right direction.
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