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Sustainable Tourism
Consumer awareness walking tours in Saarbrücken

Packaging-free store in Saarbrücken
Packaging-free store in Saarbrücken | © Beatrice Anton

Shopping never used to be this complicated: should I buy this plastic-wrapped organic cucumber, or that locally sourced conventionally grown product with no packaging – which is better for the environment? This is the sort of dilemma that shoppers face every day in the produce department of their local supermarket, for example.

Today we are confronted with a seemingly limitless range of products that are less than transparent in terms of the source of their raw materials, how they are made, or their energy footprint, shelf life and suitability for recycling. As consumers, we all make purchasing decisions every day, whether we like it or not. And we all want our choices to play a part in making the world a better place, but the only way we can hope to do that is to understand more about the background to the products we buy and use, and to think about the possible alternatives.

That is much easier to do once we become more aware of the criteria that inform, or should inform, our purchase decisions, and if we can exchange ideas with other like-minded consumers. So I was very curious to see what I could learn from taking a consumer awareness walking tour in Saarbrücken.

Walking tour opens up new perspectives on shopping

“Saarbrücken weltbewusst erleben” (translating approximately as “Enjoy Saarbrücken without hurting the planet”) is a not-for-profit initiative of the Saarland Development Policy Network (NES) incorporated society. On the last Saturday of each month from October to March, the initiative organises public walking tours around Saarbrücken.

During the walk, which takes around two hours, participants discuss, debate and reflect on the environmental and social factors involved in various types of products, and their ability to make a difference through the choices they make. It’s not just about food products, because sustainability impacts on every aspect of our lives today. Participants are able to select the issues they are interested in in advance, across a wide range of options: meat, cocoa and coffee; paper products and travel; or mobile phones and banking, to name but a few.

As well as providing an opportunity for dialogue, the walk itinerary also includes some establishments that offer a different kind of consumer experience. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the wealth of options available here in the capital of the Saarland region. Our walk took in a well-organised packaging-free store, a number of small organic produce shops, a vegan bistro, and a simpatico alternative cafe serving delicious cakes and pastries.
 
  • The alternative Café Zing in Saarbrücken © Beatrice Anton
    The alternative Café Zing in Saarbrücken
  • Vegetables in the packaging-free store © Beatrice Anton
    Vegetables in the packaging-free store
  • Blocks of chocolate on display in the packaging-free store © Beatrice Anton
    Blocks of chocolate on display in the packaging-free store
  • “Mutter Erde” (Mother Earth) natural foods shop in in Saarbrücken © Beatrice Anton
    “Mutter Erde” (Mother Earth) natural foods shop in in Saarbrücken
  • Packaging-free store in Saarbrücken © Beatrice Anton
    Packaging-free store in Saarbrücken
Conclusion: The concept is completely flexible, adaptable according to the interests of the participants for each tour. The tour guides address the interests of each group, and tailor the information provided to the participants’ level of knowledge and expertise. The tours are therefore offered in three modules: a first look behind the scenes for sustainability beginners; a more in-depth coverage of the issues for those with some prior knowledge; and an advanced module to provide fresh insights even for those with a long-standing interest in sustainability issues.
 

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