Local shops offer refills on personal products and household cleaners, aim to reduce plastic waste – The Land

In recent years, Greater Cleveland has welcomed several stores providing a zero waste shopping experience where the packaging-conscious shopper looking to eliminate or minimize excess plastics can bring containers and refill them with soap, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap or household cleaners.

Refill Goodness owners Jennifer Vedrani and Jennifer Salkowski opened a location in Medina and a satellite location inside Made Cleveland, a boutique selling all local items in the Cleveland Heights Coventry neighborhood, in early 2023. Plans are underway to add another location in the Gordon Square neighborhood early this year.   Three Compartment Lunch Box

Local shops offer refills on personal products and household cleaners, aim to reduce plastic waste – The Land

Lakewood’s Birdtown neighborhood has been home to STEM Handmade Soap for the past 10 years. Owners Steve Meka and Dave Willett opened their second location in the Shaker Heights Van Aken District five years ago. 

Zero waste shopping is gaining momentum as people become aware of its environmental and economic benefits. It couldn’t come at a better time, with throwaway plastics on the rise and the planet heating up due to global warming. According to the market research firm Gitnux, 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year, and 50% of them are single use. Only about 9% of global plastic waste gets recycled, while the rest ends up in landfills, oceans, or elsewhere. 

The zero waste market is expected to grow by 122% from 2021 to 2028, Gitnux said. Zero waste practices can save the average household about $2,000 a year. 

“This statistic is a powerful reminder of the financial benefits of zero waste initiatives,” writes Gitnux author Lorena Castillo. “Not only do they help reduce our environmental footprint, but they can also help us save money in the long run.”

Interest in refilling is growing. “We firmly believe from what we are seeing that people are invested [in zero-waste and] that they want to refill,” said Vedrani, co-owner of Refill Goodness.  Vedrani shared via email that her company has refilled 5,279 unique customers since they started, and the business saw 20 percent year-over-year growth in their first three years. 

“We’re very confident as we continue to go into 2024 that we’ll see an even larger increase,” she added. 

When asked about a target audience, Vedrani said, “The driving factor is people who prefer to reuse versus dispose [of containers].” She added, “People are starting to be aware of the fact that plastic is not a sustainable resource for us.”

Meka, co-owner of STEM Handmade Soap, agreed. “We are listening to what our customers are looking for and they’re looking to become more zero waste and looking for places they can refill their containers,” she said. Customer interest is what led Meka to create their foaming hand soap refill program. 

Caring for the planet is the common denominator between the two retailers who offer zero-waste options to their community. Meka shares his company’s mission of “care of self, care of community, and care of the planet, our three pillars of care.” Similarly, Vedrani shares concern about how much plastic is being consumed and says that recycling isn’t enough. “We have to start looking at refilling and reusing,” she said. 

When asked what impact they’ve experienced in their own lives from their commitment to refill and reuse products, Vedrani said her family has gone from producing two garbage cans and one recycling bin of waste/recycling per week, to producing this amount only every month. She’s also saved money. For example, switching to paperless towels and Swedish dishcloths saved her over $100 annually, she said. 

Lastly, there are the more intangible benefits. “My mental health has improved knowing that I am being a proactive and solutions driven consumer versus just buying what I think I need,” Vedrani said. “It’s truly rewarding to do something that makes a difference, even if it feels small at first.”

At STEM Handmade Soap, the bars are packaged in sleeves which can be recycled or composted. Meka says the refill program for the foaming hand soap requires a starting investment of $44 for a glass dispenser and a 32oz growler of your favorite scented foam hand soap. Customers can choose from 20 different scents. The growler fills the dispenser four times, and customers can return the empty growler and receive a $5 savings off the purchase of the next growler, which is $29.  

When asked about customer interest for the refill program, Meka shared there is a “huge demand” and, “Sales of these growlers have more than exceeded our aspirations and expectations. We probably go through about 200 of these growlers a month.”  

At Refill Goodness, customers can bring their own favorite container or take one of the freebies provided. First, they weigh it empty and record the weight, then they fill it with products like shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, laundry detergent, or household cleaner. Product contents are clearly labeled. The eco-friendly products, which are sold in bulk, come from other small businesses in the Midwest, in order to support other locally owned small businesses. 

Customers can sample products by buying a few ounces or fill the container completely. First, the container is weighed and recorded. The product is priced by the ounce. The cost is calculated by subtracting the empty container weight, then multiplying the product by the cost per ounce.

Both retailers are making plans for future growth. Meka says, “There are a lot of things we already do and there are a lot of things that we’re aspiring to do and we continually move forward.” This year, for example, STEM Handmade Soap launched a lotion refill program. Next year, Meka plans to expand the product line to include laundry soap and household cleaners.

Refill Goodness is gearing up to open its third location this spring in Gordon Square. The woman-owned business will be part of a new market, called El Corazon, that will be located inside Valerie Mayen’s Yellowcake shop, which recently celebrated its grand opening. Vedrani said this location helps to open up new opportunities to grow their customer base by making Refill Goodness available to the southwest, west, and east side communities of Cleveland. 

“I grew up on the water in nature and we were always hiking and biking,” Vedrani said of her decision to grow her company. “We only have one planet and in order to protect our natural resources and provide for future generations, we have to be aware of our decisions.”

Refill Goodness has locations in Medina and inside Made Cleveland in Cleveland Heights. Shop or learn more on their website. STEM Handmade Soap has locations in Lakewood and Shaker Heights. Shop or learn more on their website.

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Local shops offer refills on personal products and household cleaners, aim to reduce plastic waste – The Land

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