The Organic Traveller
Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Munich: Zero Waste

Organic supermarkets may introduce a larger audience to sustainable organic produce and thus spare the environment, but do not necessarily help to reduce the amount of one-way packaging, save plastics. As a conscious consumer you will without doubt prefer non-prepackaged fruit and veges, available from all organic groceries, supermarkets and market boothes, and hand your bag over the bakery counter, making it verbally clear that you do not need a paper bag, to avoid paper waste when buying bread and rolls.

You're also safe if you restrict your shopping of dairy products, juices and soft drinks to returnable glass bottles. Some organic shops (such as Vollcorner) offer a small selection of wine in deposit bottles.

Starting in 2017 the more dedicated organic supermarket chains have been introducing measures to reduce packaging and allow customers to bring their own containers to fill with selected goods. Unless stated otherwise all shops mentioned in this post will help you out with clean and empty reusable glass jars or organic cotton bags which you -- depending on the shop -- can either buy or lend if you forgot to bring your own.

Farewell to plastics

The zero-waste pioneer in town is Naturlieferant, usually referred to as Plastikfreie Zone, a pleasant intimate shop in Haidhausen near Max-Weber-Platz where you won't find any plastic item but a lot of sustainable alternatives. The focus of the shop is an ever increasing range of sustainable household items, ranging from tooth brushes and toilet paper to glasses, lunch boxes and jute strings, but you may also shop a selection of food items like potatoes, pulses, nuts, flour, jelly-gums or the best Indian pepper in town. If you forget to bring your own jars your purchase will be packed in paper bags, or you can choose from re-used glass containers for free. You may also refill washing-up liquid, shampoo and liquid laundry detergent.

Ohne

No wrappings

February 20th, 2016 the city's first and only zero-waste supermarket Ohne ("without") opened its doors in the neighbourhood of Maxvorstadt. Pleasantly furnished with wooden benches and self-made dispensers this modern version of a generously spaced mom-and-pop store gives you a pleasant vacation from brands and logos. It is offering bread, rolls and sweet pastries from a local artisanal bakery, dairy products and vegan alternatives in returnable bottles, a small selection of fresh fruit and greens, spices and dried herbs, a huge selection of pasta, legumes, flour and cereals, but also baking powder, coffee, tahin, honey, locally distilled gin and bitter, oil, toothpaste tablets and solid shampoo. There are also refill stations for washing liquids and cleansers, and you can shop from a small range of household and bodycare products (including environment-friendly condoms which are the only items in shop prepackaged in non-reusable wrapping). Preserves (like mustard, pestos and pickles) are sold prepackaged in reusable glass containers.

Your shopping starts by measuring the weight of your glasses, boxes and bags on the scales next to the entrance door. Now you can fill them from the dispensers and finally pay by net weight.

This crowd-funded supermarket is strictly organic and vegetarian. When the shop is crowded waiting time at the till is a little longer than you might expect, but take your time and have a coffee and home-made cake in the small cafe corner. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 am.

Supermarket chains to follow

In autumn 2016 the local Vollcorner supermarkets received an official permit by the Munich Department of Public Order (Kreisverwaltungsreferat) to fill their customers' jars and boxes with cheese, antipasti, processed meat products or cake. The Basic supermarket chain followed in summer 2017, and independent convenience stores often have done so anyway. So take appropriate containers with you when you go out to shop for food.

To avoid misunderstandings it is advisable to clearly point to your box before placing your order at the sales counter and tell the staff to tape the receipt to it. Otherwise you may end up not sparing any waste: In the beginning the staff at the Basic butcher's disk would use the sheet of plastic-covered paper they'd usually wrap the purchase with to hand it over to you, along with the receipt taped onto the paper bag they otherwise would have used as outer packaging. In the mean time they got used to the procedure but were ordered to decline customer requests to buy meat this way. So you'll better find your nearest Herrmannsdorfer grocery to buy meat in your own box, e.g. the one on Max-Weber-Platz. Here you will also be rewarded with a 4 cents discount per saved packaging.

