Last night, as one of our amazing cultural excursions, the program managers at CIEE took several students on a Circular Economy Tour and Dinner through the city.
These Circular Economy walking tours are organized by two wonderful women who each also run their own sustainability nonprofits focused on green fashion and eco-friendly living. For approximately two hours, they led us through the neighboring boroughs of Kreuzberg (where I live) and Neukölln, highlighting four different "circular" organizations/projects:
- This small nonprofit upcycles broken rubber boats abandoned by refugees on the beaches of Greece into extremely fashionable backpacks, bags, and fanny packs. They also currently employ three refugees as their sewers/designers. I absolutely loved Mimycri's innovative designs and had to stop myself from buying everything in the room!
- DYCLE was a little bit gross, but also super interesting and honestly a very important topic. This nonprofit has created a single-use, 100% biodegradable diaper inlay that the company can then collect and transform into fertile soil, with absolutely zero waste. In Germany alone, babies create more than 500,000 tons of diaper waste each year. Although DYCLE is not yet on the market, they ran a pilot program last September with multiple families where they would deliver new inlays each week and also pick up the previous week's used inlays. Their employees would then mix the diaper material with other dirt and substrates, creating an incredibly fertile soil that was given back to those same families free of charge.
- At this time, DYCLE is preparing to partner with a sustainable factory in Thailand to create their inlays and cloth diapers.
- Prinzessinnengarten (Princess Garden)
- In 2009, several friends came together and bought an empty, trash-filled lot in the center of Berlin, which they have since turned into a beautiful community garden. Stepping into Prinzessinnengarten felt like I was walking into some secret jungle or Narnia-style forest, because the entire area is filled with giant trees, raised beds of fruits and vegetables, and vines growing overhead. Anyone who wants to can plant something wherever they want in Prinzessinnengarten, as long as they don't use any chemicals or pesticides. The space functions as an "urban place of learning, where locals can come together to experiment and discover more about organic food production, biodiversity, and climate protection."
- The Real Junk Food Project Berlin
- TRJFP saves surplus food from organic grocery stores at the end of each day and turns it into delicious meals at their popup kitchens around Berlin. The food they save would otherwise be thrown away, mostly due to visual imperfections or wasteful regulations (such as throwing away any baked goods and bread at the end of each day).
Our fabulous tour concluded in the Princess Garden with a delicious meal prepared for us by The Real Junk Food Project volunteers. Normally I am extremely picky about my food, not to mention the fact that I'm gluten intolerant, but this meal was actually so good and gluten-free-friendly! The main meal consisted of fresh salad, stewed beets and peppers, sausage and mushrooms, quinoa, and pickled something or other (I think more beets). For dessert, they made french toast, including several pieces that were gluten-free, and a banana apple cake. So yummy!
This was definitely one of my favorite excursions so far because I am extremely passionate about nonprofits and social entrepreneurship, so I was hanging on every word that the tour guides said. If anyone reading this is ever in Berlin and interested in sustainability, I would highly recommend this unique and fun experience!