Berlin Clothing Swap
As many clothes as you want without spending a dime? What sounds like the dream of any fashion addict is now a reality, and, thanks to the undying passion and energy of Canadian Jenna Stein, it’s as sustainable as it gets. Born of necessity, Stein founded the Berlin Clothing Swap in 2014 as a non-profit organisation a year after she’d arrived in Berlin: “I didn’t really know anyone or the city. I also didn’t have a lot of money or clothing and Berlin is such a fashionable city, so I thought: what a great way to meet people, get clothing, and build a community for myself here.”
Stein’s swap events now connect fashion lovers across the capital. The concept: bring at least five items of clothing and swap away. From top to bottom, you’ll find everything your wardrobe needs: jackets, t-shirts, trousers, shoes, accessories, even jewellery. Typically hosted on a Sunday, the swap lasts about three hours with attendees allowed to bring clothes until 30 minutes before the event closes. If you don’t have any clothes to spare but still want to attend, no problem: pay €5 as a small contribution towards running costs – Stein doesn’t pocket a cent – instead.
If you’ve ever bought a shirt to just have it sit in your closet for the rest of its life, Kleiderei might be the thing for you. With the aim of extending the life cycle of clothes, Kleiderei offers a membership that lets you rent up to four pieces of clothing for €29 per month, or €39 for six items. End up falling in love with that one dress for hire? Don’t fret: if you rent something for a month or longer, you can buy it with a 20 percent discount – but only if you’re a member! By renting out clothes, Kleiderei allows their customers to fulfil their desires for new clothes, while also making them more aware of their spending choices. If you don’t end up liking what you pick, simply return it to the store and pick out something else.
The collection ranges from second-hand and vintage, to brand new high-end fair fashion brands, such as Christiane Strobel, Dzaino, IKIGO and many, many more. Alongside clothes, you can also rent hats, jewellery, glasses and other accessories. Don’t want to commit to a membership right away? Most of Kleiderei’s collection is for sale to non-members as well. Kleiderei already has locations in Cologne and Freiburg, and will open its doors in Berlin on May 6, 2022.
Oranienstr. 44, Kreuzberg. Wed-Fri 13-19, Sat 13-18. More info on kleiderei.de.
Eating out and takeaway
Zero Waste. Vegan. Local with seasonal ingredients. FREA is no stranger to a buzzword, but this restaurant walks the talk. Offering a three- and four-course menu alongside à la carte selections, this vegan, zero-waste establishment – the first in the world touting both these titles at once – sources its food locally and curates a new menu four times a year to take advantage of each season’s best produce.
All pastas, breads and chocolate are made from scratch using staple ingredients delivered in reusable, returnable containers, and when you add in that any leftover food waste is composted and returned to partnered farms to assist in growing the produce for next season’s menu, it’s hard to fault FREA’s dedication to sustainability. So hard, in fact, that the Michelin Guide awarded the restaurant its first Green Star this past March. With its four-course menu priced at an extremely fair €56, exceptionally reasonable considering the premiums often associated with sustainable fare, consider FREA next time you’re looking to splurge.
Kleine Hamburger Str. 2, Mitte. Daily from 17:30-00. / (Psst! The Michelin Guide awarded a green star to another Berlin restaurant as well. Check out Cordo for another delightfully sustainable meal.)
Recup & Rebowl
Coffee to go guilt-free? An estimated 2.8 billion single-use coffee cups are used annually in Germany, something which RECUP & REBOWL aims to tackle with its reusable take-away system backed by restaurants in 11 cities across Germany. Custom- ers pay a €1 deposit for take-away cups and containers, which can then be returned at any participating store. With over 900 partnered cafes and restaurants in Berlin alone – check RECUP & REBOWL’s app or website for a full list of stockists –, finding a place to deposit your used goods is never a problem. The products are fully recy- clable and dishwasher-friendly, with each cup or bowl fit for up to 1000 uses. When a cup or bowl has finally passed its expiry date, RECUP & REBOWL breaks them down and uses 100 percent of the material to create other products.
