Heidelberg: Sustainable shopping
As a tourist you will most certainly head for the old town, walking down the Hauptstraße ("main street") pedestrian street. While the western part of this street is inhabited by the ever-boring major chains, the eastern part with its small-scale owner-run shops is definitely worth a shopping spree, preferably to enterprises striving to sell sustainable, often fairly traded goods.
Cocooning and body care
Looking for dedicated environment-friendly kitchen and bathroom utensils, toys, fashion accessories, stationary, gifts or design items you must not miss out the green design department store GOODsHOUSE a little west of Schiffsgasse. The shop itself isn't visible from the main street -- walk down a little aisle into the backyard to find a lovingly arranged two-storey shopping paradise. The staff is friendly and helpful, yet not intrusive and will happily offer to order items not in stock.
A few steps further west, at the corner with Heumarkt an equally carefully designed cosmetics boutique dubbed Wolkenseifen ("cloud soaps") is the flagship store of a local near-natural cosmetics manufacturer. In addition you'll find (certified) organic and natural cosmetics brands usually not to be found in your nearest organic supermarket -- among them Chia, Madara, or Khadi --, and a great selection of zero waste body care like hair and body soaps, solid shampoos or solid toothpaste.
Shoes and fashion
Fair and slow fashion seems to be quite strong in Heidelberg where even otherwise conventional clothes boutiques like Bofinger in the main street trade in fair and organic labels like Armedangels. My stay was too short to pay a visit to all the places on my short list, but I managed to have a glimpse inside Tutta Natura selling sustainably produced French shoes and women's clothes for lovers of classic eco-design in the Plöck running parallel with the main street.
November 2018 saw the re-opening of former fair fashion store cum cafe Friedrich as a Glore concept store offering organic fashion for all, women, men and kids as well as a small selection of organic body care.
Fair trade shops
Heidelberg is home to a number of community-driven one-world shops selling fairly traded fashion accessories, household items, dry food, sweets, coffee and tea, the latter often certified organic. One of them is Una Tierra at the market place Neuenheim, another one the Weltladen in the old town with a small cafe, offering fairly traded coffee drinks, cocoa or tea while you crawl the shop or let you inspire by the bookshelf.
More to try
Here's a list of shops which I had on my list for research but didn't manage to visit myself. Let me know about your experience!
- Die Ahle, St.-Anna-Gasse 11 (shoemaker and natural shoe shop)
- Friedrich, Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage 1 (organic fashioon shop cum cafe, replaced by Glore in November, 2018)
- Radhof – Bike im Bahnhof, Willi-Brandt-Pl. 5 (Heidelberg main station) track no. 1b (bike rental and repair)
- Trippen, Heumarkt 1
2023-11-18 21:00:00 [Heidelberg, shopping, organic, fair, fashion, spices, herbs, delicatessen, gifts, upcycling, bodycare, coffee, cafe, shoes] Link
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.
- Biofleischer Raab, Buntentorsteinweg 326-328 (butcher)
- Bioladen Lesmona, Hindenburgstr. 17, Lesum (convenience store)
- Kraut und Rüben, Wulwestr. 5 (Bremen's oldest organic convenience store)
- Martha’s Corner Seifenmanufaktur, Fabrikenufer 113 (formerly located at Münchener Str. 51)
- Oceanlovers, Admiralstr. 125 (online shop remaining)
2023-08-31 21:00:00 [Bremen, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, bodycare, gifts, butcher, fashion, solawi, CSA] Link
Bavarian opening hour regulations are far from liberal, hence your shopping options on Sundays and after 8 pm are limited to, uhmmm, petrol stations, more or less. Not the kind of place you'll expect to find organic food, toiletries or other necessities in eco-conscious quality.
But the times, they are changing, and for the organic Munich traveller or inhabitant, there's no reason to despair anymore. Your best bet are railway stations, namely Hauptbahnhof (main station) and Ostbahnhof.
