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What's the Point of a Refillery? Refilling for Beginners

Do you ever wish you could get shampoo without the shampoo bottle? If the idea of swimming in empty shampoo, dish soap and laundry detergent bottles annoys you, you’re not alone. Luckily, there’s a new type of shop on the block: the humble refillery. 

You might be intrigued by this new concept and willing to give it a try. Maybe you find packaging unnecessary, and you’re sick of it taking up all your trash bin space. Maybe you want to reduce your environmental impact on the planet. Or maybe, you just find plastic packaging and bottles unsightly (yes, that counts as a good reason!). 

But if you want to start refilling, know that refilling is a different shopping experience than shopping at your standard supermarket. It’s not like a big box store where you can show up with nothing more than a credit card in your pocket. Refilleries require ample bags, a zen mind, and in most cases, your own clean, dry containers. 

If this all seems like too much work, you’ll soon find that it’s easier to adapt than you think. Plus, there are lots of unexpected benefits to shopping at the refillery. 

What is a refillery?

A refillery is exactly what it sounds like: a place where you can refill your containers with goods. 

Some refilleries act as bulk grocery stores, where you can fill up on bulk dry goods and other refillable food items. Other refilleries, like Roots Refillery, act as an apothecary or a home supply store. Here, you can get refills of everyday essentials like hand soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and more. 

The main point of a refillery is to go package free. Plastic packaging (which makes up the majority of packaging) cannot be upcycled. As a result, it takes up space in our trash bins and ends up in the landfill. It then proceeds to leach chemicals into the environment, harming wildlife, marinelife, and waterways.

Refilleries exist on the philosophy that there’s a better way to get our everyday essentials. 

Why should I shop at a refillery?

Shopping at a refillery will bring a lot of unforeseen benefits to your life. The main benefit is that you can feel good knowing that you’re contributing less to single-use plastic waste. Every time you refill your own container with shampoo, you save a plastic shampoo bottle from the landfill or the ocean. 

But aside from the environmental factor, there are other unexpected benefits. Refilling your own containers means you can get as much or as little as you want. If you’re curious about those toothpaste tablets but worried you’re not going to like them, you can just try a scoopful. Regular grocery stores make you commit to a set amount, which is potentially wasteful of resources (and your money!).

Another benefit of refilleries is the emphasis on all-natural products. Not only are they harmless to the environment, they’re harmless on your body. Generic versions of products like toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo contain tons of sketchy chemicals. Unnecessary additives like triclosan, phthalates, and parabens lurk in these products.

Refilleries also place a large emphasis on local goods. Supporting Canadian brands puts money back into the local economy, improving local infrastructure and government-run services. In addition, supporting local means less transportation of goods, and thus, less CO2 emissions from vehicles. 

In general, shopping at a refillery is a much more pleasant shopping experience than shopping at a big box store. The experience of shopping at a refillery is similar to the farmer’s market, with local goods and a variety of unique finds. Sure, this form of shopping takes more time and requires more patience. But deliberately slowing down is mindfulness at its best.

Refilleries are a great place to meet like-minded people, too. Who knows–your new eco-BFF or soulmate could be waiting for you at the refillery!

Refillery shopping etiquette

Shopping at a refillery is not the same as shopping at a regular grocery store. You need to show up prepared, and you need to be more patient and mindful.

Before you even leave your home, make a list of your needs, whether it’s shampoo, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc. Then, gather a bunch of containers of all different sizes, and make sure they’re clean and dry. Plastic containers are great because they’re lightweight and shatterproof. Don’t be embarrassed to bring your empty yogurt or ice cream tubs. Rather than judging you, we’ll salute you for upcycling your containers!

If you don’t have your own containers or don’t want to bring them, you can borrow, rent, or buy one from us. 

While it sounds obvious, bring your own shopping bags. This one is really easy to forget. If you take the car, just make sure to put your bags back into your car right after unloading. Create a seamless system that doesn’t allow you to forget your bags.

With our fun slick system, you can weigh your containers on your own, but we are always happy to help!  Our Tare system does not involve having to write the weights on any of your containers, you simply scan one of our Root Chips which holds the container's weight (tare) , attach it to your container and off you go! way, Taring is the most important, you do not want to pay for the weight of your container. 

Finally, it’s time to fill ‘er up!

For more information on refilling etiquette, check out our Refilling at Roots page.

Can I shop at a refillery with kids?

While every refillery is different, Roots Refillery is totally kid friendly! In fact, we encourage you to bring your kids along. This is a great way to introduce your kids to sustainability. We think your kids will be endlessly curious about our shop, and won’t experience classic supermarket boredom.

Mindset shift

Another crucial tip for successful refilling is creating a healthier mindset. Ditch your all-or-nothing outlook, and don’t aim for perfection. Not everything in your life has to be zero waste. Sometimes, plastic packaging is inevitable. Committing to just a handful of plastic-free refills will have a huge impact on your environmental footprint.

When you go to the refillery, treat it like an outing instead of a chore. If it’s your first time, look at all the items on offer to see the possibilities for reducing your waste. For example, you might be surprised to know that you can get individual dishwasher tabs

When refilling, remember to have fun. Take your time, and don’t rush yourself. As they say, haste makes waste!

Looking for more tips for reducing waste? Check out our blog about reducing kitchen waste!