Detergents refill station Basic Bogenhausen At the Basic self-service cafes you may lend a Recup coffee cup for a deposit which you can return at any other shop participating in the retour scheme. The supermarket chain also introduced dispensers reliably offering a selection of pasta, nuts, dried fruit, sweets, and grains. Individual markets (e.g. Basic Bogenhausen) have coffee, tea and more. Basic supermarkets selling toiletries and household chemicals may have dispensers for detergents of the eco-friendly Sodasan brand as well as for shampoo and shower gel. (The one in Bogenhausen does so.) These dispensers allow only to refill the standard volumes the choosen detergent is sold by when pre-bottled, i.e. you cannot refill smaller than the original bottles. So make sure you have at minimum a 1 l or 2 l bottle with you (500 ml for shampoos). If not refilling original bottles take one of the empty bottles from the shelf and scan its label before tapping to your own bottle.

To buy dry goods the procedure varies from branch to branch: Some like Basic Bogenhausen have prominently placed scales where you measure the tax weight of your containers before filling them. The scales will print out a receipt which you must hand in at the cash desk for tax weight detraction. Others like the one near Isartor expect you to fill provided scaled measuring jugs from the dry-goods dispensers, pay, and refill the content to the packaging you brought along (which can be quite tricky as they do not provide funnels). In the case of the latter you may not use your own containers for loose-weight dried fruit from the cardbox displays in the green-grocery section. Recycle small plastic or paper bags to buy these or bring small, light-weight cotton-bags.

Some Basic branches like the Basic Bogenhausen also allow you to refill frying and salad oils and offer freshly ground nut butters.

Milk refill Vollcorner Schwanthalerhöhe

For refilling fresh milk from the grass-fed cows of the Nirschlhof farm in nearby Grafing take your milk bottles to the recently opened Vollcorner supermarket near Theresienwiese which also has a butcher's counter and a lunch cafe. It's the same milk as used in True&12 ice-cream.

Neighbourhood groceries and farmers' markets

In Haidhausen the Lebascha neighbourhood grocery offers to fill all loose-weight products (cakes and bread, eggs, cheeses, olives, olive oil, jelly gums and liquorice -- only the latter is not organic) in bottles, jars and boxes you bring along. Ask for a deposit box (1 or 3 EUR according to size) in case you forgot to bring your own, and make sure to return it thoroughly cleaned. When buying eggs don't forget your own container as there will be a small surplus for a cardboard one filled on the counter. Also for the olive oil refill you must bring a clean bottle yourself (but you have to wait for it until autumn 2018 since the 2017 harvest has been sold out).

Household chemicals can be refilled at the Echt Bio Markt in Neuschwabing.

Mobile Tagwerk booth at Mariahilf-Platz farmer's market Once, sometimes twice a week farmers' markets are installed in many Munich neighbourhoods. Loose fruits and veges prevail here, and boothes selling organic produce (watch carefully for "bio" and "demeter" logos) will usually fill bread, cakes and pastries, antipasti, meat and dairy products into the containers you present. Notably at the boothes of the Tagwerk co-operative you may be surprised to see that you're not the only one coming with her own boxes and jars. On Saturdays mornings you can find them next to the West-facing entry of Mariahilf church, in the neighbourhood of Au where all boothes (except the French fish monger) in the market block next to the church, right below the carillon, are organic. If you feel adventurous on Thursday afternoons take the urban train S7 in direction Aying/Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn/Kreuzstraße (or a bike ride) to the suburb of Neubiberg and pay a visit to the communal organic market on the pleasant premises of the Umweltgarten eco park, a true oasis within ugly suburbanity, with a small zoo, popular not only among kids. On Thursdays there's also an all-day market at Rotkreuzplatz. As on Mariahilfsplatz about half the boothes here are organic, though scattered all over the market area, with a cluster in direction Nymphenburger Straße.

Coffee to take away

Most cafes serving organic coffee are sufficiently aware of the coffee beaker waste issue that they will fill your own cup without hesitation. Some like Die Kaffee-Küche and the Basic self-service lunch bars will even give you a discount for sparing the environment. There is an increasing number taking part in the recup.com retour scheme, among others the Neulinger bakeries or Siggis coffee bar and restaurant.

