Sunday, 20 October 2019
In a city that -- according to reliable hearsay -- has at minimum five zero-waste supermarkets it should be easy to find the next shop or restaurant selling and using organic produce. Unfortunately my stay -- a night and a few hours -- was too short for thorough research, so the reviews here are far from comprehensive.
Where to stay
Having said this it turned out that in the year of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus it was impossible to find a place to stay sustainably and wake up to an at least predominantly organic breakfast at a short notice -- all the places below were sold out. I finally stayed at the DJH youth hostel and dropped the 100 percent conventional breakfast buffet with its abundance of small plastic-packages containing jams and spreads.
If you fancy a design hotel with (at least predominantly) organic breakfast in the very city centre there are three hotels of the Motel One chain, all in walking distance from each other.
The budget option if you can stay over night less central is the Home Planet hostel in Connewitz. They run washing machines and wireless on renewable energy, use eco cleaning agents, and seem to buy them from a package-free supermarket, Einfach unverpackt in the Südstadt neighbourhood. In the kitchen they use
organic milk and bake the bread themselves. Their Neapolitan chef directly imports olives and cheese from near organic farms in Italy, but although the breakfast is vegetarian and home-made the manager told me that using more organic produce would excel their price calculations. The reception recently moved a few steps in north-western direction, to the corner of Hammerstraße. There it takes the place of former bakery shop Nix Tonne which re-sold day-old bread and cakes and was turned into vegan-vegetarian cafe Cafe am Ende des Universums (alluding to "the restaurant at the end of the universe" by Douglas Adams) by the Home Planet folks.
Where to eat
I decided to combine my basic overnight stay with a luxury dinner at breathtakingly beautiful organic fine dining restaurant
Macis in the very city centre, a few steps from
Thomaskirche. The place aims to re-create the air of the great urban bars of the 1920s, and you will be waited at table in style. If you have the budget choose the menu, with impeccable wine selection on request. The food combining mediterranean traditions with local ingredients was an explosion of taste, with the most delicate grilled octopus I've ever had, and a perfectly balanced meat course (I admit I had difficulties to choose from the menu as the vegetarian courses were equally promising). Of course everything here is sustainably sourced, organic and to a great deal seasonal from local farms and suppliers. Make sure to use the bathroom as on the way, you will pass the ironwork of the house's historic lift (which unfortunately is taken out of service).
Lunch is less expensive, and during daytime you may also opt for a sandwich or coffee at the joint bakery cum cafe, or enter the beautiful Macis Biomarkt convenience store next door which stocks everything used in the restaurant kitchen and also offers salads made there.
I was pondering long whether I should list Café Central here -- as the city's foremost grand cafe back in the GDR it is an address to visit for its -- now of course completely exchanged and polished -- 1970ies-style interior -- or rather warn of greenwashing:
Although the menu advertises organic bread and focaccia (which wasn't available for breakfast), the eggs are no longer certified for reasons that clearly show that the managers have neither understood the goods of organic agriculture nor the basics of organic certification.
The only organic drink is tea (not even the milk for the coffee drinks is organic), the service unimpressing.
Just around the corner from the Macis restaurant you'll find the city's organic ice-cream maker, Tonis. Unfortunately I was too late after dinner and could only watch them closing. They also have a second branch in famous Könneritzstraße.
More to try
As I said before my time in Leipzig was limited (as was my upfront research) -- but here are a few more tips, for you to try (and tell me if you like):
[Leipzig, organic, breakfast, lunch, dinner, German, restaurant, hotel, accommodation, ice-cream, cafe, coffee, supermarkets, grocery, zero_waste, unverpackt]
Saturday, 21 September 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, and recently renamed to Der plastikfreie Laden. At this pleasant intimate shop in Haidhausen near Max-Weber-Platz 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.
In March 2019 a tiny neighbourhood shop specializing in the latter 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.
Three years before, on 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, and offers snacks -- you can have a sandwich, a slice of cake or a buttered pretzl. However, neither lunch nor fresh fruit and veges are available. In return the clean and pleasantly light shop keeps open a little 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. (If you forget to bring containers you can also get returnable glass jars for a deposit.)
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.
All Basic supermarkets in Munich (and no longer only the ones selling toiletries and household chemicals like the Neuhausen and the Bogenhausen branches) are now equipped with dispensers for detergents of the eco-friendly Sodasan brand. To refill here you must either come with an empty original bottle or buy one the first time. Your purchase will be weighted at the checkout and the weight of the original bottle will be detracted. When I asked the staff why I no longer was able to use a blank bottle they explained to me that a label with correct chemical declaration was required by law.
Prior to April 2019 you
could take one of the empty bottles from the shelf and scan its label before tapping the standard volumes the choosen detergent was sold by to your own bottle, and I cannot say whether Basic markets in other cities still run the dispensers in this mode.
To buy dry goods 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 offer freshly ground nut butters.
In the past the latter also had a refill station for frying and salad oils, shampoo and shower gel as well as tea and coffee dispensers but unfortunately no longer.
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.
Vollcorner supermarkets also stock package-free toiletpaper.
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 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 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 and food 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 the Neulinger bakeries and the Basic self-service lunch bars will even give you a small 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.
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.
[Munich, Neubiberg, Au, Haidhausen, Maxvorstadt, Pasing, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, lunch, bakeries, butcher, bodycare, household, sushi]
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, unverpackt, 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, unverpackt, grocery, supermarkets, vegetarian, vegan, takeaway, coffee]
Sunday, 04 November 2018
While buying organic requires little effort in Salzburg, minimizing waste is an entirely different issue. If you wish to carry home your purchases in your own re-usable containers you depend on the cooperation of the shop, which even in organic supermarkets can be surprisingly little. Support usually comes from smaller, owner-driven groceries just as
Frau von Grün five minutes south of Mirabellplatz. Here you can fill your jars and boxes with grains, rice, cereals, nuts, dry fruit, tea and other dry food from gravity bins. Dairy products and prefab beverages are sold in deposit bottles, you won't find pre-packaged fruit and veges, and you can even refill detergents and other household chemicals. If you come without your own containers you can buy returnable jars.
The place is pleasant, spacious with the air of a practical farmer's shop where the occasional sin of buying a plastic bag of sweets is possible, too. On special occasions local artisans (like an Easter egg painter before Easter) are invited to demonstrate their craftmanship on premise, and seminars on eating trends are held from time to time.
Have a smoothie, freshly made juice or tea, breakfast, cake, a soup or a sandwich at the bar to chat with Frau von Grün herself, and don't be
surprised that the place keeps open on weekdays only.
To add Italian-style antipasti and other mediterranean and vegetarian delicatessen to your shopping bag take your jars to the Medousa market booth at the Grünmarkt opposite Fabi's Frozen Bio Yogurt within Mozart's birthplace, and politely ask to fill them. Unfortunately this was the only organic booth at this daily farmer's market I spotted during my visit, and it's there on Fridays and Saturdays only.
Offsite tourist tracks but on your way to Hellbrunn castle or zoo you'll find the only Salzburg branch of the organic supermarket chain Basic which allows you to shop almost all daily necessities without producing non-compostable waste.
To refill milk around the clock head for the milk vending machine at the Erentrudishof farm in Morzg, a pleasant bike ride from the city. There's also a farmshop, of course with more restricted opening hours, where you also can buy eggs, spelt, wheat and rye produced by the farm.
[Salzburg, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, deli, market, breakfast, snacks, farms]