Thursday, 31 August 2023
When dedicated zero waste convenience stores started to bloom in bigger cities like Munich during the covid-19 spring of 2020 Bremen already had three established package-free shops, with a fourth one that opened its door early in 2020. Back then some of the shop keepers were afraid that there might be too many to survive in a city of the size of Bremen, and after the pandemic years it's not all sunshine for these small businesses. However, Bremen hasn't seen the same series of zero-waste shop closings cities like Munich have. Even when you run out of food on a Sunday you can grab your jars and boxes and set out for refill.
Dedicated package-free supermarkets
My favourite is crowd-funded L'Epicerie Bio in the Neustadt neighbourhood, just across Wilhelm Kaisen bridge. Lovingly decorated in the style of an old colonial shop you would find an abundance of food, spices, sweets and wine, body care and household items here, including fresh fruits and veges and pet food by the gram. Since 2021 the shop has also been offering organic frozen food by the gram: samosas, falafel, French fries, veges, berries and more.
As you marvelled at the interior you could also buy a coffee or refreshment.
Unfortunately this will be history from around mid of October, 2023: To make ends meet the shop keeper had to find a less expensive location, and the good news is: Anne Marie is moving to the neighbourhood of Walle. The new shop will have another name, but she wouldn't tell me yet. The new shop will be smaller, offering all the food stuff as before, but only a basic set of toiletries and bodycare.
While L'Epicerie was as far as you get from the carrots-and-dungarees cliche of a traditional organic grocery of the 1970ies, the second package-free shop in the Neustadt looks exactly like a traditional Bremen organic cornerstore 2.0: The dusty shop window of Füllkorn, with some wilted potted plants makes it difficult for passers-by to even spot the place. Inside everything is spotlessly clean of course, and there's also a coffee and refreshment option. Unfortunately the shop was closed when I was there, but I'm sure it's friendly and welcoming, too. They have a milk tapping machine from the Kaemena farm.
The youngest package-free shop in town is
Die Füllerei in Findorff which opened in February 2020. With a beautiful flower-bed in front of it you cannot miss the shop even though I couldn't make it here during their opening hours. Unlike the two shops in the Neustadt there's a vending machine for fresh milk from the Blockland. Just from the looks clearly my second favourite which, in 2023, wants to turn into a co-operative. Note that the shop is closed on Wednesdays.
The tram stop "Am Schwarzen Meer", (in)famous for a fastfood-and-beer kiosk popular among the city's enthusiastic football fans has become a destination for conscious eaters: At the end of the Steintor road you'll find both, a Sunday-open package-free convenience store and a friendly CSA farm shop.
The first one, Selfair, has by far the most liberal opening hours of all package-free supermarkets I've visited so far. It's a pleasant combination of a traditional organic cornershop, a contemporary package-free supermarket and an immigrant shop with a good selection of oriental-style bread, baklava, pickles and mezze. The latter aren't organic, nor are about 3/4 of the fresh fruit and greens. However, there's an abundance of loose-weight and pre-packaged organic food items, spices, sweets, beverages and more. There's tinned food and preserved food and dairy products in glasses, and almost all beverages come in returnable bottles. They also have a section with zero-waste household items and sustainable toiletries, and in general the shop is free from plastic foil packaging. Many of the organic veges, bread and cheeses are bio-dynamic and local, and most of the conventional food is produced in the region, with little agrochemicals.
On the Northern side of the tram tracks you'll find
a small and inviting farm shop, the
Solawi-Hofladen. Despite the name it's not
only a pick-up point for the members of the community-supported organic Sophienhof farm, but a cosy farm shop run by two bio-dynamic farms, the Sophienhof and the Lütjenhof, and an artisanal fair-trade coffee roasters', all from the greater region. Needless to say that you can have a coffee after having filled local grains and pulses from gravity bins and bought meat, eggs, cheese, veges and more.
On a former parking lot inside the disused production areal of the Kelloggs company you now find an urban gardening project producing organic veges and hops in raised beds: During the warm season the
Gemuesewerft is not only a nice beergarden, but also sells fresh organic greens according to the season just a few meters from where they are harvested.
Organic corner shops and supermarkets
Package-free sale of bakery items and cheeses over the counter, loose fruit and veges as well as dairy products and drinks in returnable bottles and glasses are of course the norm in all traditional organic convenience stores like the co-operative Oecotop in the Neustadt, the Bio-Eck in Grohn with some gravity bins for unpackaged grains, or the Kornkraft supermarket in Habenhausen which offers a day cafe and is part of a small local supermarket chain.
Traditional co-operatively driven convenience stores in Bremen are all open to the general public by now, and so is Abakus in Steintor founded in 1998 which in 2020 repeatedly was voted one of Germany's best organic groceries. The shop which doesn't hide its political views doesn't have a working web site, but sells loose-weight grains and cereals. When I was there again in summer 2020 there was however an information that they wouldn't order more muesli unless the demand by members of the co-operative was bound to increase.
Body care and nice things
During the nice season Der Fährmann Antony ("Antony the ferryman") sells hand-made natural shea and cocoa butter from Ghana on a mobile booth on the Kaemena farm in Blockland. Come with your own jar, and he will happily fill it for you. The opening hours below should however be taken with a grain of salt – when the weather is too cloudy or even rainy Anthony may decide that the effort of his bicycle tour out into the Blockland wouldn't match his sales expectation. In summer 2022 there were also shortcomings as deliveries from Ghana took weeks longer than usual, and during our stay in August 2022 we met him not before 4 pm.
