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Can the Developed World Go Package-Free?

Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski are turning over a new leaf in the way consumers shop for groceries. With strong skepticism for colorful packaging or gimmick marketing, these two left university on a mission to repackage supermarkets across the globe. Located in Berlin’s Friedrichshain Kreuzberg district, Original Unverpackt (Original Unpacked) is their brainchild–and Germany’s first package-free supermarket.

Their crowdfunding blog successfully raised enough to open their first store: “When out shopping we find a lot of super colorful items with super colorful packaging. What we tend to forget is that this packaging is only waste at the end of the day.” Their vision is a grand one: “We need a shopping revolution. We need to move away from wasteful single-use packaging, and instead make zero-waste and unpackaged food available for everyone.”

Foodstuffs at Unverpackt hang in bulk from gravity bins, which are upside down containers that allow patrons to reduce wasted food by purchasing only what they need, while cutting down on cross-contamination between shoppers. Customers must bring their own reusable bags, but the store does provide reusable containers for first time shoppers. IFLScience.com reports, “The duo hope to locally source as much food as possible in order to cut [down] on the amount of fuel costs in order to deliver food to the store.”

The difference between Original Unverpackt and traditional stores becomes apparent when you pair down the packaging. As pictured below, unloaded goods never quite seem as plentiful as they did in the shopping basket, and the difference is the packaging:

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Salon‘s sustainability expert Lindsay Abrams writes, “[Original Unverpackt] sells mostly organic products, each of which is labeled with its country of origin, and eschews brand names.” Abrams points out, “Up to a third of the world’s food is wasted, and in developed nations, much of that waste occurs when people bring home more than they’re able to eat before it goes bad. If people are only selecting what they need, they’re less likely to throw excess food out later.”

Wolf and Glimbovski believe Unverpackt is the beginning of the end of overpackaging. Their slogan is as audacious as their dream–“Let’s be real, try something impossible.”  And they understand they have a long road ahead. “We aren’t big insiders from the food industry. We want to change something, but that is only possible with your support. This project sets an example and demonstrates that there are other ways to conceive of shopping. In only one generation we have managed to flood our planet with waste, let’s give the next generation the opportunity to make it better.” After all, it’s for the children.

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