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From Renewable Energy to Birkenstock

Dear Readers,

this entry focuses on Germany’s renewable energy, bicycle-friendly cities, exporting and German brands. I’ll try to give you some interesting and fun facts about German efficiency 😉 If this sounds reasonably intriguing, please continue…

Renewable Energy

Germany is well known for its renewable energy sector and it is one of the most successful worldwide. The main goal of the last few years has been to reduce CO2 emissions, promote renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and not be reliant on nuclear power anymore. The nuclear phase-out first started in 2000 and after the Fukushima accident in 2011, it was widely supported by the public and more measures for more renewable energy were taken. To give an example, in the first six months of 2014, almost 31% of Germany’s electric power came from renewable sources such as wind, solar and biogas. Especially in the North of Germany where there is lot of wind energy and many wind turbines. Nationwide, Germany is home to 21,607 wind turbines. Along with this trend, more and more homes use solar power for their households.

Next to the renewable energy, it is also highly encouraged to ride your bike everywhere. The cities are usually very bicycle-friendly and people like to ride their bikes to work or for recreational purposes. An example of a very bicycle-friendly city would be Münster in North Rhine-Westfalia. It is a typical “Studentenstadt” (student city), where a lot of students live, and the people of Münster say that riding your bike is the most common means of transportation in the city. I have experienced that it is quite dangerous as a pedestrian, if you walk on the bike paths and instantly people will use their “Fahrradklingel” (bicycle bell) and you have to jump out of the way to avoid being hit.

German brands

In general, Germany is well known for being an exporting country. It has the largest economy in Europe and is also the third largest exporter in the world, after China and the United States. The service sector in Germany contributes 70% of the total GDP, industry with 29.1% and agriculture with 0.9%. Products in engineering such as automobiles, machinery and metals are produced the most. It is also leading in producing wind turbines and solar power technology. But enough about that.

There are many famous German brands which are sold and known worldwide. If people hear “German brands” they generally think about car names like BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and VW. Instead of giving you a list with all the different brands, I’ll elaborate on some brands in more depth. And hopefully you might have heard some of them before yourself.

The first brand is “Birkenstock” and also very popular in Oregon! Wherever I’ve gone shopping, I have always found Birkenstock shoes here. For those who don’t know about Birkenstock: it’s a shoe manufacturer with headquarters in Vettelschoß, Germany. Birkenstock is a brand of sandals and other shoes which are known for contoured cork and rubber footbeds. They are very comfortable and fit well into the shape of your feet. In 1967, Birkenstock came to the USA and it’s grown more and more popular ever since. In the USA, a lot of medical professionals and blue-collar workers use them. In Germany people most often use them as house slippers and lately also as street sandals.

The next brand is better known in the baking sector- Dr. Oetker. Not sure yet? It is a German company that produces baking powder, cake mixes, pudding, cake decorations, frozen pizza etc.

The company was founded by Doctor August Oetker in 1891. It’s first successful product was “Backin,” which is a pre-measured combination of baking powder mixed with flour and other ingredient that produce a cake. This is still used today by the different baking powder companies, and many German recipes ask for the pre-measured backing powder packets. Today the company is still in the the Oetker lineage- a true family business.

10g Backin package (1902)

Last but not least, I’ll elaborate more on the brand “Aldi.” Aldi is a discount supermarket chain with over 9,000 stores in over 18 countries and is one of the world’s largest privately owned companies. The chain was founded by the Albrecht brothers Karl and Theo in 1946 and stands for Albrecht Diskont. The brothers took over their mother’s store in Essen in North Rhine-Westfalia, (established in 1913) and built up a chain of stores. In 1960 the brothers split up into two groups: Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd, each working independently within specific areas. Karl Albrecht was the richest man in Germany with a wealth of 17.2 billion euros before he died in 2014, closely followed by his brother Theo. Theo Albrecht is also the owner of the Trader Joe’s chain in the US. Little is known about the brothers and only a few pictures exist of them because they became very reclusive after Theo was kidnapped in 1971 for 17 days, only being released after paying seven million Deutschmark (about 2 million dollars).

If you read this, you made it to the end of the article. Congratulations. I hope you enjoyed reading 😉

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