Out of Bremen
If you take a bicycle tour to Lilienthal (which – despite the fact that the Bremen tram no. 4 ends there –
isn't a part of Bremen, but a municipality in the adjacent state of Lower Saxony) you have even more options – check out the Lilienthal post.
[Bremen, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, bodycare, gifts, butcher, fashion, solawi, CSA]
Friday, 30 June 2023
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. Since 2021 we also have seen the gradual arrival of dry food, preserves and spreads in returnable glasses formerly only used for yogurts.
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.
Package-free food and household necessities
Early in 2016 the city's first crowd-funded vegetarian zero-waste supermarket Ohne ("without") opened its doors, followed by a
second branch early in 2019. Now, end of June 2023
this is history: The insolvency, following the closing of other independent
owner-run package-free supermarkets earlier this year, leaves the Eastern,
Northern and central neighbourhoods without a place to effortlessly replenish
store cupboards without producing package waste.
Gone the days of the pandemic spring and summer of 2020 when zero-waste groceries were blooming in town: Approximately at the same time as the Westend got its (now closed) neighbourhood shop, Servus Resi opened in Obersendling right before the lockdown in March 2020, in a non-descript middle of no-where near the Siemenswerke former industrial area. Don't let you fool by the uninviting environment at a noisy car road – what you'll find here is a busy neighbourhood gem nicely furnished in light wood, with a superb selection of dried herbs and spices aside the usual dry food, and a nicely arranged selection of household items. The greengrocery section is rather limited – local organic apples and potatoes in late autumn 2020 –, and there are no dairy or other food requiring cooling, but the shop offers both, liquid body care products and household chemicals from refill stations. Everything is supervised by the friendly shop-owner, Chrissy (not Resi) herself, and if you wish to get in touch with people from the neighbourhood take the burden to come here even from other parts of town.
In Laim Nebenan unverpackt ("package-free next door") followed in summer 2020. The latter is organised as a co-operative (though the location next to a co-operative bank is purely accidental) and sports a
small neighbourhood coffee place. They offer a very good selection of dry food, fresh fruit and veges, but less dried herbs and spices and no spirits. You can however buy wine and their selction of condiments and preserves in one-way glasses have the effect that you can do all the regular daily shopping here in one place if you don't come with more advanced expectations.
Half a year earlier, in January, 2020 another
co-operative, Deine Alternative ("your alternative") in Zorneding, opened on the premises of the former Raiffeisen co-operative bank, just a few steps from the urban train station.
When you get inside you will however immediately forget about its past as a bank, the shop is carefully and pleasantly decorated, with wooden furniture and equipped with a proper Italian coffee machine for a break in between. Most of the often local produce sold here is organically certified or at minimum sustainably produced, though it would be nice if conventional loose-weight products were clearly marked. In addition to the gravity bins and containers with dry food there's a decent selection of dried herbs and spices, sweets, bread, some confectionery, a small selection of fresh organic greens and veges, cheese and milk from the Nirschlhof organic farm (but interestingly enough no whole-meal flour or oils, vinegars or spirits by the litre). In a separate room you can buy toiletries, household chemicals and items supporting a zero-waste lifestyle. Everyone is welcome, but members of the co-operative pay less.
North of Zorneding, in the municipality of Poing, the co-operative
Bunte Bohne ("coloured/colourful bean") with its zero-waste supermarket cum cafe is facing a hard time as of June, 2023. Visit and support the place while you still can.
The neighbourhood of Trudering (a more than 1200 years old former village and suburb in the Eastern part of Munich) does not have a dedicated zero waste supermarket, but twice a month, on Tuesday afternoons, an indoor farmer's market dubbed Tante Trude ("Auntie Trudie") keeps popping up in the neighborhood associations' offices. Organic farmers offer local produce, and you can donate to the Trudelade project: home-cooked jam made from abandoned fruit trees in the neighbourhood (you'll get a jar as reward).
South-South-West of Munich, the city of Wolfratshausen (the endpoint of the S7 urban train) likewise sports a package-free shop centrally located at the Obermarkt market place: Ohnverpackt, another zero-waste shop opening within the corona lockdown in the spring of 2020,
is even certified organic. The few conventional products of regional origin are clearly marked as an exception. It does not only offer the usual dry food and household chemicals, but also a good selection of cheese and antipasti. What you won't find are fresh fruits and veges, meat and sausages.
There's a small day cafe, unfortunately all closed on Mondays.
South of Munich, directly located at the S-Bahn station of Neubiberg the owner of the conventional Edeka supermarket opened a side project next door,
Hertscheck Unpacked which hopefully attracts people who usually wouldn't buy off the conventional supermarket tracks.
Although not marked most of the unpackaged dry food is organic – the shop assistant explained that since the shop itself isn't certified but fills the gravity bins and glass jars from bigger packages it isn't allowed to declare the products as "bio". There's also a good selection of loose-weight natural body care (both, in solid and liquid form) and household chemistry from brands I haven't found elsewhere. You can refill organic gin and regional (though not organic) whisky. The highlight of the shop are grow cabinets with special lamps where a good selection of herbs is grown, naturally free from agrochemicals. For city dwellers the place most certainly is worth
a little bicycle ride (through the beautiful eco park Umweltgarten Neubiberg where an organic farmer's market is held on Thursday afternoons) or urban train tour even though the place has less liberal opening hours than the conventional supermarket next door.
