How do they do it in Berlin?

Today’s post is a photo story from my recent stay in Berlin. As usually, in this series of articles, I do not focus on popular touristic spots, but I describe places that somehow relate to ecology and sustainable way of living. In this respect, the capital of Germany is an exceptional place. On one hand, it is of course a huge, vibrant city. This unavoidably means very high consumption levels, as well as great amounts of waste generated every day. On the other hand, however, Berlin seems to be a paradise for people who care about living a sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle. In this regard, Berlin is absolutely unbeatable. No other city I have written about before – Dublin, Lisbon or Budapest – can compete with the German capital.

Why? I could literally talk about it for hours. In Berlin, wherever you go, you will come across restaurants specializing in plant-based cuisine, as well as stores with healthy organic food. In order to find such place, you don’t need to search for it on the internet or travel to a distant part of the city. Also, in every neigbourhood market or grocer’s store there is a machine that accepts used bottles in exchange for money.

In the entire Berlin, you can notice plenty of small and big sustainability projects aiming to reduce the amount of produced waste, creatively reuse already existing material and to make the urban space more friendly, both for the people and the environment. Below you can find a few  examples of such initiatives.

A store selling rescued food

Sirplus Rettermarkt Wilmersdorf, Wilmersdorfer Str. 59, Berlin

Sirplus is an interesting social start-up, selling rescued food. What does it mean? In the store run by Sirplus, you can purchase a variety of products rejected in other stores or markets as surplus: fruits, vegetables, drinks, snacks (both healthy and unhealthy), sweets and many other.

Fruits and vegetables sold at Sirplus do not have ideal looks and the packaged products have sometimes passed their “best before” date (do not confuse with “use by” date) or they are nearing it. They are still perfectly eatable, though, and their taste is as good as of the products sold in any supermarket or grocer’s store. Of course, because their expiry date is shorter, they are also way cheaper than food sold in regular shops. That’s why shopping at Sirplus is not only a great way to reduce food waste, but also to minimize your everyday expenses. I hope more places like this will be available in the nearest future all over the world.

Sirplus store
Rescued vegetables sold at Sirplus.
This blackboard at Sirplus displays some information on how much food goes to waste at every stage of its production: starting from the moment it’s harvested until it arrives to the final customer’s household.

Prinzessinnengärten

Prinzessinnengärten, Prinzenstraße 35-38, 10969 Berlin

Prinzessinnengärten is a very special place that I couldn’t really describe with just one word. It is at the same time an urban garben (or a park), an open-air restaurant and an an alternative, hippie community dealing probably with all available sustainability projects. Foodsaving, upcycling, an open library, urban gardening and beekeeping, exchange of services and skills, vegan cooking, fair trade beverages – you name it. All these happen at the same time at this crazy, chaotic, artistic and creative place.

Prinzessinnengärten
Urban gardening at Prinzessinnengärten
Vegetables grown at Prinzessinnengärten
In this open-air cafe you can relax, have a coffee or tea and try some food made of locally grown vegetables .
In Prinzessinnengärten there is also a foodsharing spot…
….a library….
… ypu can also spot some beehives…
…and a needs and resources board (where you can advertise your services and skills in exchange for what other people offer).
In summertime, when temperatures are extremely high, volunteers have to water the trees.

Street libraries

In the entire Berlin you can come across phone boxes transformed into street libraries. They are open for everyone, both if you wish to borrow a book or leave one that you have read already and make it available for other people. This is a perfect way to reuse the obsolete elements of the urban infrastructure and, at the same time, an idea on how to give another life to already read books and facilitate the access to literature for all the inhabitants of the city.

 

As you can see, the libraries are well-equipped…
…and there are many people interested in using them.

Zero Waste Shops

In Berlin, you will find a lot of places where products are sold package-free, so you can spare the planet a lot of unnecessary plastic and other unpleasant things. One of the shops is Unverpackt where you can fill your own containers with pasta, grains, spices, sweets, oil or vinegar. They also offer accessories that facilitate a zero waste life (such as multiple-use cups, bottles or shopping bags of different sizes).

Spices, oil and vinegar sold at Unverpackt
… and some more spices.

Ethical fashion

In Berlin, like in any big city, you will come across plenty of shopping centres and stores of the most popular brands and retailers. At the same time, it is also easier than in any other city that I know to find a shop offering sustainably produced clothes. Not only in the German capital, but also in the nearby Potsdam (where we went for a one-day trip) we saw a lot of small boutiques with ethical fashion, selling products that have succefully gone through the fair trade certification process.

A random sustainable fashion store in Berlin.
In Berlin even shopping bags in organic food stores remind you about the principles of a less wasteful life. “Do you really need me”, kindly asks the paper bag.

I hope that my miniguide will turn out useful for those of you who are planning to visit Berlin in the nearest future. And if you are familiar with any interesting sustainability projects going on in other European (and not only) cities, please let me know. I would be more than happy to add them to my list of initiatives worth promoting in other countries.

 

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