Guest Blog: How we started a zero waste refill shop, by Alice from Refill & Replenish

We asked Alice from Refill and Replenish to tell the story of what inspired her to start a zero waste refill business with her business partner Laura. She has also given us some top tips on how to reduce the amount of single-use plastic we all use, or even go plastic free! Over to Alice:

January 2018, I, with many of you, watched Blue Planet 2 – Plastic Pollution Awareness. I sat. Horrified. I knew that plastic consumption was on the up due to our lives led by convenience, but this? I had no real understanding. But I remember thinking this was enough, knowing by everyone taking small steps to make a difference and wanting to take action.

I decided to do an experiment. I collected up all of the items in my bathroom and make up bits (fyi, I am NOT a big wearer of make-up, moisturiser or anything that actually makes my face look decent!) and decided to lay them all out. It filled my kitchen table. Filled it. My kitchen table sits a six, generously, eight at a push. I was beside myself. How could I justify this? Christmas presents, the Soap and Glory ‘specials’ from Boots (you know the ones!), buying shampoo when it was BOGOF…..and so on. To this day, I am still trying to use some of these items up.

I looked and realised that throwing these things away wasn’t an option. I reviewed what I would never use, and gave those things away. What I did use and could replace (shampoo bars, solid soaps for shower gel, refillable bathroom cleaner and so on) and started on my journey to make our house more plastic free.

And I looked. At that time, Emsworth was lucky to have ‘Pantry Weigh’ – which wasn’t plastic free, but you could buy what you needed. Also, crucially, they didn’t offer liquid refills or non-liquid alternatives…but it was up for sale. So, I sat on it. Thought about it and realised that wasn’t enough. I had the vaguest of business ideas (to call it a plan would be an insult to all those who make business plans!) and approached my good friend, Becky Lodge from StartUp Disruptors who mentioned someone else was thinking about this, Laura.

I stalked Laura, invited her for breakfast and that really was that. We met in May,  and started our journey with research, research, and more research. Spent ages deciding on a name. Involved an army of good friends to design our logo, help with marketing, set up our spreadsheets and business bits (we remain uninterested in these!), our website, social media presence and so on. All the while figuring out our brands, who we wanted to stock, organic/non organic, would we allow certified palm oil or not? etc. It was a long list, but we were determined and focused. We decided we wanted to reach as many people as we could, so our mobile van plan commenced.

Sept 2018 and day one – Petersfield, in a gale (I am not joking), we pitched our gazebo (Argos, poor choice), with no weights (much to the hilarity of the rest of the hardened market crew) and waited to see if we got any customers. We did! By the end of day, we were wet through, cold and couldn’t feel our feet but we knew that people wanted our service and products.

Refill and Replenish Alice and Laura
Alice and Laura with their mobile stall in the early days!

Fast forward to today and we have our permanent shop in the Folly Market at Petersfield, we have launched our delivery service and we are working on our expansion plans. We, like all small independent business have been impacted by the pandemic and  the concerns for Covid and returning to a ‘new normal’ remain. Please, consider all your small businesses in these challenging times and how you can support them.

Living plastic free – the tips!

1. Don’t buy anything initially. Reuse, repurpose, rethink. Classic line – I want to go plastic free, I’ll need to buy some jars! OK, if you must, but  what about your jam jars, icecream tubs and takeaway containers? Reuse those before buying new.

2. Take it one bit at a time. Deciding to go plastic free can initially be hugely overwhelming. Pick the bathroom or the kitchen and look at certain aspects and what you can do to change.

3. Veg and fruit (generally) comes swathed in plastic. Try and support your local greengrocer if you have one and are able to. I never find the time to do this, so instead i use a local farm who offers delivery  –  https://thelocalvegboxpeople.co.uk/about-us/who-we-are

4. Shampoo/conditioner – refill your current bottles or use a bar. Easy swap.

5. Cleaning products – refill, use ‘ocean saver’ OR learn the old tricks of white vinegar and bicarb of soda – great for a kettle descale, cleaning your drains or polishing up your bathroom.

6.  Milk – can you swap to glass bottles? Our local farm offers this, or there are nationwide delivery companies who offer this.

7. If you have children in nappies…..please see if you can swap to reusable. If not the nappies, then the wipes – as both products have plastic in them and come wrapped in plastic. Good websites to find out more: https://www.thenappylady.co.uk/ and https://www.cheekywipes.com/

8. Kids snacks – again, generally a plastic heaven! We have swapped to fruit, making cheese or plain biscuits and making muesli bars (general mash up of coconut oil, some nuts/seeds/dates and that’s it!). Saves a fortune and saves the planet.

9. Meals – if you love a ready meal, have a think about if you can buy them frozen. Generally speaking (not in all cases), frozen items tend to be cardboard wrapped with less plastic compared to fresh food counterparts. It is worth checking this and if you can make swaps.

10. Don’t beat yourself up. Plastic has a purpose, but we have created an over reliance on it. Challenge yourself each time and see if you can swap. If you can’t, so be it. I tried to give up crisps…..my addiction is too significant! I’ve decided I’m allowed that treat and you should too.

 

Thanks Alice! Find out more about Refill & Replenish on their website, or follow the on social media @refillandreplenish

 

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