Fun fact: The former premises of the Edeka supermarket now host a Vollcorner organic supermarket.
In smaller municipalities, (urban) train stations usually are the only public (and sustainable) transport hub and as such a natural place for zero-waste supermarkets. So I was glad to find a new (in 2022) co-operatively organised organic zero-waste supermarket in Unterföhrung, next to the S-Bahn train station. The shop dubbed
UFG (short for "unverpackt, fair, gemeinsam" – "unpacked, fair, together")
is open to everyone, with a 10 percent discount scheme for members.
It does not only offer dry food, condiments and household items, but also bread, rolls, cakes, dairy products and fresh, predominantly local fruits and veges. On Thursday afternoons you also may buy local organic meat and sausages, cheese and other fresh artisanal organic products from a mobile booth of the Tagwerk co-operative.
There's a small lunch cafe offering organic soups, quiches and sandwiches as well as cereal bowls, coffee, smoothies, tea and cake, all vegetarian, often vegan. Unfortunately you have to register with an app service to take your food with you in a returnable bowl or box, and nevertheless may have to come back to the shop to return it. So better bring your own boxes.
In March 2019 a tiny neighbourhood shop specializing in natural home cleaning opened in the Glockenbach neighbourhood: At Abgefüllt & unverpackt ("bottled and unpacked") the singer of the Munich-based band "Cat Sun Flower" warmly welcomes customers and passers-by and helps to (re)fill empty bottles with organic liquid household detergents. At the time of writing this shop was the only one in Munich selling washing powder by weight. In addition there are eco-friendly dishwasher tabs, body and hair soaps, fairly traded natural facecream in returnable glasses, towels, as well as upcycled and fairly traded bags and toiletry accessories.
About 20 years ago, Munich got its first – and to my knowledge only – organic department store centrally located a few steps from the Isartor: It consists of the city's first branch of the Basic supermarket chain with a self-service cafe on the ground floor and both, a self-service restaurant and a fashion and beauty store on the first floor. The latter,
Beauty & Nature, is a reliable source of organic clothes (with a focus on women and children), body care, home decoration, toys, dietary supplements and all types of sustainable household items including shoe shine, candles, seeds, cutting boards, or floor clothes.
Long anticipated, they started to offer refill for household detergents of the Sonett brand by the end of 2021, with a 10 percent discount. Since the staff is knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions.
In autumn 2016 the local Vollcorner
supermarkets received an official permit by the Munich Department of Public Order (Kreisverwaltungsreferat) to fill customers' jars and boxes with
cheese, antipasti, processed meat products or cake. The Basic supermarket chain followed in summer 2017, while independent convenience stores often had done so anyway. What's missing are customers bringing appropriate containers or at least asking
the staff to fill their orders into returnable glass jars (Vollcorner, Lebascha and others) or stainless steel containers (Basic) provided by the shop itself. So be brave! You can make a difference!
To avoid misunderstandings it is advisable to clearly point to your box (or ask for the deposit container) 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. Since they started to provide stainless steel boxes for a deposit of 7 EUR there's however no excuse for one-way packaging here anymore. Artisanal organic butcher's shops will also fill meat into boxes you provide. The Herrmannsdorfer groceries (e.g. the one at Max-Weber-Platz) reward you with a few cents discount per saved packaging.
Until the end of 2022 Basic supermarkets had gravity bin dispensers for pasta, nuts, dried fruit, sweets, grains and more. But since
the company announced threatening insolvency these have been removed and the package-free offerings were reduced to fruits and vegetables as well as food from the serviced bakery and butchers' counters.
For a little while all Basic supermarkets in Munich offered detergents for refill, but they seem to have disappeared, too. Early in 2023 I found however containers to return empty cleaning agents bottles of the Sonett brand at the main branch in Bogenhausen – the producer is collecting them for controlled re-cycling into new bottles.
The shops of the nation-wide operating Alnatura chain never offered refill dispensers. However, it has been increasing the range of products in returnable jars and bottles continously since 2021 – among others fairly traded nut butters, a number of dry products and even ketchup.
Dried fruits and nuts and (as a recent addition) vegan savoury spreads in refundable glasses as well as package-free toilet paper can also be bought from Vollcorner supermarkets. Their huge flagship store at Theresienwiese (with butcher's counter and lunch cafe) also experimented with a milk vending machine but this has been discontinued since 2019. Since 2022 there is however a dedicated shelf offering an impressive range of products in deposit glasses.
By the end of 2020 a number of conventional supermarket chains had introduced refill stations for dry food, too, but since you still have to do a lot of careful reading in front of the shelves to shop climate-friendly products, I won't mention them here, with one exception: the huge Tegut branch that opened in the Elisenhof shopping centre next to the main train station
in December 2020. This supermarket chain really gives their customers a choice – all organic products are easily to recognise thanks to a light-green label on the shelves, and there's a great number of them in all product categories. Given the sheer number of products on sale the impressive refill rack at the left-hand side of the entrance aisle comprises only a negligible fraction of total sales, but it's a good start, and the best: All products in the gravity bins are organic, and they have the biggest selection of package-free organic chocolate-covered sweets I've come across so far. There are grains, cereals, nuts, dried fruit, legumes and sweets, but no flour and surprisingly almost no pasta.
