Forget about buying food in plastic packaging that is used once and ends up in a dumpsite. This results in needless pollution of our environment – the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land that provides for us – to which we are fundamentally tied. With ever-increasing numbers of environmentally conscious consumers, package-free shopping is a steadily growing trend across the globe. A clean shopping revolution is upon us, and the current standard of disposable packaging might hopefully be a punch line in the near future.

Czechs often look up to Germany (maybe less so with the recent Volkswagen scandal), thinking that the country offers a better quality of life. Its attempts to handle the refugee crisis, supportive labor conditions, ambitious plans for using energy from renewable sources and conscious approach to the environment are only a few of the things Czechs can envy.

Whether you look to the Berlin-based Original Unverpackt, Texan In.gredients, Italian Effecorta, English Unpackaged and, for more than two years now, Prague’s Bezobalu, all these shops have something in common: When you go grocery shopping there, you need to bring your own bags and boxes.

Purchasing from local suppliers and offering mostly organic products is part of these stores’ credo. This  is  another way to be more environmentally friendly, as it reduces transportation costs and pollution. Also, by buying only the needed amount, the amount of waste in the shops and households drops significantly.

Extended opening hours contributed to the increasing popularity of Prague’s Bezobalu. Jakub Drnek, an Anglo-American University humanities student, chooses to shop there for many reasons, but mainly because the retailer tries to reduce  unnecessary waste.

I also like that they are attempting to subvert the waste culture in general, teaching people that pretty packaging does not need to accompany an excellent product,Jakub Drnek, an AAU student

When we read or think about issues related to sustainability, international organizations with big names and governments are often thought of as the leaders in trying to reduce mankind’s impact on the environment. But can individuals like you or me do something on a daily basis to reduce that impact?

Ghandi’s quote, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” may fit the philosophy of projects such as Bezobalu.

Ask yourself what you can do for the environment today. I am not talking about the acres of burned rain forests or polluted oceans. Look around you – the answer will present itself. Even buying your favorite chocolate bar or soda creates waste. And let’s be honest, no one likes streets, alleys or parks flooded with litter.

In 2013, each European household generated more than 300 kilograms of waste, out of which 65 kilograms (21 percent) was recycled waste, according to the European Union statistical office Eurostat. This represents a positive trend – in 2008, only 8.8 percent of waste was recycled – suggesting that more people are aware of the environmental impacts of everyday waste.

Bezobalu was created as a nonprofit organization and research center. Currently, Bezobalu is researching optimal ways for sustainable distribution of food it sells that will comply with EU and Czech legislation. Ecologos, an NGO in Italy, undertook a similar study. The results show that along with preventing waste in shops and households, package-free shopping can lower prices for the customers ranging from 30 to 50 percent.

The Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic sees package-free shopping as a great opportunity. “The most considerate approach is to produce no waste which would have to be recovered or disposed,” says Ministry spokesperson Petra Roubickova.

However, the trend and the offerings are still limited.

The limited range of goods is one of the reasons why the Ministry of the Environment does not intend to support projects like these for now, explains Roubickova.

A very small percentage of the environmentally oriented population is accepted as a complementary alternative in the distribution of organic products,Jitka Gotzova, the director of the Division of Food Safety at the Ministry of Agriculture.

The limited range of goods is one of the reasons why the Ministry of the Environment does not intend to support projects like these for now, explains Roubickova.

But Bezobalu is continuing to expand its offerings and attract more customers with legumes, nuts, seeds, flours and the two newest additions, organic coffee and cannabis tea. There is also something unique in its atmosphere. “It makes me want to return there again and again,” says AAU student Chiagoziem Obiakor.

Cover Photo by Martin Ranninger

By Martin Ranninger

Martin takes care of day-to-day operations of the magazine, maintains the online magazine's version and communicates regularly with the editorial staff, contributors and university administration.