A community built on waste

A community built on waste

Photo by Noëmi Kramer

As you walk through the streets of Berlin, it is hard to avoid the glass bottles, plastic bags and other litter that is thrown on the ground. No, Berlin is by no means a perfectly clean city, but things are changing. The zero-waste movement is growing rapidly. New initiatives, stores and companies come together to form an open community, focusing on the battle against waste and educating the public about sustainable living.

Connecting through foods

Roots Radicals, founded in 2019 by Monica Kisic, is a sustainable food company, with the mission to reconnect people with good food. “At Roots Radicals we use rescued fruits and vegetables in our products. We also have a very strong approach towards circular cooking. So not only do we make our products with the rescued produce, we also look at the byproducts that come from the productions and try to upcycle them into new things.” As an example Monica uses a ketchup that was produced recently. The whole tomatoes were peeled and turned into ketchup. However, instead of throwing away the tomato peels, they were dehydrated and turned into salt.

In line with their mission, Roots Radicals aims to raise awareness among the consumers of their community about the problem of food waste and encourage them to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. The company focuses on building a more sustainable future when it comes to food consumption and production, while keeping the entire process transparent and circular.

“We want to achieve these goals through what we are doing already, which is rescuing the fruits and vegetables and having a direct impact on avoiding food waste. Also through our circular cooking approach, preventing our own waste and showing that you can be a food company make it work like this.” Another way of achieving the goals is through consultation for other companies and restaurants. The next step for Roots Radicals is The Hub, a café, store and workshop space where the food is produced and served with glass transparency: people can see every step of the process.

The idea for Roots Radicals came when Monica decided to start her own company. “I had always been interested in high quality foods, I worked in restaurants where we made almost everything ourselves. I really wanted to figure out how I could connect with people at home. The best way for that was through making products which people could take back home and enjoy.” While starting Roots Radicals, it was impossible to ignore the food waste problem and food insecurity. But, sustainable and zero waste products are not available to everyone. Through donating revenue to organizations that tackle food insecurity and bringing the education to the people themselves, Roots Radicals aims to make the sustainable lifestyle more accessible.

As Roots Radicals is a smaller company, it is easier to connect to the people of Berlin in a closer way. “We are constantly interacting with our community and the people of Berlin, in the Markthalle Neun for example. Roots Radicals has a stand there, where people can try our products and talk to us about what we are doing.”

Where it all comes together

Another unique concept in Berlin is the Zero Waste Berlin Festival, which focuses on bringing people together. There are two areas, one for business, entrepreneurs and stakeholders that are related to zero waste and sustainability. The other one is aimed towards the citizens. The festival is a space where people can learn, understand and connect with others around the topics of zero waste, circularity and sustainability.

Around four years ago, Coral Ruz, the CEO and founder of the Zero Waste Festival, started to create a community revolving around the zero waste and sustainable lifestyle. “I funded a meetup group, and on the first event, more than sixty people showed up. Afterwards I started to do events every four to six weeks, with a specific topic for each event.”

As the community kept on growing, it was time for something bigger. The most natural solution was to turn these meetups into one big event. Thus, two to three hour meetups turned into a full weekend festival.

The main goal of the festival is to envision and facilitate a zero waste future. “We create a space where we can give people the knowledge, tools and the possibility to collaborate and connect with each other to create this future.” The festival also provides a chance for sustainable businesses to be seen, to connect with others and to reach their target audience.

Even for people who aren’t into the zero waste lifestyle, the festival allows them to learn and understand the zero waste and sustainability movement. It shows people that there are many options and solutions to live more sustainably. “At the festival, we aren’t trying to promote consumption, we’re trying to promote a change of mentality.”

To achieve these goals, the festival consists of many different formats with activities. There are two stages where experts are invited and innovations are discussed. “We have talks, panels, interviews, workshops and masterclasses. Next to that we also have exhibitors, investment speed dating, art and music.” All the activities are organized according to the three pillars of the festival: zero waste, circularity and sustainability.

Since Coral started with the meetups, there have been more than ten events, with three thousand people visiting the events. Within the last three years, more than fifty companies have joined the festival community and have reached the three thousand attendees.

Roots Radicals and the Zero Waste Berlin Festival are only two examples of the many zero waste initiatives in Berlin. Even the city of Berlin has set up its own initiative, through a zero waste website. Altogether they form an open community, where learning and working together is encouraged. Because ultimately, the fight against waste is best fought together.

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