The whole shop without plastic packages.
Is it really possible?
Apparently. And you can find there plenty of things!
It seems there are many of them already! One can easily find them in big or medium cities. Surprisingly, I haven’t heard about them before.
The shop I have visited was Eddie’s in Mannheim, Germany.
My very first impression was, that it looks pretty minimalistic and elegant in a bit hipstery manner. The only thing informing it’s the shop was a simple logo on the huge glass window. You could easily peek inside and start being intrigued.
At the very first it would not obvious to me what exactly I was looking at, because the whole look was very far from what usually comes to mind when thinking about the grocery store. No crazy colors of packages or advertisements, that are doing its best to steal the attention and convince you to buy something – just simple papers with necessary information about the product.
It made it look pretty refreshing, transparent and gives a feeling of „we are here to sell things the way we think is right, not because we want you to buy something you don’t need”.
It makes perfect sense, as both the owners and main target are probably people believing in the idea of zero waste. If you open such a shop you probably don’t want your customers to throw out food, right?
This kind of esthetics I tend to associate with expensive places, so I felt a bit of intimidation at first, but then I realized it doesn’t have to be the case.
When I entered, I was instantly greeted by a smiling salesperson and asked if I was here for the first time and if I knew how it works. It was definitely helpful, as I definitely wasn’t sure what, where and how.
If you are here with your containers, you can weigh it and write directly on it or on the piece of paper – both of them you find next to the weight. If you are without any containers you can get cheaply some jars. In case you don’t need a big container, but a small one – they offered smaller ones for free!
Then comes the fun part – filling the jars!
Many of things like pasta, muesli or lentils are in those funny glass things. For people with aiming skills similar to mine, there is some help provided, in a form of metal funnel-like things. There are also other types of containers for other products, mostly from glass.
The best part, in my opinion, is that you can get exactly as much as you want. You want to try this and that, but are not sure if you like it? No problem, you can take just enough for one portion. You have an idea for a dish with an ingredient you will not use soon very likely? You can buy just the amount you need.
What can you get in such a shop?
Well, in Eddie’s there seem to be the whole variety of things. Except for pasta, muesli, cornflakes, flour, spices, and vegetables, there are also more unexpected (for me) products. I was surprised to see sweets there, although it makes sense, that people who care about reducing produced garbage, might want to have some sweet pleasures in life.
It was interesting to see cosmetics and personal hygiene products. Some of them I didn’t know existed: multiuse face cleaning pads that could replace popular cotton pads, tablets aiming to replace toothpaste and fair sustainable vegan condoms. Yes, there are vegan condoms. I was not sure how the regular ones could have anything to do with animals, but it seems that normal condoms are using milk proteins to make latex softer, hence they are not vegan.
From other interesting things, I noticed alcohol and some kind of healthy, good-looking and pre-prepared food. I need to admit that avoiding plastic packages limited my use of pre-prepared things to zero, so it felt like it’s a good niche. It was a bit too pricey for my budget, but I think it could be an interesting option for some people.
The experience of shopping at Eddie’s had many pluses: the place is pretty, food looks carefully selected and focused on healthy options. It gives the experience that was popular before the age of supermarkets – you have direct contact with the salesperson, you are treated as an individual client. You have a chance to develop some kind of relationship with people – you for sure start from having something in common. In today’s world, it’s definitely something different and interesting.
The prices are generally reasonable. It’s more expensive than in discounter (which makes sense) but the food prices seemed similar to Rewe or Edeka. Definitely, it looks better budget wise when one considers that you can buy as much as you actually need and save money and place on shelves this way. There is also no aggressive marketing and I feel it’s much less likely, that one will buy unnecessary things in such a shop. It could be just an impression though.
I also appreciate that when I leave the shop I have things already packet in glass or containers. I think it’s helping to keep the kitchen organized and food protected from bad outside influences, which plastic packages do only before you open them for the first time.
I’d definitely enjoy having more choice – especially the possibility to buy cheese and some not super healthy food there. People knowing me assume that I’m very good at resisting unhealthy food temptation, but the truth is I’m just not a sweet tooth. It’s enough to put me next to the bag of chips and you will see, what an illusion it is.
Additionally, such shopping needs a bit more time – the whole weighting, writing, filling, calculating takes time. Those solutions are also difficult to implement in bigger shops, because of the potential number of clients. There were not many people, so at least you don’t have to wait in a queue.
But definitely, the atmosphere of some kind of collective belief in the same cause was different and definitely not present in regular shops.
What’s your experience with those type of shops?
For people interested in finding the place to shop without plastic packages in Germany:
Unverpackt-Läden in Deutschland