Although the supermarket has its entrance next to the Sunday-open (and if you ask me generally more pleasant) organic supermarket Biokultur in the Hauptbahnhof basement Tegut is closed on Sundays and public holidays as well as in the evening. When you have at minimum half an hour to change trains you will however reach to refill some of your dry food containers as long as you know how it works: Put your box onto the scales and choose "Tara-Bon". This will print a label. Fill the box and remember the product id on the lower end of the gravity bin. Put the filled box back on the scales and press the second "Bon" button beneath the "Tara-Bon" button. Now you will be asked to type in the product id. Scan the bar code on the previously printed label with the hand scanner, and there you go: A receipt with a price tag will be printed for you. Seal your box with this second label and hurry up to the cash counter.
In Haidhausen the Lebascha neighbourhood grocery has been offering to fill all loose-weight products (cakes and bread, eggs, cheeses, olives, jelly gums and liquorice – only the latter is not organic) in bottles, jars and boxes customers brought along. When the shop was taken over by the Ökoesel co-operative dispensers for grains, nuts and the like as well as household chemicals were added, and you can
also buy all types of herbs and spices by the gram.
Ask for a deposit box in case you forgot to bring your own.
For home-made dried fruit stroll a few more steps down the street and step by Haidhauser Oase.
Household chemicals can be refilled at the Echt Bio Markt in Neuschwabing and at the Biochicco supermarket in the Au near Mariahilf-Platz. At the latter you can only refill original bottles of the Sonett label.
In Harlaching, the
independent Biowelt supermarket has a small zero-waste corner with dispensers for dry food, a good selection of loose-weight dried fruit and a dairy and butchers' counter where you can hand over your containers.
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 and the Hofbäckerei Steingraber you may be surprised to see that you're not the only one coming with her own boxes and jars.
On Saturday mornings you can find them next to the West-facing entry of Mariahilf church, in the neighbourhood of Au. Before the covid-19 pandemics all boothes (except the French fish monger) in the market block next to the church, right below the carillon, were organic,
but now it's no longer that easy. Therefore a comprehensive list: There are three organic market gardens (Biogärtnerei an der Isen alias Avanti Andi, Demeterhof Fahrenzhausen alias O'is bio and a third one also selling flowers and seedlings which you will immediately recognise when greeted with a friendly French accent). Put differently: Simply avoid the biggest greengrocery booth, "Helminger".
For meat, sausages, cheese and other dairy products there are the aforementioned two producers, and in addition the farm sale of Bergwinklhof Monigottsöd. The latter also offers a small selection of wine, but for good and knowledgeable advise on wines or non-alcoholic drinks to accompany a meal you'll better pay a visit to Uli Scheffler's organic wine trader's booth. While the juices are readly available in deposit bottles, returnable wine bottles are still very rare, and not used for high-quality wines.
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.
Needless to say that the organic boothes on the famous Viktualienmarkt in the Munich city will happily support you when you make it clear that you want to use your own bags and containers. And the spring of 2021 did not only see the opening of an organic bakery in one of the solid market stalls in the northern part of the market, but also a tiny organic food shop for organic dry food grown and produced in the nearby Chiemgau region:
Satt und gut ("full and good") sells staple foods like grains, flour, eggs, honey and oil but also cookies, both pre-packaged and loose weight, partially from the smallest gravity bins I've seen so far. Note that this shop, unlike the market itself, is closed on Mondays
In Zorneding a small farmers' market is being held every Friday on the premises of the Biohof Lenz organic farm. Here you can buy local organic meat and meat products, cheese, bread, veges, and occasionally honey and bee products, wines and spirits. Although most stalls are organic there are a few exceptions offering conventionally produced specialities. The Lenz family's own farm shop keeps open at the same time and on Saturdays, but for buying their exceptionally good meat you should subscribe to their newsletter and order beforehand according to availability (you should be fast to answer). Unfortunately all the Lenz meat and sausages are vacuumized in plastic.
At the Western edge of town, in Pasing the organic market garden of Bio-Gärtnerei Kamlah has a farm shop open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. You can not only buy salads and vegetables grown here but also organic seedlings for your balcony or garden patch. The farm has also a market stall at the Pasinger Viktualienmarkt which keeps open all days except Sunday offering a huge selections of organic fruit and veges, but no seedlings.
While coffee is readily available from
loose weight convenience stores, tea drinkers aren't well catered for: Usually you will find some tisanes and one or two types of black tea. Fortunately specialist tea shops still exist, and as they sell loose weight teas by the gram don't be shy and ask them to fill your tea box.
Tee Gschwendner shop in the Asamhof backyard a few meters from the new pedestrian street of Sendlinger Straße this will work as long as the opening of your jar or box is wide enough for the shop assistant to fill it without touching it with her shovel. The franchise also sells conventional fare, so make sure to insist on organic quality – "Bio-Qualität" is the keyword. You'll find a decent selection of both, green, black and herbal teas, with and without aromatics. Bring a little time to stroll through the light and pleasant shop that has been at this place since the 1980ies, ask the assistant to show and suggest teas according to your taste and tell a little detail. When all your teas are filled into your jars you will be asked whether you fancy a tea sample, so it is smart to bring an additional small glass or jar.