At the Hauptbahnhof enter the basement from Elisenhof in Western direction, following the S-Bahn signs (if you come from the trains head straight ahead to the Eastern exit to enter the basement). Opposite the entry to S-Bahn (urban trains) you'll find Biokultur, a full-fledged organic supermarket. It's your only choice for fresh organic fruit and veges on Sundays and offers everything you'll expect from a full retailer (including wine, household cleaning items, toiletries, ...) as well as a pleasant shopping atmosphere. Before the covid-19 pandemics, this organic supermarket kept open after 8 pm, but shortage of staff applies here as well, so in 2023 the shop still keeps open on Sundays, but without extended opening hours.
There's a second branch in the neighbourhood of Riem, without a permit to keep open on Sundays.
Next to the Biokultur at Hauptbahnhof you'll find a branch of the local organic Hofpfisterei bakery chain, the only one open on Sundays. As all of their branches it also stocks a small range of organic drinks, dry and dairy products as well as organic cold cuts. On weekdays they offer a selection of yummy organic sandwiches to take with you, both, vegetarian and omnivore, most of them with gorgeous German sourdough bread – perfect provisions for train travellers. On weekends only buttered prezls ("Butterbrezn") are available for take out.
Unfortunately the Hofpfisterei branch at Ostbahnhof train station does no longer keep open on Sunday mornings, but a five minutes brisk walk from the station you'll find one of those family-owned bakeries that are becoming so rare these days. Leave the station at Orleansplatz exit, cross the square and follow the tram tracks along Wörthstraße. At the end of Bordeauxplatz square, corner Metzstraße, you'll find Cafe Reichshof run by the Neulinger family, a lovely coffeehouse cum pastry shop. Treat yourself with their delicious organic cakes, icecream or a savory organic snack like the traditional Bavarian Weißwurst (sausage) breakfast. If you don't feel intrigued to stay shop from a huge range of organic bread, rolls, and cakes. You can also buy a small selection of prepackaged cheese and meat cuts, butter, milk and jams from the fridge opposite the coffee machine.
Starting in 2022, the other Neulinger branches in Neuhausen, the meat-packing district of Ludwigsvorstadt and the wholesale market area in Sendling have been keeping open on Sundays and public holidays, too, though some only for breakfast.
Everything you need for a sumptious breakfast or cold snack (except fresh fruit and veges) can be bought from Fritz Mühlenbäckerei near Rosenheimer Platz. Between 1987 and 2010 this cosy artisanal baker's shop was the headquarter of one of Munich's eldest organic bakeries. Now the scent of warm bread fresh from the oven is gone – all the production takes place in modern facilities in the outskirts of Aying. The shop however is still here and open on Sunday mornings, including a small grocery section equipped with a large fridge.
About ten years after the Fritz bakery moved their bakery from the Haidhausen backyard to Aying the bakers came back to town with a bread bakery in Glockenbachviertel. The former cafe re-opened in June 2020 – buy your daily artisanal bread and watch the bakers at work.
If you happen to be in Grünwald on a Sunday morning (or another day of the week during working hours) make sure to buy the best German sourdough bread in the entire Munich area from Lokalbäckerei Brotzeit. Their bread workshop is located on the premises of the Alter Wirt hotel, with a separate entrance and a small lunch cum cafe counter where you can choose a roll and from a range of all organic spreads, coldmeat, cheeses and more to get your customised sandwich.
Back at Ostbahnhof trainstation, directly at the southern exit of the U-Bahn station into the Ostbahnhof building you'll find the place that will save your life after 8pm: This branch of the DM-Drogeriemarkt chain does not only stock the usual excellent range of natural bodycare, organic dry products, vegan alternatives and eco-friendly household helpers, but boosts a capable selection of dairy products, eggs and even a freezer stocked with organic pizza, berries, icecream, ... Unfortunately – and unlike other DM branches – organic choices and certified natural cosmetics aren't clearly marked on the shelves, so watch out for organic and natural cosmetics labels, and brands.
