We knew of the concept of zero waste shopping but have no stores in our home town so only tried it for the first time in phase 2 of our trip accross central Europe.
Zero waste stores vary in size and what they sell, but generally they are full of dry foods such as flours, spices, rice, lentils, pasta etc. You take your own packaging such as paper bags or jars and help yourself to what you need, then pay based on weight.
Your grand parents may remember shops offering this kind of service before convenience packaging came in, and in some for they've always been around. But with the rise in the ecological crisis people are starting to boycot mainstream supermarkets in favour of zero waste supermarkets and in the last few years they've made a real comeback!
It's still only really possible to find them in cities or big towns, so unless you have one locally it's not worth going out your way for, but for us on the road we usually find ourselves passing through these places and so we've really had the chance to live a pretty zero waste year!
We went to our first zero waste store in Berlin while searching for an organic supermarket, and when we turned up we didn't have a clue how it worked but quickly caught on.
How It Works
- You weigh your packaging (jars, bags etc) using their scales then write the weight on each item. Some stores will do this for you.
- You pick what you need and fill up! Some stores don't allow self serve on some things that are tricky to handle.
- The store assistant will weigh each item and calculate the cost (minusing the weight of your container so you don't overpay!)
We were surprised to find how much we enjoyed zero waste shopping, they say retail therapy is a thing after all!
The stores usually have a small independent vibe so you feel good about where your money goes and the assistants/store owners are usually really friendly... they're doing the world a good deed after all so you know they're good people! Also, we found many things that you wouldn't usually find in supermarkets so it's a great way to try new experiences.
While we never intended, we had a fulfilling zero waste adventure around central Europe and we now call it the 'zero waste trip'.
Here's a list of the top 5 zero waste stores (not in any particular order!) that we loved the most during our trip:
1. Original Unverpackt (Berlin, Germany)
Our first zero waste experience! It was quite a big shop and had everything including gluten free pasta and a great selection of dried fruit, nuts and vegan sweets, much of the stuff we bought lasted us 6 months! We didn't have a clue how zero waste worked at the time but the lovely shop assistant spoke great English and helped us get what we needed.
2. Bezobalu (Prague, Czech Republic)
Beautiful shop in a beautiful city, didn't take long to get to from where we were staying so really convenient, and we picked up some great things like olive oil, spices and granola. This had to have been the busiest zero waste shop we've been in overall which was nice to see.
3. Refulz (Ljubljana, Slovenia)
This place made our trip to Slovenia complete, especially having the privilege of meeting the one of the wonderful owners of the shop and further reading online about their mission to educate people about the zero waste lifestyle as the first and only zero waste shop in Slovenia (as of 2019). Shopping here made us feel like we were contributing to something amazing.
4. Unpacked Shop (Madrid, Spain)
We never intended to go to Madrid as it was out of our way but found ourselves here for the COP25 climate protests with XR, so did a bonus zero waste shop! We hadn't heard much of zero waste in Spain and were amazed to find how big the shop was, they had lots of cool things we never tried before including black salt (which weirdly enough tastes like egg so makes a banging vegan alternative when paired with scrambled tofu!)
5. Bulk Shop (Malaga, Spain)
We were lucky to meet one of the shop owners, Luana, who runs the shop with her husband. Luana was so lovely and helpful and told us about lots of cool things we could do with the recipes, even gave us some free stuff and let us taste all the amazing sweets! They have another shop nearby too. We we're thrilled and inspired to see them bring a beautiful zero waste shop to a part of Spain that suffers badly from rubbish being dumped everywhere.
If you're travelling to a city or have a local zero waste store check them out! It's way more enjoyable than supermarket shopping and doesn't even cost as much as you'd think (infact we usually find things cheaper!). It's also a great way to meet amazing people too!
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