Wednesday, 13 February 2019
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.
February 20th, 2016 the city's first 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, vodka and bitter, oil, toothpaste tablets and assorted solid shampoos and soap bars. There are also refill stations for washing detergents, cleansers and liquid hair and body washes, and you can shop from an ever increasing 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.
Inhabitants and passers-by in the neighbourhood of Haidhausen will be happy to learn that a second branch opened January 23, 2019 a few steps from Rosenheimer Platz S-Bahn station. This shop is also equipped with a proper espresso machine, but does neither offer lunch nor fresh fruit and veges. For the time being there's also no refill for liquid shampoos. In return the clean and pleasantly light shop keeps open longer on saturday evenings.
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 an artisanal organic butcher's shop or 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.
At 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. Dispensers reliably offering a selection of pasta, nuts, dried fruit, sweets, and grains can be found in all branches I've visited so far, but the number of goods may vary from basic to covering most of your store cupboard except for dried herbs and spices, coffee and tea. Basic supermarkets selling toiletries and household chemicals (e.g. Basic Bogenhausen) may have dispensers for detergents of the eco-friendly Sodasan brand as well as for shampoo and shower gel. 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: By now most of the Basic branches 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.
Some branches may still follow the scheme formerly employed at the one near Isartor where you were expected to fill provided scaled measuring jugs from the dry-goods dispensers, pay, and refill the content into the packaging you brought along (which was quite tricky as funnels were not provided). In this case
you were not allowed to use your own containers for loose-weight dried fruit from the cardbox displays in the green-grocery section.
Some Basic branches like the Basic Bogenhausen also allow you to refill frying and salad oils and offer freshly ground nut butters.
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.
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.
Artisanal bakeries and butchers
Meat lovers will be happy to learn that Munich, the home of Weißwurst sausages and Leberkäse, still has an independent family-run organic butcher's shop: The Biometzgerei Pichler in Haidhausen does not only offer these Munich specialities to buy home or to eat on the spot but will happily fill your boxes with all kinds of meat cuts, sausages, cured and processed meat (both, German and Italian style), including tongues, ox tails, offal and other low-graded parts of the slaughtered animals, allowing you to follow the nose-to-tail principle. They also have a proper cheese counter and offer lunch on weekdays. If you are in the Maxvorstadt, the Pichler family also runs the meat counter within the Landmann's supermarket which offers lunch items to take away and often has pickled herrings and other traditional German fish preserves.
At the Munich branch of the Dachau-based family-run organic bakery Gürtner opposite the Lebascha grocery mentioned above in Haidhausen the staff is also used to fill cakes, rolls and bread into boxes or bags handed over the counter. They mill the flour slowly using a Zentrofan wholefood mill resulting in wholemeal croissants tasting fresher and almost as light as those baked with white flour. If you come here for an organic coffee or lunch break don't expect wonders from the automatic coffee machine and insist on using your mug if you order coffee to take along. For lunch the bakery offers readily prepared sandwiches or "Butterbrezn" (buttered pretzl). There's another Gürtner branch on the Pasinger Viktualienmarkt near the Pasing train station.
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.
[Munich, Neubiberg, Au, Haidhausen, Maxvorstadt, Pasing, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, lunch, bakeries, butcher]
Thursday, 24 January 2019
For (re-)filling your kitchen cupboard and shop for un(pre)packaged food head straight to the northern shore of the Neckar river, to the Neuenheimer Markt market place. On Wednesday mornings (until 1 pm) a farmer's market is held here, but a few steps
you will also find the city's only package-free supermarket dubbed Annas Unverpacktes ("Anna's unwrapped goods") which with its outer wall made of turquoise tiles looks like a converted butcher's shop from the outside. As all zero waste convenience stores I've come across so far it's strictly vegetarian, but omnivores simply walk outside and turn left to find an artisanal butcher's shop at the next corner.
Until some years ago the Metzgerei Blatt was working according to the Neuland principles of animal welfare in meat production which are close to, but not fully organic, and in 2015 turned to fully organic principles. The shop was closed when I went there (as it's generally closed on Wednesday afternoons), but the owner assured me that the staff would fill my purchase into my own clean boxes as long as they were intended for personal consumation (instead of catering a bigger crowd). Ready-to-eat meat dishes are also available to take away.
Directly opposite the Neuenburger Markt there's also a shop of the local wholefood bakery Mahlzahn named after the dragon in Michael Ende's famous children's novel "Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver". Here the shop assistants will happily put your bread, rolls, sweet and savoury pastries into the bags or containers you present.
The bakery workshop itself is located in the Weststadt neighbourhood where you also can buy a small selection of loose-weight seasonal fruit and veges and assorted pre-packaged organic food items to supplement your breakfast, lunch or coffee table. When I went there in hope for an early organic breakfast it however turned out that this bakery doesn't follow the zeitgeist to serve coffee and snacks to eat on the spot everywhere -- no coffee machine here, no bar tables. (The rolls were delicious nevertheless.)
