How Berlin is preparing for a spin cycle of combined sustainability efforts.

Ich bin ein Berliner, and my washing machine is second hand. Complete with certificate and warranty, it was safely delivered to my home by one of the many local white-goods repair businesses in the city. A study has shown that yearly, repaired white-goods would actually fill a (bee) line between Berlin and Stuttgart.* Just imagine this mass of items instead being discarded and replaced by newer models, year after year. Using repaired or second-hand goods is just one way towards a greener future.

Berlin has always been known for its sustainable sharing culture, even before the wall came down and the city in turn reentered capital status. These roots, stemming from decades of an isolated ‘island’ existence with a lively hand-me-down culture, have nowadays more or less seamlessly merged with a newly realised urgency brought on by climate change and its various scary prognoses in tow. The pandemic years and a war next door have further pushed sustainability goals front and centre. Nowadays, initiatives reach from federal to municipal through to business and consumer levels.


Wannsee lake cycling tour. Photo: visitBerlin, Thomas Kierok

The 2022 energy transition congress, initiated by the federally owned dena enterprise, promotes the slogan ‘Alles auf Ziel’ (‘all on target’). Taking place in Berlin on 14 and 15 November, it promises panel discussions and networking events with high-ranking guests from politics, business, science and research: “In uncertain times, we need to combine forces to work towards a resilient energy future together.”

According to an international study quoted by the forum for Sustainable Economy, nearly 80 per cent of enterprises state that sustainable management generates more or equal benefits. The Sustainable Meetings Berlin initiative puts a specific focus on sustainable event management and tourism and helps Berlin-based enterprises to gain more visibility through a management and certification system, as well as networking and individual support.


Vegan Lifestyle at the Green Market. Photo: The Green Market Berlin

The new Berlin senate, meanwhile, aims to act on the 17 goals of the 2030 sustainability agenda, set in motion by the last administration. It covers a vast scope from water and energy supply to gender and economic equality through to educational rights. The latest and probably most popular support effort is the temporary 29-euro monthly public transport ticket; a regional successor to the nationwide 9’euro relief ticket of the summer months.


WISTA technology park Adlershof. Photo: visitBerlin, Photo Wolfgang Scholvien

But what exactly do sustainability efforts look like in everyday business? How much support is around, and how much is left to individual initiative? We have spoken to small business owners from two key sectors catering to both locals and tourists, to find out.

Owner of independent fashion boutique UKO in Kreuzberg, Doritt Koerzel, explains that especially for small businesses, sustainability in the end is always a matter of individual initiative. There is still a lot of Greenwashing going on for the big players, she says, and as an independent you have to make your own decisions on a daily basis: “Once a design catches your eye, you need to check not only material and price but also supply chain and production standards.” The certificate she looks out for during ordering season is the international GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard).


Tempelhofer Feld, community garden. Photo: visitBerlin, Philip Koschel

Oliver Kellermann of the much frequented Unser Café in Pankow works in tandem with a business-owned bakery: “To us, sustainability means to create a healthy cycle with as little waste as possible. It all comes down to self-initiative and long term planning. This means efficient menu planning as well as local goods and sustainability-orientated business partners. With our concept, sustainability comes along with higher costs initially – however, it does pay off in the long run.” The nudge towards a green economy came with becoming a father: “I try to increase my share and decrease my footprint every day. It is immensely important for me to know that my son will be able to enjoy his future on this planet as much as I have for the past 40 years.”

As a tourist and visitor, you can make a difference by choosing sustainability-friendly options; from green hotels to bicycle rentals through to Eco shopping and vegan restaurants. Berlin is a sustainable city at heart and will welcome your efforts towards reducing your carbon footprint on every corner.

My second-hand washing machine and I will soon enter the sixth year of our co-dependent relationship. We are very happy together.


Explore the city, Potsdamer Platz. Photo: visitberlin, Pierre Adenis


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