A few steps from the urban train stop Johanneskirchen, directly located at the bus stop "Johanneskirchen Bhf" there's an 24x7 open vending machine selling Bavarian produce: Not everything from the so-called Regiomat is organic, but you can buy organic eggs, UHT milk, cheese, chocolate pudding, cream and ready-made tomato sauce.
By the summer 2020 the concept of vending machines for products of smaller local farms finally had made it into Munich town, too: The Erntebox vending machines offer eggs and chicken meat, sausages, cheese, pasta and fruit jam, not everything organic, but most likely from farmers around Munich with a focus on sustainability. There's one at the Grünspitz in Giesing, a hotspot for urban agricultural and greening projects, and another at busy Berg-am-Laim-Straße in the Eastern neighbourhood of Baumkirchen. To find the latter isn't easy: Follow the shop windows of the (conventional) Aumüller bakery in in city (Western) direction and stop when the house turns at an angle. Unfortunately the number of certified organic products has been decreasing here: When I re-checked in summer 2023, the organic sausages were gone, but there's again a good selection of organic cheeses.
2023-07-20 22:00:00 [Munich, Gruenwald, Johanneskirchen, Haidhausen, Sendling, organic, coffee, gifts, snacks, lunch, breakfast, bakeries, grocery, supermarkets, trainstation, Regiomat, covid, corona] Link
To buy organic products in Salzburg couldn't be easier: Even the random conventional supermarket has a sufficient selection of it, hence availability is not an issue as long as you are familiar with the EU and the Austrian organic logos (mainly the AMA organic seal, the Austria organic guarantee, and the Bio Austria certificate).
To shop for the arguably most famous Austrian organic brand head for busy Linzer Gasse pedestrian street: At Sonnentor you'll find teas, tisanes, dried herbs and spices, as well as a selection of sweets and natural body care – the contemporary version of a medieval chemist's shop, with an abundance of products based on herbs grown in Austria itself.
The flagship store of the second famous brand, fair-trade confectioner Zotter unfortunately closed in February 2019, but sweet teeth will find the hand-made chocolate bars all over the city, among others at the Weltladen, a dedicated fair trade shop just a stone's throw away. Step by this nice place to shop for all kind of gifts – both eatable, wearable, and decorative. There's a second "world shop" in the neighbourhood of Gneis with a focus on fairly traded natural and organic fashion.
If your in the mood for a coffee during your shopping spree in the Linzergasse area step by Röstzimmer 15, a small scale coffee roaster's specialising in organic fairly traded traditionally grown Ethiopian coffee dubbed "Urkaffee". In addition they sell organic chocolates, tea, and honey from within the city boundaries. Careful with the bread: only a selection is organic. Unfortunately this cosy little shop is closed on Saturdays (and Sundays).
A short bicycle ride along the Salzach river (in southern direction towards castle and zoo Hellbrunn) gets you to the new (opened in 2019) farmshop of the organic Bienenlieb beekeeper's. Along with their own honey (in reusable glasses) and gin you can shop for other bee products, sustainable beekeeping and gardening equipment, bee-friendly seeds, plastic-free food containers, as well as Bioaustria certified local organic products like tea, herbs and more. There's also a small cafe on the farm.
Shoes and fashion
Once home to a vibrant shoe industry there's not much left of artisanal shoemakery in today's Austria. If it wasn't for the "Waldviertler" – robust enduring footwear which you can buy at Gea alongside fashionable leather bags, sustainably made furniture with a sometimes anarchistic touch, bedding, eco fashion accessoiries, organic tea and tisanes, or gift items. The company is a major driving force within the Economy for the Common Good movement, and all products are made in sustainably driven, socially conscious workshops by artisans in Austria and its neighbouring countries.
For sustainably produced shoes of play- and colourful designs – light city wear in contrast to the down-to-earth design inspired by the farm lands of the Waldviertel – head to the Think! flagship store in the old town. The founder of this brand also comes from an Austrian shoemaker family, and the company is headquartered in a small Upper Austrian village, Kopfing.
