The Organic Traveller
Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Göttingen: Zero Waste

Wunderbar unverpackt

Arriving in a university city you will no longer be surprised to learn there's a crowdfounded organic zero-waste shop in town. And what's even better -- the Wunderbar unverpackt ("Wonderfully devoid of packaging") grocery that opened May 2018 is (to my knowledge) the next organic supermarket when coming from the train station. Directly opposite St. Marien church you'll find all kinds of organic dry food, sweets, dairy products and beverages in retour glass bottles, organic body care and household detergents in this beautifully furnished corner shop. They even have a cheese counter, but no fresh fruits and veges. Weigh your empty jars on the scales by the window, put down the weight, and fill them on the self-service dispensers. Re-usable jars can also be bought on the spot, and the friendly owner will help you promptly when approached.

The tip for "Wunderbar unverpackt" came from the Naturalia grocery at Wöhlerplatz which itself offers a small assortment of dry food (pasta, cereals, nuts, rice and the like) in self-service dispensers, and apart from this is a friendly traditional crammed organic wholesale shop where eggs, bakery items, fruits, veges and cheese can be taken home in your own jars and bags. In addition it is also a tea shop -- so bring your tea boxes for refill.

Naturalia

Loose-weight fruits and veges can of course be bought in all organic groceries, so support the small local dealers who will happily support you when you ask them to put bread, eggs, cheese and more into the bags and boxes you present. One of them is Das Backhaus, an organic bakery turned neighbourhood grocery next to Cafe Inti. This organic "baking house" in fact is a branch of a bakery based in Klein Lengden with shops both there and in Göttingen, delivering to many organic markets in the greater region.

Another one is the Gemüseladen in the Western suburb of Geismar, near the church of St. Martin, an organic greengrocery offering lots of regional produce. Of course, there are many more, but these were all I managed to visit on my one-day stay.

Household items supporting a package-free lifestyle can also be found at the factory outlet of the eco postal order shop Waschbär near Geismartor.

2018-06-20 17:00:00 [Goettingen, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, grocery, supermarkets, bodycare, household] link

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Sunday, 03 June 2018

Padua: Organic supermarkets and groceries

NaturaSi St. Lucia Centrally located, a few steps from Piazza Garibaldi you can do all your shopping in a well-assorted branch of the NaturaSi organic supermarket chain. They even stock a decent selection of natural perfums and eau de colognes. Unlike most other shops this one keeps open during the entire day. The other two other NaturaSi branches in town, one in San Giuseppe, and one in San Carlo, are both closed on weekdays between 1pm and 3:30 pm.

A little South-West of the city center there's a smaller organic grocery dubbed Bielo, specializing in local cured meat and cheeses like buffalo mozzarella and scamorza.

On the way to Selvazzano Dentro or Abano Terme you may check on another small-scale organic grocery specializing in local produce, Corti e Buoni. Let me know what you can report on it.

2018-06-03 09:30:00 [Padova, Padua, biologico, organic, supermarkets, grocery, bodycare] link

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Tuesday, 22 May 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 of course 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 some organic supermarket chains have been introducing measures to reduce packaging to the effect that -- unless stated otherwise -- all shops in this post will help you out with reusable glas jars or organic cotton bags to buy on the spot, as well as deposit glass jars 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.

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.

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. (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. 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.

Neighbourhood groceries

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.

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.

2018-05-22 22:50:00 [Munich, Haidhausen, Maxvorstadt, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, lunch] link

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Munich: Organic supermarkets

Organic supermarkets can be found on almost every second corner in Munich as long as you happen to be in the "right" neighbourhood.

Apart from a local organic supermarket chain, Vollcorner (consisting of 17 markets in Munich and around), Munich hosts several branches of Germany's biggest organic chains, Basic (8 markets), Alnatura (14 markets in Munich and surroundings) and Denn's (10 markets in the greater Munich area, 7 within the city boundaries). In addition you will find a branch of a small regional chain, Landmann's, many small independent supermarkets, often equipped with a Biomarkt sign, and even some homely, surviving corner shops.

Recently, both, Basic and Vollcorner, have made efforts to support zero-waste shopping.

On weekdays all chains and most other supermarkets keep open between 9 am and 8 pm, Vollcorner and Basic markets open at 8 am. Saturday opening hours vary, the big retailers and Vollcorner close 8 pm. All groceries except the Biokultur supermarket in the basement of the central train station are closed on Sundays.