Find out more at recup.de or download the RECUP app. (Favourite establishment missing from the RECUP & REBOWL app? Check out the Relevo app. Same service, different restaurants!)
This is not your usual second-hand store. Occupying a corner on the third floor of department store Karstadt on Hermannplatz, Re-Use Superstore is easy to miss at first. It feels strange walking through sections of brand new makeup, shoes and sportswear to get there, but once you reach the Re-Use Superstore section, you’ll discover a surprising range of furniture, clothes and even electronics that are all vintage and second-hand. You’ll also find upcycling brands like UpCycle Berlin represented there, which makes designer furniture from old timber, and you can fix your small electronic devices at Batman’s Repair Café.
If transitioning to thrift shopping sounds like a difficult commitment, Re-Use Superstore may be a great first step for you. Unlike most thrift shops, their items aren’t scattered around in a maze of knick-knacks, but displayed in a comprehensible way, each item neatly categorised on the shelves, making it feel just like the rest of Karstadt. You won’t get overwhelmed and you’ll uncover a host of high quality items. It definitely doesn’t compare to the gigantic warehouse that is NochMall, but if you’re new to thrifting, Re-Use Superstore is a great introduction!
Hermannplatz 5-10, Kreuzberg. Mon-Sat 10-20
Also known as Berlin’s second-hand mall, NochMall is BSR’s (Germany’s largest municipal cleaning company) 2000sqm warehouse of used goods. Stocked with everything from furniture to rollerblades, the shop opened in 2020 when the city’s premier recycling company saw an opportunity to sell reusable items rather than dispose of them. Complete with a pop-up café and an English books section, this is an ideal place to furnish a new home – or find your next favourite outfit. Pricing is determined by the staff with extensive retail experience, who turn to eBay Kleinanzeigen for guidance if they’re really at a loss.
Separate from the BSR’s other services, your used goods won’t wind up at NochMall’s warehouse unless you choose to donate them. To do this, you can drop all items off at the store itself or at a collection point listed below – no pickup services available, sorry! The warehouse does minor repairs on any damaged furniture, however, and offers a drop off service for purchased goods if needed.
Auguste-Viktoria 99, Reinickendorf. Mon-Sat 10-18, Sun 10-20
Hegauer Weg 17, Zehlendorf. Collection Mon-Wed 7-17, Thu 9:30-19:30, Fri 7-17, Sat 7-15:30
Lengeder Straße 6-18, Reinickendorf. Collection Mon-Wed 7-17, Thu 9:30-19:30, Fri 7-17, Sat 7-15:30 Gradestraße 73, Neukölln. Collection Mon-Sat from 7-19
Founded in 1974, GLS chooses to invest its money in renewable energy, affordable housing, free education and healthcare, amongst others, so if you’re looking to stick it to corporate oil investment, closing your account with Deutsche Bank and switching to these guys wouldn’t be the worst idea. GLS doesn’t invest a single cent in oil, factory farming or artillery. It also has the highest ethical and sustainability rating of any bank in Germany.
GLS customers have free access to over 18,000 Volksbank and Raiffeisenbank ATMs with a physical Berlin branch located in Mitte. With all commercial loans published in the GLS company magazine Bankspiegel, customers have 100 percent transparency in seeing where their money is going and even have somewhat of a say in what happens next – when you open an account, you have the option to choose which area GLS uses your money to invest in, or give them permission to invest where they see fit.
Schumannstr. 10, Mitte. Mon-Thu 10-12:30 and 14-16, Fri 10-13. More information at GLS.de. GLS isn’t Germany’s only ethical financial institution – check out the Fair Finance Guide at fairfinanceguide.de to compare banks.
Saving the climate is a collective effort – a sentiment that Dr. Pogo takes literally. The all-vegan supermarket, befittingly located at Karl-Marx-Platz, is run by a collective of 14 people who don’t claim ownership of the shop but rather think of themselves as administrators. Opened in 2013, Dr. Pogo offers an impressive selection of vegan products, many from local manufacturers. Over 90sqm, you can find a range almost worthy of a large-scale supermarket, including a sizeable selection of unpackaged goods, convenience products and even dog food (yes, it’s vegan). As you’d expect from your local (German) supermarket, Dr. Pogo even has a small selection of rye bread. Choose between today’s, yesterday’s, or even the day before yesterday’s baked goods.