Mind you that this bakery does not use white flour at all.
Altogether there are four Mahlzahn shops, all with identical opening hours, the third one located in the neighbourhood of Rohrbach, and the fourth in Handschuhsheim (literally: "glove's home").
To buy all items for a zero waste breakfast at one stop head for the city's branch of the Denn's organic supermarket chain: The staff at its meat, dairy and bakery counters offers to fill cheese, cured meat products, sausages and bakery items the into your own containers. If you buy a coffee drink on the go in your own cup you'll receive a 30 cents discount, and you can also buy lunch to take away in your own jars instead of having it at the self-service bistro.
More to try
Here are a few more shops which I found during my research but didn't manage to visit myself:
You may still find references to the following organic grocery on the web, but be assured it's no longer there:
[Heidelberg, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, butcher]
Wednesday, 26 December 2018
Light and spacious instead of small and crammed -- Mannheim's package-free vegetarian supermarket Eddie's with its large shop window front is easy to find between two tram stops of line 6, Werderstraße and Pestalozzischule. Not everything here -- neither the gin nor some herb blends to give an example -- is organic, but everything organic (which is the majority of items) is clearly marked "bio" on the shelves. In addition to a small selection of fruit and veges and all you need of dry food the shop's section of plastic-free household items offers alternatives when you need to replace plastic boxes, toothbrushes, drinking straws and the like. The household chemicals section is very well assorted and -- unlike other zero waste shops which usually restrict themselves to liquid detergents -- also offers washing powders and soda by the kilogram.
At the time of writing all supermarkets of the Basic chain should be equipped with at minimum one dry food refill station, and allow you to take home cheese, antipasti, cured meat and sausages from the meat and dairy counters in your own containers. That's exactly what the Mannheim branch at the tram stop Schloss
offers -- partially supplementing but certainly not replacing the selection at Eddie's.
For coffee or ready-made meals head for the
Kombüse gastro pub in the Jungbusch neighbourhood. Everything on their menu is available to take away, and they kindly ask you to come with your own jars. One-way packaging will be charged with a small surplus.
[Mannheim, organic, zero_waste, grocery, supermarkets, vegetarian, vegan, takeaway, coffee]
Thursday, 20 December 2018
Eating out organic in Mannheim is different than in other cities: First it means vegetarian and vegan-friendly (almost) without exceptions. Second there seem to be no places serving national kitchens -- no German Wirtshaus, no French cuisine, no Turkish fastfood and not even a mock Italian place. And finally organic here means organic for everyone, not just for a wealthy, hip and urban clientele. As a result you may miss cleverly designed cool places as much as refined coffeehouses or classy gourmet restaurants. The good news is that Mannheim's organic restaurants and cafes are extremely affordable.
For breakfast (or a snack or coffee during the day) head for Bio-Bäcker Bihn on the ground floor of the Stadthaus housing the city library and other communal facilities and staging the city's part of the Mannheim/Heidelberg International Film Festival. Enter the complex from the north-eastern entry facing Paradeplatz, and you'll find the unpretentious bakery cum self-service cafe at the right hand site.
The breakfast options served on work- and Saturdays until noon are sufficient for two not too hungry ones; you can choose from a menu which also boosts three vegan varieties or combine yourself. Coffee or tea on the go is possible, but you should rather bring your own refillable cup (or buy one on the spot) as a one-way paper beaker righteously will be charged with 25 cents. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays freshly prepared sandwiches can be had at 3,90€ each; Tuesdays are (non-veg) hot-dog days where the hot dog goes at 2.50 €. The coffee comes from an automat, and the rather cheap-looking interior design maintains a low threshold. If you come with a family or friends pay together which will give you a small discount (10% above 20 €, 12% above 30 € and 15 percent of a total above 50€).
100 percent organic wholefood is being served at the Hellers self-service restaurant next to the organic Alnatura supermarket on the Kaiserring ringway from the main train station to the Wasserturm landmark. Take a tray and a plate, fill it from the various stations offering salads, mueslis, soups and warm dishes, proceed to the cash counter and find a place in the winter-garden like dining hall. During the busy lunch hours (usually between noon and 2 pm) there's also a separate station offering a pan-fried dish of the day in small or regular size. It's located next to the entrance and you also have to pay there. The food follows the principles of health food, seasonal and low in spices (the "hot" rice dish I had was rather bland).
At the entrance to the sitting area there's a coffee and cake bar also serving ice-cream (1.50 € the scoop).
The cake at around 3 € the piece and the coffee drinks compensate for the rather low lunch prices: 4.15 € for a large (that is: what elsewhere would be regular sized) latte and 2.50 € for a small espresso from a coffee dispenser is more than you'd pay in much more pricey cities.
The audience is quite different than in organic restaurants you may be used to: a lot of elderly people meet here for lunch and coffee.