Apart from these full range retailers there is a small local food only chain, not offering any toiletries or detergents: Herrmannsdorfer specialises in meat products, bakery items and beer produced in the Herrmannsdorfer Landwerkstätten in Glonn, somewhat outside Munich. The shops close quite early, but if you come during daytime they stock sufficient dry food, dairy products, fruits, veges, sweets and more to spare you the trip to a second shop. Unlike the Basic chain Herrmannsdorfer allows you to buy meat in your own containers.

In 2015 a branch of the hyped Italian Eataly delicatessen chain opened within the architectonically interesting glass and iron construction of Schrannenhalle near Viktualienmarkt. It's true, they offer a good range of organic products, and organic food items are labelled as such on the shelves, but it's nevertheless a disappointing experience: Almost no fresh organic fruit and veges (not even the fresh herbs are organic), only pre-packaged organic meat (forget about the well-assorted meat counter), and the organic wines and spirits in the basement are not marked "bio" on the shelves, so it's very hard to find them.

Independent full-retailers

If you want to support the local economy, both Vollcorner, Munich-based Basic and Herrmannsdorfer shops are all fine, but you may prefer to support independent markets where the owners are actually running the stores and create a homely and personal atmosphere. Often you will find products not on sale by the big chains.

When traditional Grüner Markt chain closed down end of September 2014, their main house in the Altperlach neighbourhood made an exception. Housed in a vault it has a pleasant italophilic, somewhat venerable atmosphere, definitely worth a visit. The perfect surroundings when shopping for delicatessen, and a must-go during the Christmas season. It's now dubbed Mohrhof Perlach.

The other big independent is Schmatz ("smack") in the Glockenbach neighbourhood, step by if only for the lovely decoration of their bodycare section. Kids are invited to play in an old-fashioned corner shop, and selected items are lovingly set on display.

For the pittoresque yet upmarket farmshop feeling in the city aim for Stemmerhof on top of the Sendlinger Berg. Once upon a time a wealthy village farm opposite the village church the nicely restored houses are now the home of an organic supermarket (as well as an organic fashion and toy store for smaller children dubbed Natur und Kind). Their butcher's cum delicatessen disk will happily sell lunch snacks to eat on the spot or to take-away. The same enterprise also runs a second branch in the suburb of Grünwald, just a street crossing opposite of Alter Wirt hotel and restaurant.

Clean, but not as hip and cosily-polished -- the shop was opened in 2000 -- is the Erdgarten supermarket a ten-minutes walk away from Pasing trainstation (or two minutes from Pasing Marienplatz square). Monday through Thursday from 12 am you can step by for an organic and vegetarian wholefood self-service lunch prepared by the Grüner Markt catering kitchen or a coffee break. They also have a nicely decorated bodycare section and -- to my knowledge -- are the only organic supermarket in Munich catering for knitters: They offer a nice selection of organic wool.

If you by chance happen to strand near the Klinikum Harlaching hospital, don't dispair: two tramstops in North-Eastern direction on the left side (just follow the tram line along Grünwalder Str.) you'll find Biowelt, a crammed independent organic supermarket with a suberb selection of frozen convenience products: All you need if visiting a friend or relative in the hospital in urgent need of a proper meal. Starting with lunch time they offer a helping of organic soup and a small selection of snacks. You may ask for a sandwich made on the spot.

Attending a conference at one of the huge Bogenhausen hotels near Effnerplatz? Your lunch break should be sufficient to follow Bülowstraße in Western direction to Herkomerplatz. Here you'll find not only a Herrmannsdorfer butcher's shop cum grocery cum eatery and the Hofpfisterei bakery branch next to it, but also a pleasant family-owned organic supermarket dubbed Biovolet. The Riemensberger family placed some bar tables in the entrance area to have a snack, and there is a second branch in Eching (formerly a Grüner Markt branch). Pay with your EC (VPay) debit card, and they donate a few cent to the BioBoden co-operative which buys farm land in order to lease it to organic farmers. On Thursdays you will receive a 10 percent discount if your shopping cart is worth more than 50 euros.

