Unverpackt: Zero Packaging Grocery Store
Original Unverpackt is a zero packaging grocery store that opened in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood last year. Most of the food, everything from olive oil to oatmeal, is dispensed in bulk, and patrons are encouraged to bring their own containers; but if you forget to bring your own, one can also purchase bottles and jars on site. Much of the products are also local, regionally produced or organic, and you can even find locally made booze in bulk.
This innovative store seems to be a huge success; when we visited earlier this year, it was bustling with customers and doing a brisk business. The senseless glut of packaging in this country, as well as the prevalence of so many cookie-cutter discount grocery chains, is most disheartening. Germany is progressive in a number of ways, but not when it comes to embracing more bulk food options, independent worker-owned cooperatives, or making concentrated efforts to reduce excessive waste.
On a number of occasions I have been given so much unnecessary grief from restaurants when I try to bring in my own reusable containers for to-go food, or attempt to use a travel cup when purchasing coffee; twice I was even incorrectly told that such a practice was “illegal”. This kind of narrow-minded thinking seems very odd and continues to baffle me. Hopefully the success of this more sustainable model for buying food will inspire many more shops like it, as well as a change of attitude.
A crowd-sourcing campaign helped founders Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski to create this zero waste shop to provide better options for conscious consumers. Last year they explained part of their vision and motivation for this project to the Epoch Times:
“When out shopping we find a lot of super colorful items with super colorful packaging. What we tend to forget is that this packaging is only waste at the end of the day. 16 million tons of packaging end up as waste every year in Germany alone.
We need a shopping revolution. We need to move away from wasteful single-use packaging, and instead make zero-waste and unpackaged food available for everyone.
This project is there to send a signal to the food industry that different ways of operating are possible. And we as customers finally are able to buy things the way we really want to. We believe that the current way of shopping is not sustainable.”
Though this waste-free concept is much needed in Germany, the idea behind Original Unverpackt (Original and Unpackaged) is not really so new. For decades many grocery stores in North America and elsewhere have included large bulk grocery sections, especially at food co-ops and worker-owned cooperatives; and until the last century, most of our food was available with minimal to no packaging, especially not plastic or styrofoam. However, if you do not live near Kreuzberg, buying regionally grown food at your local farmers market is also a very good option to consider. Your choices will be helping to support a stronger local economy, as well as keeping excessive toxic trash out of landfills.
Original Unverpackt address:
Wiener Straße 16
By Rhonda Winter