2018-10-23 19:00:00 [Munich, Neubiberg, Au, Haidhausen, Maxvorstadt, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, lunch] Link

Creative Commons Licence

This work by trish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For commercial use contact the author.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Budapest: Sustainable shopping

At the first glance Budapest is full of organic health (food) shops, Bio Bolt in Hungarian, however, most of them predominantly deal in pills and powders. So unless dietary supplements (including super foods, plant-based milk alternatives, flours, nuts and other ingredients to prep up your cereals) are what you're looking for or the shop (like the recently opened Bio Egészség Biobolt behind the Synagogue) is on your track anyway, it's much easier to stick to one of the many branches of the German DM chemist's chain for travel supplies like organic dry goods, fruit juices, vegan alternatives, eco detergents and natural bodycare. Check for organic labels as (especially for cosmetics and toiletry products) there's increased green-washing in conventional product lines which also are available here. The DM own brands "DM Bio" (food) and "Alverde" (body care) are both good value and safe if your budget is tight or you're in a hurry.

BioABC

Food souvenirs

What you won't find there are typical food souvenirs from Hungary: paprika, salami and wine. To buy these you need to find a proper biobolt or farmers' market, and these aren't as easy to find as one might expect. A reliable source is BioABC, a small, yet well assorted organic supermarket in Belváros, located between Astoria and Kálvin tér. They have only a small selection of wines (above the fridges), the salami is tucked away in a separate fridge in the right-most corner next to the shop's window front, and you can choose from several types of Hungarian paprika powder. Apart from this they stock local fresh produce, dairy products, sweets and cookies, preserves as well as natural body care, both of local origin as well as imported goods, in short all daily necessities. Bring your own containers for buying loose-weight dry goods.

A second option is the Mennyország Szíve Bio Bolt a few steps from the Keleti Palyaudvar train station. Here you can also have a coffee, breakfast or vegan lunch just after arrival or before departing. However, the place is closed on weekends as well as public holidays which is why I cannot give an account of the quality of neither the food nor the range of goods sold here.

Cultivini For high-end Hungarian wines pay a visit to Cultivini Wine Cellars and Tasting in Belváros (5th district). The place is very upmarket, with the opportunity for wine tasting, and specializes in Hungarian wines. If you ask for organic and natural wines the sommeliers will competently advise and answer questions, but you have to be bold on your interest in organic wines as they will point you to conventionally produced wines in the course of the discussion if you aren't firm.

Massolit (the backyard)

Books, coffee and tea

The classical bookstore you know from French movies does still exist -- and has adapted to modern times by becoming a cafe and co-working space in Erzsébetváros: The English language bookstore cum cafe Massolit does not only sell hand-picked English literature, a few tourist books, a small selection of stationary and fairly-traded coffee drinks or organic tea, but also offers quiches and cakes for both, a breakfast or the casual snack in between. While the milk for the coffee is organic (though not certified), the origin of the ingredients of the bakery items isn't easy to tell, for a good reason: Both, the bagels, cakes and quiches are hand-made by friends of the shop owner from the neighbourhood who earn an additional income this way. While some of them will certainly use eggs or milk from a properly working local farmer, conventional supermarket supply is also part of the game. If you want to stay here for work buy a co-working card, take a seat in the pleasant backyard or at some of the wooden tables inside. Water and wifi is for free but note that the place is closed on Mondays.

More to try

When I asked locals about where to buy organic fruit I was directed to the Fény utcai piac marketplace near Széll Kálmán tér. Unfortunately, none of the market stalls showed signs of the key words "bio" or "öko", or of any organic labels or certificates. Since I don't speak Hungarian (and the command of foreign languages among the farmers was limited, too), the topic was too difficult to handle -- let me know if you're able to find out more. On weekends there are two dedicated organic or at least partially organic farmers' markets, pay a visit -- I'm glad if you'd share your experience with me.