Mind you that green tea doesn't store well in classic metal tea boxes as this material supports further oxidation processes.
In spring 2022 it turned out to be difficult to buy loose-weight organic flavoured tea as compliance to the EU regulation 2018/848 on organic products had not been established in time.
Coffee and food to take away
At Basic self-service cafes, Siggis coffee bar and restaurant and an increasing number of other coffee places you may lend a Recup coffee cup for a deposit which you can return at any other shop participating in the retour scheme.
Some like the Neulinger bakeries and the Basic self-service lunch bars will even give you a small discount for sparing the environment.
Most of the eateries reviewed here will fill your food into the boxes you provide for take-away as long as you make this clear before they start their usual routine which still means one-way packaging. Sushi to take away is available from Sushiya, and they will happily accept your bento boxes with your order.
Organic supermarkets which reduced their zero-waste approach
Between 2017 and 2022 supermarkets of the Basic chain had a clear focus on package- and plastic-free daily supplies. In 2023 the management stopped all of these efforts during the insolvency process, and the Basic branches, now owned by teGut went back to where they came from: being an ordinary supermarket, offering organic products only.
- Der plastikfreie Laden, Schlossstr. 7 (Munich's first zero-waste shop, also known as "Plastikfreie Zone", now online only)
- Mutternaturladen, Grünwalder Str. 244
- Mutternaturladen, Tumblinger Str. 45 (inside the Bahnwärter Thiel area
- Ohne, Schellingstr. 42
- Ohne Haidhausen, Rosenheimer Str. 85
- Naturverpacktes Westend Pur, Heimeranstr. 51a
- Evis – ab ins Glas, Pollinger Str. 11, Gilching
- Lela Lose, Freisinger Str. 3, Erding
[Munich, Neubiberg, Erding, Gilching, Poing, Trudering, Unterfoehring, Wolfratshausen, Zorneding, Au, Haidhausen, Harlaching, Laim, Maxvorstadt, Pasing, Westend, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, lunch, bakeries, butcher, tea, bodycare, household, sushi, wine]
Friday, 10 February 2023
If you are looking for pioneers in the German zero waste movement you'll find one of them in Dresden's Neustadt neighbourhood:
Pack a selection of glasses, containers and bags and stop by Lose ("loose-weight"), a cosy zero-waste corner store in Böhmische Straße. Unlike other package-free supermarkets this one does not only sell dry food, natural body care and household chemicals but also offers veges and has a cheese counter. Although most of the products are organic some are not, so you might want to check the labels on the suspenders for the bio keyword or ask.
The interior of the shop was refurbished recently and is now much lighter and seems spacier than before. The reason for this is that the coffee corner which had been there before the corona pandemic has decreased and the serviced counter for bakery products, cheeses, antipasti and coffee moved from the entrance area to the backpart of the shop. Mind you: like other package-free shops Lose does not have an illuminated window front, so be brave to try the door handle – the place may look quite dark even when open.
In April 2019 a second zero waste supermarket opened its doors in the neighbourhood of Pieschen:
crowd-funded Quäntchen (the name of an old weight unit, denoting about 4 grams), and by the end of 2022 it looks as if the
place is about to close for good, sharing the fate of far too
many zero-waste supermarkets these days.
The newest zero waste shop is
Binnes unverpackt in the Eastern neighbourhood of Striesen. It's not just a classical zero waste self-service supermarket but offers meal-prep ("Kochboxen"), too: You choose the recipe for delivery next week in their online store, and you can collect all ingredients weighted according to the recipe in returnable glass jars. They also offer a selection of hemp (CBD) products.
Supermarkets with zero-waste stations
Moreover all shops of the co-operatively organised local wholesale chain VG Biomarkt offer a good selection of loose-weight organic dry goods (in addition to an abundance of often locally produced fruit and veges and dairy products and drinks of all kinds in returnable glass bottles).
Their main shop is located near
Bahnhof Mitte train station, an entire organic warehouse on the premises of a former newspaper printing plant. Standing back from the main street the first floor is occupied by an organic convenience store supporting your zero-waste efforts. On the second floor there's a well assorted organic fashion store mainly for babies, children and women, with a section offering organic body care, household chemicals, sustainably produced toys, stationary and more.
For members prices are lower, but the warehouse is open to everyone.
On weekdays the self-service bistro directly facing the street offers delicious lunch (only snacks on Saturdays), and there's a cafe cum bakery shop featuring young local artists.
VG Biomarkt also has branches in the neighbourhoods of Neustadt (Hechtviertel), Striesen, Johannstadt, Strehlen, and Loschwitz,
The Loschwitz branch dubbed VG Balsamico is conveniently located
opposite the downhill station of the cable-run suspension railway ("Schwebebahn") next to
Körnerplatz at the northern end of Blaues Wunder ("blue wonder") bridge.
Opening hours and assortment (of loose-weight products as of products in returnable glasses) vary depending on the size of the market and the neighbourhood. However, all VG markets offer free drinking water refill stations and you can book cargo bikes to transport your purchase home free of charge.
While these local groceries were early adopters a number of nation-wide operating organic supermarket chains have been following. In Dresden all branches of the Berlin-based supermarket chain Bio Company introduced dry food suspenders for use with your own jars.