If you want more sustainable shoe brands or are looking for children's footwear, cross Mozartplatz and head for Vega Nova, another Think! affiliate which also offers, among other brands, two favourites of mine: French Arche and Spanish Braco shoes. They also have sustainable chairs, beds and other furniture.
While Gea provides you with socks, scarfs, gloves and other textile accessoiries it's not a clothes boutique. For eco fashion you may try Bella Boutique. Formerly located in Linzer Gasse (and further back in time in Wolf-Dietrich-Straße), one had to check labels carefully as the entrance area showed off tourist rip-off like cheap Chinese down jackets made from 100% plastic materials. The shop relocated to Alter Markt during the covid-19 pandemics, but during my last visit I did not have time to make sure it's still there.
If you love hemp and other re-discovered plant-based fibres head for Eberlin-Frenkenberger Naturmode in Dreifaltigkeitsgasse, a nice fashion boutique with a classical approach, and definitely alive and kicking.
Unfortunately it was night and a public holiday when I discovered a new and promising sustainable fashion store in Wolf-Dietrich-Straße opposite my favourite Indian restaurant in town. So there's no inside review of Zerum here yet, a fair-trade Austrian fashion label with stores in all major Austrian cities, offering clothing, home textiles and utensils for the entire family.
- Bella Boutique, Linzer Gasse 28 (moved here)
- My Muesli, Getreidegasse 2 (cereals)
- Zotter Schoko-Laden, Herbert-von-Karajan-Platz 4
2022-11-25 18:15:00 [Salzburg, organic, fair, coffee, tea, gifts, spices, honey, fashion, shoes, shopping, confectioners] Link
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.
Your first option is a 100 percent organic supermarket near the Western entry of the mall: The nation-wide operating Alnatura chain is running one of the smaller Alnatura Express convenience stores easily reachable from the tracks around track 8 for last minute provisions. Take the escalator stairs downstairs and turn right (facing away from the tracks), and there you'll easily spot the fresh-green coloured shop – a provider not only of all daily necessities, but also of fully organic snacks and coffee on the go. Unfortunately opening hours on Sundays are limited to the afternoon.
When you find it closed do not despair: Next to it a Rossmann drugstore offers a good selection of organic dry goods, preserves, drinks and natural body care, though less than the DM branch mentioned below. If in a hurry you can buy the following brands without hesitation: "Alverde", "Sante", "Lavera", "Weleda" (toiletries), "EnerBio" and "Veganz" (food, the latter is entirely vegan). Since 2020 the range of environmentally friendlier household items has been on the rise: now you'll find the entire list of grandma's cleaning chemicals in the shelves, both citric and acetic acid as well as soda, beeswax food wraps and more, and in 2021 the company launched their own brand of environmentally certified range of cleaning products, "ecofreude".
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 and they are two hours longer open on Sundays than the Alnatura.
If in the mood for a good coffee a difficult question might bother the eco-conscious traveller: Should I have an organic coffee made by the coffee automat of the Alnatura snack bar or do I rather prefer a properly pressure-made yet conventional espresso in the beautiful bookshop cafe Ludwig on track level? I'd love to recommend the latter in this blog but organic ingredients are limited to organic syrup to flavour the coffee and iced tea of Coca Cola's organic brand "Honest". 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. While the book shop keeps open longer the cafe is closing at 6 pm.
If you have the time to take a stroll into the city centre, make sure to pay a visit to the bakery of the Macis restaurant a little south of the Thomaskirche yard with the famous Bach memorial, if only to marvel at the mouth-watering fully organic and skillfully decorated cakes and club sandwiches in the shop window. Unlike the organic convenience store next to it the bakery keeps open on Sunday mornings, and if you buy of their artisanal breads some organic butter is absolutely sufficient for a gorgeous picnic.
2022-06-21 16:00:00 [Leipzig, organic, vegan, gifts, snacks, lunch, supermarkets, grocery, trainstation, coffee, books, bakeries] Link