In North America, supermarkets have become giant warehouses with row upon row of gleaming aisles, an ever-larger percentage of which are filled with frozen foods vacuum-sealed in plastic and then covered in big, bright cardboard boxes. Even Trader Joe's, once considered 'alternative' for their boutique selections of goods, are getting bigger and packaging more.
Convenience is still king in our approach to life and to shopping. But there's one inconvenient fact - even if we have enough landfills for generations, our oceans are filling up and dying due to our penchant for single-use plastic packaging.
In London in 2007 a group of intrepid eco-conscious entrepreneurs tried to create a supermarket where packaging was at a minimum. The Unpackaged store inspired lots of Londoners, but in spite of the massive press, Unpackaged couldn't make it. In Austin, a grocery store called in.gredients also eschews packaging, and though tiny (1,300 square feet), the store is currently thriving - the owners told Entrepreneur they get twice the customers they expected but those customers tend to buy half what the business model predicted.
Now a team of women in Berlin are trying the next iteration of the packaging-free grocery store, and they call the concept Original Unverpakt ("Original Unpacked"). Milena Glimbovski, 23, and Sara Wolf, 30, the originators of the Original Unverpakt idea, are striving for 'precycling' - avoiding recycling by reducing - by having consumers bring their own packaging. Unlike many co-ops where food is less packaged and the vibe is folksy, Glimbovski and Wolf are striving for an upscale, post-modern appearance, yet still hoping to skirt the need for packaging whenever possible, and when it is not possible, to use beeswax paper to wrap purchases and to either rent or sell customers reusable packaging.
Glimbovski and Wolf have worked on their business idea for over a year - they believe they can have about 600 products in the first Original Unpacked store. Produce and bulk items in the store won't be strictly organic - local and less-packaged will take precedence.
After just a few days on the German startnext crowdfunding web site, Original Unverpakt has almost doubled its funding goal, with more than three weeks of the campaign left. The only big hurdle left is a site for the first grocery - the target is the trend Kreuzberg district in Berlin, where rents are high and space is tight.