In 2021 the Denns Biomarkt was the first branch of this chain where I found a dedicated shelf with fairly traded dry food in retour glasses and a few gravity bins with nuts, seeds, rice and noodles. A start at least, although I have my doubts that this small selection will be sufficient to nudge people towards the extra effort it takes to bring along glasses and jars.
Farmshops and factory outlets
When you take the Elberadweg bicycle route on the southern shore in direction Niederwartha you'll pass a nice old farmyard, the organic Bauernhof Franz in Niedergohlis. It runs a subscription scheme – phone in or e-mail your order until Wednesday and collect it from the farmshop on Fridays and Saturdays, but if you happen to step by on one of these days and there's someone around you may be able to buy vegetable oil and perhaps also potatoes or other produce from the farm.
In 2022 Vegannett, a Weißer Hirsch-based producer of vegan spreads, started filling products in standardized returnable deposit glasses which
you can buy directly from the manufacturer on Wednesdays.
More to try
For more vegan alternatives to cheese, meat and sausages head for
Die vegane Fleischerei in the Neustadt. January, 2023 a vegan "butcher shop" opened here, and they assured me that all of their products are made from predominantly organic ingredients.
They also offer ready-made "meat" salads and soups, and I'm looking forward to visit the shop in person. Don't forget to take boxes and jars with you.
[Dresden, Neustadt, organic, coffee, vegan, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, bodycare, household, hemp]
Friday, 23 December 2022
Organic and fair is going mainstream, and you will have to go a long way to find a big food retailer not stocking at least some appropriately labelled items. As long as you avoid the cheapest textile retailers you will also be able to needle-pick organic cotton fig leaves covering up for otherwise not exactly fair, social and environmentally conscious behaviour in many fashion outlets.
So even if you happen to be stranded in darkest suburbia, you will be able to survive somehow. In the Munich metropolitan area however, you have the choice of leaving your money at retailers more conscious than average. Some of them are local chains, others have outlets or franchise takers everywhere in Germany and sometimes even abroad.
Food and necessities
There's a wide range of organic full retailers as well as smaller organic supermarkets, so chances are good that you will find one in your vicinity. Most malls however, with their exchangeable shops and brands, stick to conventional supermarkets, and – here's your choice – a smaller health-food store (Reformhaus), often of the Vitalia chain. Larger and newer branches even offer a coffee or snack bar. Although some stores are up to 80 percent organic, check for organic labels, as up to half of their goods on sale may be conventional.
The DM Drogeriemarkt drugstore chain is being managed according to anthroposophical principles in such a successful manner that new branches have been popping up in almost every newly or re-opened shopping complex during the past years. It has always had a focus on organic and eco-friendly products (alongside the conventional stuff) and is most certainly the reason for that its competitors Müller and Rossmann now also stock a wide range of organic dry food products, sweets and drinks, as well as natural cosmetics. While the big Müller branches stock an impressive selection of natural cosmetics brands and recently stepped in for DM as a reseller of the Alnatura food brand, DM has a broader focus, with a series of eco-friendly household items such as nappies, detergents, dishwasher tabs, or organic cotton pads of the "nature" own-brand alongside the own-brands "DM Bio" (food), and "Alverde" (cosmetics and toiletries). In addition DM branches sell a growing selection of reputable organic and eco cosmetics brands, such as "Weleda", "Lavera", "Sante", "I+M Berlin", "Dr. Bronner" (all products fully natural) or "Eos organic", "Dresdner Essence" and "Kneipp" (watch out for eco labels). Products of the "Alnavit" brand for nutrition and allergene avoiding food and sweets are usually organic, as are the own brand of the vegan supermarket chain Veganz. Since they kicked out Alnatura as their exclusive organic food brand a variety of products by various organic producers has been showing up in the shelves. For detergents stick to products of the "Ecover" and "You" brands. Also a word of warning towards the nature washing detergent: It's labelled with the Blue Angel environmental label, but nonetheless contains synthetic perfumes which accumulate in your clothes.
Thus said: Fresh food aside you will find everything you need for a daily eco-conscious lifestyle. It should however not go unnoticed that DM own brands comply with minimum standards for organic food and natural bodycare only. Food products complying with higher organic standards such as the biodynamic corn products by Alnatura were replaced when the chain rearranged their product selection. DM is said to treat its employees fairly, though this may of course vary with the branch management. And if you are not satisfied with a product (like I was with the washing liquid) or simply bought the wrong one they guarantee that you may return it in any chain store, opened or sealed, even without receipt. I did it, and it always worked like a charm.
If you for various reasons do not like dedicated organic supermarkets but find the search for sustainable and eco-friendly products in conventional supermarkets tedious pay a visit to the first branch of the Fulda-based supermarket chain Tegut at Hauptbahnhof main station-
Lunch, snacks and coffee
All branches of the Basic brand have a self-service coffee and lunch bar, but the entrance area of a supermarket might not be the place for a read or chat while having a coffee. In the latter case you might opt for a franchise of the San Francisco Coffee Company (SFCC) coffee house chain, offering organic coffee, tea and soft drinks. Their cakes usually are not organic but sometimes there is an organic option on offer, and recently organic croissants and pains au chocolate were added to the menu. Always on sale are organic and vegan nut and fruit bars of the Foodloose brand which make a good (uhm, and healthier) replacement. However, by August, 2020 the company however was insolvent, and it was unclear whether the remaining franchises would survive. By the end of 2020 not many were left, and the website isn't up to date – so before you head to a place listed on their website you may check whether I have it on my list of closed places.