Unfortunately the place doesn't serve breakfast -- the
kitchen opens half an hour after the cafe opens and closes one hour (on Sundays and public holidays two hours) before closing time. Also good to know: The soap dispenser in the bathroom contains organic handwash.
The hippest and most expensive place I found is the Rohkosteria in Lindenhof south of the railway tracks. This 100 percent organic raw and vegan restaurant opened in lieu of the former
"Bio-Stadel" eatery and uses preferably
biodynamic ingredients. What you get here:
salads, soups, burgers, wraps, falafel, vegetable "pasta", smoothies, shots, cakes and cookies -- no high-end raw gourmet food, rather driven by health ideology than made for connoisseurs: My zucchini spaghetti seemed to come right from the fridge which gave the otherwise tasty mock-bolognese style dish an unpleasant imbalance.
Although the place is open in the evenings no alcohol is being served here -- even the beer and wine is non-alcoholic.
The pleasantly designed interior and the unexcited atmosphere however make it an ideal place to stay for a while.
Note that the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays, a recent change which -- at the time of writing -- hadn't made it to their website yet.
For an organic coffee, spritzer (of fruit juice and sparkling water) or wine head for the north-western neighbourhood of Jungbusch. The vegetarian, vegan-friendly gastro pub Kombüse serves Mexican-style fastfood as well as a daily changing soup and main course, on availability (but not reliably) using organic veges. It keeps open until late and may give you an impression of the city's subculture. The place also offers a take away service, but kindly invites guests to bring their own re-usable cups and jars. You will be charged the extra expense if you insist on one-way packaging.
Bicycle lovers must not miss out the city's first bike cafe in the Neckarstadt north of the river Neckar. The
Café Flamme Rouge (dubbed after the red flag displayed one kilometer before the end of a bike race) was established in 2005 and serves
organic bread and rolls from the
Lummerland organic bakery with biodynamic vegetarian spreads, partially organic coffee, home-made pesto, pancakes and a lunch dish (the menu changes on Mondays and Thursdays).
More to try
I had two more places on my research list but did not have time to make it there. Here they are:
No longer organic
The Wohnhunger gifts and things shop does no longer offer organic soups or stews for lunch, and does not use organic milk for their coffee drinks. The coffee itself may occasionally be organic (as they also sell organic beans) but usually isn't.
Of the following places you may find remnants on the web but be assured: They do no longer exist.
- Café Vogelfrei, C 3, 20
- O’ Dog Café, M 5, 8 (Hot dogs)
- Veggie-Stadel (formerly Bio-Stadel), Lindenhofstr. 62 replaced by Rohkosteria
- mundgrün veganerie, T3, 7 (vegan) (preceeded by Sonnenblume Naturkost)
- Bio-Bäcker Bihn, M3 7(moved to Stadthaus)
- Bio-Bäcker Bihn, Kurfürstenstr. 7
- envita Bio-Restaurant, Im Stadthaus N1, 1 (replaced by organic bakery Bihn)
[Mannheim, organic, breakfast, lunch, coffee, cafe, eatery, vegan, vegetarian, restaurant, bakeries, ice-cream]
Saturday, 10 November 2018
For being home to so many sustainable and organic shopping opportunities Heidelberg has surprisingly few places serving organic food. The two I found are both very well suited for both, vegetarians and vegans, and essentially self-service, but I wasn't able to spot a single proper dinner restaurant where you're actually waited.
Both, lunch, snacks, coffee and dinner can be had at
red buffet restaurant, next to the Alnatura organic supermarket on the premises of a former swimming pool opposite the Schwanenteich park. You can choose between two lunch dishes at a fixed price or serve yourself salads and warm one-pot dishes (all 100 percent and certified organic, vegetarian and often vegan) and pay by weight.
Order drinks (cold drinks, teas or Italian-style coffee drinks) and predominantly vegan cakes and dessert at the cash desk while you pay, take your tray and find yourself a seat. For being an vegan-award winning restaurant I found the food quite uninspiring, without accentuated flavours, just good ingredients cooked together. Even the perfectly looking vegan hazelnut-espresso cake I had was missing a distinctive coffee flavour -- good, but far from outstanding. Nevertheless the generally pleasant place was crowded (though not unpleasantly), perhaps due to missing alternatives. It's the only evening-open option for eating out, but closed on Sundays. You may also buy food to take with you.
For lunch (though not on Sundays) there's another alternative on the opposite shore of the Neckar river, a few steps North of Theodor-Heuss bridge: The
Fein Food eatery serves smoothies, oriental and ayurveda-inspired vegetarian, vegan and omnivore stews, pot-dishes, salads and wraps, though probably not a 100 percent organic.
The city of Heidelberg still lists the following place in its latest guide to organic and local food, but the place unfortunately closed two years ago:
[Heidelberg, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, eatery, vegan, vegetarian, restaurant]