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New grocery store pioneers a healthier way to shop

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

German grocery store concept is package-free only

It's the eternal snack question: Why so much bag for so few chips, food companies? There's nothing like opening up a new bag of chips only to find that half the bag is air. And it's not just chips that have this problem. In fact, many would argue that most packaged goods have way more packaging than goods. But a new grocery store in Germany aims to fix this problem by eliminating all packaging.

Original Unverpackt (Original Unpacked) is stocking their shelves with larger items, like produce, in bins and smaller items, like cereal, in gravity storage units.

The reasoning behind the store is two-fold. First, to be better for the environment, and second, they say it will be healthier and more budget-friendly for customers.

Excess packaging materials have been a problem for a long time. If you're an average American consumer, you'll toss about 440 pounds of packaging into the trash this year. While much of it can be recycled, negligence and ignorance still leave a lot of it rotting in landfills. And I say that as someone who is now feeling very, very guilty about that cereal box I chucked in the garbage yesterday.

But while saving the environment is nice, most of us are more worried about saving money — something Unverpackt says it will deliver as well. Having food uncontained allows people to buy exactly how much they want, rather than wasting money on, say, an entire package of saffron if all you need is a teaspoon. In addition, you aren't paying for the packaging and all the marketing costs behind it. I mean, the Lucky Charms guy has to pay for his publicist, agent and vocal coach after all. (Probably. OK, not probably. I'm sure his accent is 100 percent natural with no artificial vowels or consonants.)

The owners say it can also help people make healthier choices as foods that don't come in packages are often healthier than processed fare. They are also focusing on selling local foods to shorten the distance between farm and table. If you forget to bring your own reusable containers, you can buy some paper cups and bags there — an image which makes me think of a frozen yogurt bar except filling your cup with lentils, oatmeal and buckwheat groats.

But Unverpackt isn't going to totally cut off customers from their favorite packaged goods, as they say they will still carry a few select items, like cleaning products, on shelves. They didn't mention how their meat would be displayed but the part of me that is easily grossed out hopes that it will at least come wrapped in paper so I don't have to touch it. I'm also hoping that unpackaged milk means a cow out back because I've always wanted to try milking a cow.

In all seriousness though, Unverpackt is a great idea. It seems like a win-win for the environment, the store and the customers and I hope this idea catches on in more areas. (Cow milking optional.)

More healthy eating

The organic food guide
12 Ingredients you should use more often
10 Reasons to shop at your local Asian grocer

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