A short walk from the shores of the river Isar near the Southern end of the island housing the Deutsches Museum into the neighbourhood of Au you will find Biochicco cafe and convenience store. Formerly dubbed Auryn it was one of the first organic supermarkets in town which took over the premises of a conventional one. The shopping area has diminished since, and so has the superstore feeling in favour of a personal, homely atmosphere. In 2016 a young team took over from the previous shopkeeper and has put a lot of effort into refurbishing the then somewhat worn location. They opened a vegan snack bar cum cafe facing Ohlmüllerstraße where you can sit down in cinema chairs for an organic lunch or coffee and home-made cake. The shop is the only supermarket I've seen so far printing its receipts on paper not containing bisphenol A plasticiser, and if you forgot to bring your own bag you may buy a locally sewn one made from leftover fabrics.

Crossing Ohlmüllerstraße and continuing south along Entenbachstraße you will bump into Entenbach Naturkost, an organic convenience store of old which is now driven by a young family. The location is clean and spacious, and at the same time preserves the homely atmosphere of small owner-run organic corner stores.

In the neighbourhood of Schwabing one of the oldest organic groceries in town is located, these days rather boringly dubbed Echt Bio Markt which is the brand of a network of small-scale independent organic supermarkets. The pleasant, traditional shop in Tengstraße offers refill for organic household detergents.

Waste-free supermarkets

By 2016 the first wrapping free supermarket made it into town: Check the zero-waste post for a review of the Ohne shop in Maxvorstadt. It also has details on the recent zero-waste efforts of both, Vollcorner and Basic supermarkets.

Closed down

The following organic supermarkets do no longer exist although you will still find references to them on the web:

2018-05-22 19:00:00 [Munich, Bogenhausen, Haidhausen, Maxvorstadt, Schwabing, organic, supermarkets, grocery, lunch, snacks, deli, Italian] link

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Saturday, 07 April 2018

Leipzig: Sunday-open organic groceries

The Leipzig Hauptbahnhof (main station) is not just Europe's largest head train station with fine arched halls and a generous concourse, it's also home to a Sunday-open two-storey shopping mall dubbed "Promenaden". The shops are predominantly branches of the same boring chains as everywhere but since organic products have been entering the main stream this mall not only gives you the opportunity to replenish stocks when everything else is closed but allows the traveller to quickly shop for organic provisions while changing trains or while the locomotive of their train is being exchanged.

The mall is situated below track level, just walk right away to the arrival hall and take the escalator stairs down. All shops mentioned here are located on ground floor, i.e. one level below the long distance trains.

The Eastern-most part of the mall (to the right when facing the tracks) houses a branch of the DM Drogeriemarkt offering an abundance of certified organic dry goods, preserves, drinks, natural body care and eco-friendly household chemicals (see here for a detailed description), in short: everything you need while travelling except for fresh and frozen food.

Still in the East wing though more central you'll find a Vitalia wholefood market which in addition to dry goods, sweets and snacks, toiletries and detergents also sells fresh food: Here you can get organic bakery items and and sandwiches, fresh dairy products and a small selection of organic fresh fruit and veges. Prices here are more upmarket than at the DM branch, and you have to check for organic labels, too, though to a lesser extend. If in doubt the staff is more competent than the one in the drugstore superstores.

In the West wing of the Promenaden the Rossmann drugstore offers a good selection of organic dry goods, preserves, drinks and natural body care, though less than DM. If in a hurry you can buy the following brands without hesitation: "Alverde", "Lavera", "Weleda" and most of "Dresdner Essenz" (toiletries), "EnerBio" and "Veganz" (food, the latter is entirely vegan).

Finally a 100 percent organic supermarket is coming to the Western entry of the mall: A pop-up store of the nation-wide operating Alnatura chain is operating all days except Sunday where an Alnatura Express supermarket is to be opened April 19, 2018. This poses a difficult question to the eco-conscious traveller: Should I have an organic coffee on the go in a one-way cup from the Alnatura coffee bar or do I rather prefer a wasteless yet conventional espresso in the beautiful bookshop cafe Ludwig on track level? I'd love to recommend the latter in this blog but the only organic item on offer is organic syrup to flavour the coffee. The coffee bar used to have organic apple spritzer but unfortunately no longer. With its beautiful ceiling the well-assorted bookstore however is worth visiting in its own right.

2018-04-07 11:10:00 [Leipzig, organic, vegan, gifts, snacks, lunch, supermarkets, grocery, trainstation, coffee, books] link

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