Knowing that eco-friendly prices can be daunting, the collective came up with the “Pogokarte”. Following the Soli principle, it means the customer decides what they pay for their monthly membership: choose an amount between €7 and €17 and enjoy 20 percent off all loose products except coffee and bread. One thing to be aware of: the bananas are imported from the Dominican Republic and there is still plenty of plastic packaging. Nobody’s perfect after all.
Karl-Marx-Platz 24, Neukölln. Mon/ Tue/Thu/Fri 9-20, Wed 12-20, Sat 9-16. More info here.
It is a well-known fact that plastic packaging is not exactly environmentally friendly, yet conventional supermarkets have made little effort to forgo the synthetic sin. Good thing there are pioneers like Milena Glimbovski, the owner and founder of Original Unverpackt a little shop with a big impact. Here, you’ll find anything but plastic packaging, ranging from kitchen essentials like pasta, rice, flour and cooking oil, to toiletries like toothpaste tablets, floss made from corn and wax, and shampoo (the €4.50 per 100ml price tag seems expensive until you realise its a concentrate). The only thing you’ll be looking for in vain are veggies and fruit, which the shop used to have in its early days but scrapped when supermarkets realised that fresh produce doesn’t need plastic packaging.
Original Unverpackt acts where food giants lack willpower, and so can you. Bringing your own containers is a bit inconvenient, but it’s the first step in making your shopping zero-waste. If you’ve forgotten them, you can buy containers on site as well.
Wiener Str. 16, Kreuzberg, Mon-Fri 12-20, Sat 11-20 / Großbeerenstraße 27A, Kreuzberg, Mon-Sat 12-19. For more info, click here.
Did you know that Germany produces a truckload of food waste every minute? That’s 12 to 18 million tonnes a year. And this isn’t just the food that doesn’t make it from your plate into your stomach. No, this includes good-to-eat products that never even make it to supermarkets. Since 2017, Sirplus has been battling food waste by buying the products that wholesalers and manufacturers can’t sell to stores: things that are nearing or just past their expiry date, anything with an incorrect label, and even the items that just don’t look pretty enough for the glossy supermarket shelves.
Due to the pandemic, Sirplus had to close their onsite “rescue markets” in Berlin, but you can still buy their goods online. Select individual products, or, if you’re feeling lazy, choose a subscription box (priced from €22.90-€44.90 for monthly or fortnightly deliveries) from a range of categories including organic, vegan and veggie options, with the contents always a surprise. Don’t mind eating a lopsided cucumber or day old bread? Then Sirplus is a perfect way to shop more sustainably, and you don’t even have to leave the house.
Find out more at sirplus.de.
And last but not least…
- Bio Company The best corporate choice for sustainable shopping – pick up your copy of Exberliner here as well! Stores across Berlin.
- Biosphäre Mostly plastic-free, this health food store is the perfect place for small, top-up shops and offers discounts for low-income patrons. Weserstr. 212, Neukölln. Mon-Fri 9.30-19, Sat 9.30
- Der Sache wegen Plastic-free shopping in Prenzlauer Berg – they deliver goods in returnable jars as well! Lychener Str. 47, Prenzlauer Berg. Mon-Sat 11-19
- FAIR unverpackt A plastic-free shop selling all your essential goods with the unique addition of a “recoating service” for old pots and pans to make them good as new. Düsseldorfer Str. 12, Charlottenburg. Mon-Fri 9-13 and 14-18, Sat 9-15
- Veganz In addition to selling products in most major supermarkets, Berlin’s very own vegan brand has three supermarkets of its own through- out the city. Warschauer Str. 33, Freidrichshain. Mon-Fri 8-21 / Marheinekeplatz 15 (Markthalle, first floor), Kreuzberg. Mon-Fri 8-20 Sat 8-18 / Schivelbein- er Str. 34, Prenzlaur Berg. Mon-Sat 9-20