Blog #3: Is zero-waste shopping in Vienna fun?

January 28, 2021
Rosie Evans
Is zero-waste shopping fun here in Vienna? Or is it complicated and possibly overwhelming for those of us who are used to shopping at Hofer, Billa, and Spar? Last week, I came across an article in The Guardian titled “The zero-waste revolution: how a new wave of shops could end excess packaging." It talked of the dangers of plastic packaging to marine life and how a dead whale had been found to have 40kg of plastic in its stomach. Reading this led me to feel a sense of responsibility to do something more to take care of God’s creation and reduce my plastic usage. Zero-waste shopping was of particular focus in the article. It contained descriptions of the lovely smell and lovely-looking arrangement of produce on the shelves. One customer talked of the great fun he had shopping in a zero-waste shop. So I went out to check: Was this an exaggeration, or would zero-waste shopping be an exciting new discovery here in Vienna?  
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Der Greiβler, a fabulous store in the 4th District.
I decided to visit Der Greißler, a zero-waste shop at Margaretenstraße 44 in the 4th District, to find out. With an interest in Austrian German, the name itself was something that drew me to it. The word greiβler describes a corner shop. The Germans speak of a Tante Emma Laden, and I’m told some English-speaking places talk of a mom-and-pop-store. Essentially, the word greiβler signals that you can get everything there, the way it used to be in the 50s and often still is in smaller villages. Fun fact: There are two Greiβlers in Vienna, a second one is in the 8th district at Albertgasse 19, and there are multiple other zero-waste shops in Vienna. Some of these are generic zero-waste stores like the Greiβler and others are specialized ones that offer, for example, only vegetables or only fish. The link to the Vienna zero-waste shops shared here does take you to a German-speaking website, but you can scroll through and find names of shops that are self-explanatory.
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Rows and rows of great food...
The first thing you notice when entering Der Greiβler is, indeed, the wonderful smell of herbs and fresh bread. The store also feels a lot more spacious than a normal supermarket and I found it much less stressful when trying to navigate my way around. It pleased me to see stations dotted around where one could disinfect their hands. Thankfully, I had remembered to bring containers, otherwise I would’ve been a bit stuck. After weighing my containers on the scales, it was time to get the ingredients. At first, I was puzzled by the difference in price of the products in Der Greißler compared to those in the supermarket. The €6.90 per kilogram for basmati rice and €6.00 per kilogram for dried lentils felt like quite a lot. However, these products were both organic and fair trade, unlike the rice and lentils from the supermarket. Fair trade ensures that farmers are paid a fair price for their produce and workers a fair wage for their labour. The rice and lentils were in glass jars I could easily scoop into my container and the vegetables were free from plastic packaging. It was quite exciting to pick out my own potatoes, onions, and carrots, and I was particularly excited to try my first ever yellow carrot! It also felt  good knowing that I hadn’t used any excess packaging and was buying produce which contributed to fair trade. I left feeling energised and inspired! 
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Don’t forget your containers!
When I arrived home, it was time to test the products. I have to say, I wasn’t really expecting there to be much of a difference. I had chosen these ingredients because I wanted to try a dal recipe a friend had introduced me to. It is one that goes quite well with a glass of wine for those who are so inclined. You can find a similar recipe here. To my surprise, the rice was indeed of great quality, much less starchy than the cheaper supermarket version. The organic lentils really soaked up the flavour, tasting rich and meaty, combined of course with vegetable stock, curry powder, garlic and salt. And the fresh taste of the vegetables within the dal was delicious. Yellow carrots were definitely a winner! There was a slightly steeper financial cost to the meal, but it was worth it considering how tasty it was. And on top of that was the added benefit of not having to use so much single-use plastic like I usually do.
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Mmmmm: Purchased, cooked, eaten, and enjoyed, all without creating practically any waste...
Will I do it again? Definitely! I am also looking forward to the challenge of figuring out what containers to bring on my next shopping trips. It certainly makes me more deliberate in planning out my meals. Is this way of shopping something you’d like to try? I encourage you to try it out! One thing is certain: If you only move half of your shopping to zero-waste experiences, you will already be making a difference in protecting God’s creation. Plus there is the joy of cooking and tasting something extraordinary and nutritious!