Aimee Lee Ball in The New York Times:
THE SHOPPERS AT Original Unverpackt, a food market in the gentrifying but still gritty Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, arrive largely by bicycle, carrying mesh totes and burlap sacks. Along one impeccably organized wall, they lift the spouts of gravity bins to let grains, nuts or legumes tumble into the tins and jars they’ve brought along. At the bulbous stainless steel fusti, they dispense olive oil, balsamic vinegar or soy sauce into glass vessels. A customer samples a Medjool date, but looks confused about what to do with the pit — there are no napkins, no trash cans — and ends up stashing it in her pocket. She is, after all, shopping at a store committed to zero waste. Designed by the Los Angles-based architect Michael J. Brown, a disciple of Daniel Libeskind, the shop is a particularly sleek and modern manifestation of precycling, the concept of eliminating trash before it is created. If you don’t use new plastic, paper or metal to begin with, you won’t have to dispose of it.
It’s been 20 years since the Environmental Protection Agency began a media campaign to introduce precycling, but it’s yet to catch on in any substantial way with Americans. Now, a new breed of mostly European store owners, who are as aesthetically sophisticated as they are ethically minded, are trying to change how we shop by presenting the market as a curated space. In an age in which we simultaneously expect and are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice at the grocery — this brand of whole-grain pasta or that one? — these stores offer something defiantly old-fashioned: one or two alternatives, selected by a member of a righteous cognoscenti. ‘‘There’s one kind of rice in my store,’’ said Andrea Lunzer of her eponymous Viennese shop. ‘‘I don’t have rices fighting with each other. I’ve chosen for you — that’s why it’s called Lunzers.’’