The second franchise-based coffee house chain serving exclusively organic coffee is Black Bean. Unfortunately only the coffee itself (and some soft drinks) are organic – no organic milk or pastries. However, since the Maxvorstand branch closed spring 2020 I am not aware of the status of the second branch in Schwabing. Both, Black Bean and San Francisco, offer free wifi.
Fortunately a third Munich-based coffee chain franchise is filling the gaps with new openings even during the covid pandemic: Coffee Fellows offer their coffee drinks both, in creamware, returnable Recup coffee cups and, from June, 2020, in home-compostable one-way cups (at present they still use plastic-coated paper cups).
The chai latte is fully organic as is all the milk and if you watch out for the "bio" label you will also be able to have an organic softdrink, unfortunately from one-way plastic bottles.
This chain has been expanding a lot recently and you will find them preferably in the vicinity of transportation hot spots like train stations, airports, fuel stations and shopping malls.
Interestingly one of the major bakery chains in Munich is an organic one: Hofpfisterei branches will usually sell you organic sandwiches (made of typically German sourdough bread) or pretzl with butter ("Butterbrezn" is not just a children's favourite), but on less frequented locations they may be outsold by early afternoon. In this case you can still buy organic spread (cheese or vegetarian) or sausages along with your breadrolls or opt for a sweet pastry. Most shops offer organic coffee-to-go, mineral water and softdrinks, and the bigger ones usually have a bar table or two. Both, the Hauptbahnhof and the Ostbahnhof train stations have a Hofpfisterei branch, although the latter one is closed on Sundays. An hour before closing Hofpfisterei offers a discount on breads, breadrolls and pastries, and many branches cater for the early bird, often opening at 7am.
For hearty Mexican fast food head for one of the Pureburrito branches.
Both, the C&A and H&M fast fashion chains have been extending their range of products made from organic cotton, recycled and eco-friendlier materials in the past years. C&A shops label their sustainable collection clearly visible on the price tag (look out for small hearts and the "Bio Cotton" string), but the product range is restricted to basic items such as t-shirts and underwear, and apart from this unreliable. Kids and teens are better catered for than adults.
Since they are only randomly presented together you may find yourself fine-reading labels.
H&M covers a broader range of sustainable products – you will even find the occasional dress for women. But since most of them are made of mixed garments containing not biodegradable plastic fibres and there's no cradle-to-cradle concept they are just better than nothing. Products of the "H&M conscious" brand can be distinguished by their green tag. They are presented together in separate areas, both, within the women, kids, and men stores, and hence easy to find. According to Greenpeace both companies had been taking serious measures to reduce hazardous chemicals in the production process and to introduce fairer production during the 2010ies.
[Munich, Schwabing, supermarkets, coffee, snacks, lunch, bakeries, grocery, fashion, bodycare, household, covid, corona]
Sunday, 16 October 2022
Nowhere in Germany it is easier to adhere to an organic lifestyle than in its capital – provided you aim for appropriately inhabited neighbourhoods all you have to do is to keep your eyes open. Many of those neighbourhoods can be found in the administrative unit of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and this blog will cover only the tip of the iceberg, i.e. the places I found during a two-days visit. The places covered in the first two sections are all located in Kreuzberg 61, the neighbourhood considered the bourgeouis part of Kreuzberg.
The German Museum of Technology near tube-station Möckernbrücke clearly is a place to spend hours in – but what if you start to feel hungry or the urge for a coffee? For the occasional tourist this wonderful museum seems to be located in the middle of nowhere, but don't dispair! Head East and follow Tempelhofer Ufer back to the tube station, and turn to the right after the second traffic-light. A few steps into Großbeerenstraße you will find an organic gem with roots back in former West-Berlin's green-alternative past. Today it's a friendly though a little worn-out grocery cum eatery dubbed Ökotussi ("eco-Sheila") run by a bunch of practical women. Stop by for a hearty vegetarian (usually vegan) lunch (the vegan lasagna we had was delicious and sufficient for two), a salad or snack or an Italian-style coffee drink.
Follow Zossener Straße from tube-stop Gneisenaustraße in Southern direction, and you'll end up in a neighbourhood that most eco-conscious people will consider the ultimate paradise: three organic (or predominantly organic) whole-sale supermarkets, four organic bakeries, four at minimum partially organic restaurants and eateries, and a number of other shops offering selected organic products, everything within a five minutes walk, all with liberal opening hours compared to the rest of Germany. The eateries of this neighbourhood dubbed Bergmannkiez try to outdo one another in advertising their vegan options – it seems a luxury to point out that vegan even here usually does not imply organic.
Restaurants and eateries
Promenading Bergmannstraße (which makes for the Southern border of Marheinekeplatz) to the West you will find Fratelli La Bionda, a decent Italian pizzeria using organic flour and tomatoes for their pizze. No place for lunch since the restaurant does not open before evening. If you take your seat around the tables on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, opposing a park with a children's playground you will kindly be asked to move inside around half past 9 pm. Since the eateries covered below all close between 8 and 9 pm (or even earlier during the weekend) this place is the only option for your evening out covered in this post.