Closed

References on the web do often exist longer than shops and venues themselves. The following places I found abandoned when I stepped by.

2018-10-13 15:00:00 [Budapest, organic, wine, grocery, market, supermarkets, vegetarian, vegan, zero_waste, lunch, breakfast, coffee, tea, books] Link

Creative Commons Licence

This work by trish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For commercial use contact the author.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Budapest: (Partially) organic ice-cream

Astonishingly many of the artisanal ice-cream parlours in town present their products in the hygienically correct way for the storage of unadultered natural ice-cream, and the city seems to be a heaven for vegan ice-cream lovers. However, and this is the bad news, there seems to be no such thing as fully (bio-)organic ice-cream. But there are places using organic milk.

Gelarto Rosa One of them is a major tourist spot next to Szent István (St. Stephen's) cathedral. With the impressive queue in front of Gelarto Rosa on hot summer days there's often no need to watch out for the art nouveau-styled rose sign priding the entrance (see image) -- you simply can't miss the place. All dairy flavours here are made from organic milk, and there are fruity, vegan flavours, too, though without the promise on the use of organic fruit. Your dish of ice-cream is skillfully made into a rose which helps justifying the hefty price: A small rose made of two flavours comes at 700 Ft., the medium one with three flavours at 800 Ft., and a large rose with four flavours and three rows of petals at 900 Ft.

If you don't insist on dairy ice-cream you may skip the queue and walk around the corner along Szent István tér. Only a fews steps away you'll find a second branch dubbed Gelarto Rosa Bistro -- vegan hedonism. It is in fact a small bistro with outdoor seating serving vegan bowls, sandwiches and desserts predominantly made from organically produced (though not necessarily certified) ingredients from local farmers as well as Italian-style coffee. On summer days however you will rarely notice the food since the focus is on ice-cream roses. As in the older shop around the corner, first queue at the cash counter, specify the size of your ice-cream and pay upfront, then move on to the ice-cream desk and order the flavours. Here you'll find predominantly vegan sorbets, although you might spot one, at maximum two dairy flavours, too, and the queue is significantly shorter than the one around the corner. With food and coffee orders you will be served (after having paid at the cash desk) at your table.

Kedves Krem For a much less touristy place head for the Buda side of the Danube river: Kedves Krém ("lovable cream") in Víziváros, a few corners from Széll Kálmán tér is a lovely neighbourhood ice-cream parlour cum cafe most frequented by locals. The creamy, all-natural dairy ice-cream here comes at 270 Ft. the scoop. With clearly accentuated flavours and stored in deep, steel-covered containers used by only the most serious artisanal ice-cream makers this is definitely the best ice-cream I had in Budapest. Unfortunately I couldn't get a confirmation for whether all ingredients were organic, most likely most of them, first of all milk and cream are sourced from local farms working according to organic principles. If you speak Hungarian and are able to inquire in depth, let me know about it.

2018-09-21 20:00:00 [Budapest, organic, vegan, ice-cream, cafe, eatery, coffee, snacks, lunch] Link

Creative Commons Licence

This work by trish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For commercial use contact the author.

Saturday, 08 September 2018

Vienna: Organic ice-cream

Fortunately an increasing number of small-scale organic cattle farmers find creative ways to survive for the good of all of us -- and with some dairy cow farmers like the Kaemenas in Bremen or the Greisslers in Lower Austria the good is simply the best -- mouth-watering artisanal ice-cream!

Eis-Greissler Rotenturmstr. In the case of Eis-Greissler the ice-cream isn't fully organic -- it's made from organic milk and often flavoured with organic Sonnentor spices. The home-base for the ice-cream parlours with the chequered, pastel-shaded doll's house interior is Vienna, and usually you will be able to recognise the tiny shop near Stephansdom by the queue in front of it. The blackboard with the ice-cream flavours you'll notice when queueing from the right lists only the vegan flavours, there's a second blackboard left to the entrance listing the dairy varieties. A small scoop comes at 1.60 €, two flavours at 3 €, three at 4.20 €.

