Purple Magazine
— F/W 2015 issue 24

Original Unverpackt

Original_4

No Waste Supermarket
environment, berlin

interview by SVEN SCHUMANN
portrait by MAXIME BALLESTEROS

 

Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski, founders of Original Unverpackt, claim their store is the world’s first supermarket to eschew packaging completely. This seems feasible for fruits and vegetables but calls for creativity when it comes to the variety of other products a supermarket needs to offer. It’s an ambitious project for two young women (Sara is 31 and Milena is 24) with no previous experience in the field.

SVEN SCHUMANN — How can you sell toothpaste, for example, without any packaging?
MILENA GLIMBOVSKI — We offer toothpaste tablets that you chew on when you want to brush your teeth. The tablets eliminate wasteful packaging, and your toothpaste doesn’t get contaminated by the plastic that would be surrounding it. It’s better for you. We did a lot of research to find these kinds of alternative products. We spent nine months with two employees just researching what was out there. For a lot of them, you can bring your own containers; other products are sold in glass jars that you can return on your next visit.

SVEN SCHUMANN — How did the idea for Original Unverpackt start?
SARA WOLF — It all started about two-and-a-half years ago. As with many good ideas, we were actually pretty drunk when Milena first came up with this idea. We were rambling about waste and how stupid it is to have all this packaging, and by the end of the night the idea was born to start a supermarket without any.
MILENA GLIMBOVSKI — When we were sober again, we actually sat down and decided to write a business plan and ended up winning lots of prizes.

SVEN SCHUMANN — How did you finance turning the store into a reality? Did these prizes come with funding?
MILENA GLIMBOVSKI — Some of them. We got the rest of the financing through crowdfunding. We set a goal of 20,000 euros. At the end of the campaign, we had reached over 100,000 euros. It was actually the most successful crowdfunding campaign in Germany, ever. We had over 4,000 supporters, which had never happened before.

SVEN SCHUMANN — If your goal was 20,000 euros, what did the surplus enable you to do?
SARA WOLF — We could not have done this with the original sum. That would have only helped us to start it. The 100,000 euros was actually the right amount to open our first shop without having to look somewhere else for money. It also really motivated us. If people are willing to spend their own money to help us do this, we really have to do it.

SVEN SCHUMANN — Are there health regulations that stand in the way of opening a store without packaging?
SARA WOLF — It is definitely a bureaucratic problem. We have a 60-page hygiene report, and we also work with an expert who consults with us on that matter. It definitely cost us a lot of time and money to come up with an acceptable plan for the German bureaucracy.

SVEN SCHUMANN — A big percentage of the price of a product is in packaging. If there is none of that, are you able to offer produce for a better price?
MILENA GLIMBOVSKI — In the long run, yes. If we open more stores and buy in bigger bulk, we will end up being 20% cheaper than the common supermarket. Packaging usually makes up 20% of the price of a product. We are still really small, and this is our first test market here in Berlin, so we don’t really have the buying power yet. But with growth, we are hoping to reduce the prices quite a bit. So far, we have had over 1,000 franchise requests from all over the world, so we will see.

SVEN SCHUMANN — So many people want to join you!
MILENA GLIMBOVSKI — Yes, I know. It’s crazy. But it’s a bit early in the process. People are very excited about it. For now, we told everybody to hold on a while. We will get back to them in a year or two.
SARA WOLF — Berlin is a really open-minded city and full of people who care about sustainability and are willing to try out a new lifestyle. And rent is still quite cheap, so you have the opportunity to experiment and screw up every once in a while. In Berlin, this is possible. I hope it will be the case everywhere.

[Table of contents]

F/W 2015 issue 24

Table of contents

purple EDITO

purple NEWS

purple BEST of the SEASON

purple INTERVIEW

purple FASHION WOMEN

purple FASHION MEN

purple DOCUMENT

purple BEAUTY

purple LOVE

purple TRAVEL

purple PHILOSOPHY

purple SEX

purple NIGHT

purple STORY

purple VISUAL ESSAY

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