This nicely restored mall is a Mekka for foodies. Opposite Friesenstraße you will find Piechas Bio-Buffet, a slow-food whole-organic grill. Although vegan and vegetarian dishes are offered, too, their focus is clearly on organic meat, from nose to tail. Arguably Berlin's best beef burgers are served here, and unlike other places they won't cook your meat to death when you forget to order rare. If you want to try Berliner Currywurst (curried sausage) and other German meat dishes at all – so here. Heavily frequented during lunch hours service can be a bit bumpy, and more frequent cleaning of the bar tables would often be nice. You can choose from an impressive range of organic softdrinks, or have beer or very decent cider made from apples organically grown in the wild of Berlin's surroundings. Mayonaise and ketchup for your fries have to be ordered separately.
If you walk around the booth you will find the counter of the organic butcher's shop where you can buy sausages, offal and all the cuts from free-range cattle and pigs kept well at small-scale organic farms in the vicinity and slaughtered respectfully.
Lunch and coffee drinks are also being served by organic bakery Beumer & Lutum, a few steps north on Zossener Straße. If you want your coffee on the go make sure to bring your own mug which entitles you to a small discount. While the two organic bakery boothes within the Marheineke mall – Mehlwurm in the centre of the market hall, and Biobackhaus in the North-Eastern part – are closed on Sundays and open at 8 am, Beumer & Lutum is catering for the early bird Monday through Saturday from 7 am. It also used to keep open on Sundays, but that's past: Due to staff shortness in 2022 the shop is open only on weekday mornings. It offers a small selection of organic food items to complete your breakfast table. The bakery boothes in the mall still have longer opening hours, but do not serve coffee or lunch. Mehlwurm is the first bakery I know of offering an open source bread (with beetroot and walnuts).
For the sweet tooth
Italian-style organic coffee drinks can also be had from the Tanne b ice-cream parlour on the crossing of Zossener and Bergmannstraße. They use organic milk for their all-natural ice-creams served in vegan cones, and offer vegan options, too. Children are served slightly smaller scoops for the price of 80 cents (instead of 1.20 euros for regular servings). In 2019 the ice-cream season has been announced to start 7th March.
Around the corner from Fratelli La Bionda you'll find cosy Cafe Conni Island where you can treat yourself with lovely home-made, partially organic cakes and a coffee drink made with organic milk. The place is run by an artist whom you can hire to paint your walls with art, and since she usually serves herself the opening hours are restricted to afternoons and the second half of the week.
With a branch of the vegan supermarket chain Veganz on the first floor of Marheineke-Markthalle facing Marheinekeplatz, a branch of Berlin-based organic wholesale chain Bio-Company on Bergmannstraße/Friesenstraße crossing and an Alnatura branch on the East-side of the park, all with liberal opening hours compared to German standards it's hard to find an excuse for not buying organic. The Bio-Company bakery booth even opens for the early bird at 7:30 am.
While both, Alnatura an Bio-Company sell exclusively organically certified items you have to be careful at Veganz: The grocery products and most of the German and Austrian brands on display are organic (and can be found in almost any other organic supermarket), but they also offer a lot of imported vegan products, and a great deal of them are not organic. Unfortunately these are not clearly marked on the shelves, so you should be familiar with organic branding outside the continent. On the plus side this Veganz supermarket introduced self-service dispensers offering more than 80 different dry products waiting to be filled in the containers you brought with you.
If you're on a shopping spree or in search for a gift, and the body care sections of the organic supermarkets seem too boring, there's an organic beauty shop dubbed Belladonna in Bergmannstraße. Light and inviting, with a great selection of all kinds of natural creams, body lotions, perfumes, hair care, make-up and much more, both for men and women, this is a must-go for everyone, not just beauty addicts.
Also need new clothes? One of the three Berlin-based shops of the Dresden-based organic fashion and interior design label Tranquillo is located right in the vicinity.
The Japanese go mad about Trippen shoes, and if you go for fairly and eco-consciously produced leather shoes of unusual design (some of the soles alone can be considered art) the Trippen factory outlet near tube stop Schlesisches Tor is definitely worth a visit. Unlike in their stylish flagship store within Hackesche Höfe you have to browse shoe boxes for your size, and all the pairs are remaining stock or have small defects like miscolourings. In return prices are well below usual market price. You will find children's, women's and men's shoes (even the ones better described as sculptures are astonishingly comfy), and the staff is very helpful.
One of the many organic groceries turned partially organic eateries and delis is Der Milchladen ("The milk shop") near tube stop Moritzplatz. In the heart of what is dubbed the wild and autonomous migrant Kreuzberg you can have a hearty lunch, sandwiches, coffee and (cheese) cake as well as breakfast, vegan, vegetarian and omnivore.
The place is situated a few steps from the flagship store of one of the oldest eco-conscious Berlin fashion labels, Luzifer in Oranienstraße. All their clothes are made of linen and hemp, and unlike other labels they don't have short-lived collections: If you wore out your favourite dress, shirt or pair of trousers, you will usually be able to buy a replacement. When my favourite dress (of which I had two copies) after ten years continous use had too many holes they happily made a new one of the good parts for a very competitive price. They offer both, a men's and a women's collection, and you will often be served a tisane or a cookie in their light and friendly showroom.
The following places are closed for good:
[Berlin, Kreuzberg, organic, vegan, Italian, pizza, coffee, ice-cream, supermarkets, fashion, bodycare, household, shoes, deli, grocery, eatery, zero_waste, bakeries, butcher, burgers, confectioners]