Prices however aren't the same everywhere: The bicyle-powered mobile ice-cream boothes (supplied with fresh ice-cream by cargo bikes) on the grounds of Schönbrunn castle and zoo charge a hefty 2.20 € the scoop.

More to try

During my research I also found the following ice-cream parlours trustworthily using organic ingredients, but I did not have the time to try them myself. If you do so let me know about your experience!

2018-09-08 12:10:00 [Vienna, Wien, organic, vegan, ice-cream, cafe, coffee] Link

Creative Commons Licence

This work by trish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For commercial use contact the author.

Friday, 07 September 2018

Organic Prague

The Bohemian kitchen serves a lot of (conventional) meat, and vegetarian places usually do neither use organic ingredients -- eating out can be quite a challenge in beautiful and historial Prague. My favourite restaurant from many years ago unfortunately does no longer exist, so I had to start almost from scratch, and my time in the city was limited. The good news: You have no longer to be a strict follower of a wholefood diet if you prefer organic food. But compared with capitals of neighbouring countries there's still a gap to close.

Country Life Melantrichova

Daily necessities

Founded in the 1990-ies the organic grocery Country Life has developed into a small organic supermarket chain since. The shops still look like small health food shops and concentrate on wholefood, but provide you with a sufficient selection of fresh and dry organic food, dairy products as well as vegan alternatives. Bread, rolls and pastries bought by the piece as well as fruits and veges aren't pre-packaged, and there is a good selection of dry food available from zero-waste dispensers, so come with your own bags and containers. Note that, except for the one in the old town, all Country Life shops are closed on both, on Saturdays and Sundays, and all of them close as early as between 6 and 7 pm.

Also in Prague you will find a number of franchises of the German DM chemist's chain which will provide you with a good selection of organic dry goods and natural bodycare. Their own brands "DM Bio" (food) and "Alverde" (body care) are affordable even if your budget is tight.

Restaurace Country Life

Eating out

If you found the Country Life grocery in the old town, Stare Mesto, head into the small alleyway to its left, where you find Prague's eldest still existing organic restaurant, the Restaurace Country Life. The interior resembles a typical Czech beer restaurant, and the place serves hearty Bohemian food indeed, however all vegetarian and dairy-free. Note that this self-service place -- just like the grocery -- is closed on Saturdays.

There is also an eatery on the premises of the Country life shop in Dejvice (Mind the quite restricted opening hours), and the convenience store in Jungmannova street will provide you with snacks.

Puro Kaprova

Coffee and ice-cream

For the hip coffee bar cum ice-cream parlour head for one of the Puro shops in town who decidedly do not sell "zmrzlina" but "gelato". The one nearest to tourist tracks is located two street corners from tube stop Staromestska, where you almost cannot miss the red-white checkered window front which hides a pastell-coloured self-service cafe. Queue, order, pay and pick up your certified kosher ice-cream made from organic milk. A small scoop (one flavour) comes at 50 crowns, a medium one (two flavours) at 90 crowns. If you ordered coffee drinks, milk shakes made with organic milk or cakes they will be served later on the seat you choose. Coffee and chocolate unfortunately aren't organic, only certified by the Rainforest alliance, and it is not quite clear whether the shop also uses the organic brown sugar which is on sale as the sugar served with the coffee is not organic.

More to try

During my research I found the following places that seemed likely to sell or serve at least partially organic food and drinks, but I did not had the time to check them out myself. If you do I'd appreciate if you let me know whether they actually do so!

Eco but not organic

The following hotel, located in a former baroque monastery claims to be an eco hotel but confirmed not to serve any organic breakfast items. If you intend to stay there ask for it in the hope that customer demand may have the power for change.

Ceased to exist

The following places are temporarily closed, shut down or were replaced by other, not organic ones, and are listed here as you still find them on the web:

2018-09-07 08:00:00 [Prague, Praha, Prag, organic, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, coffee, ice-cream, snacks, lunch, bodycare, household, hotel, accommodation, eatery] Link

Creative Commons Licence

This work by trish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For commercial use contact the author.