Sustainability: a broad term thrown around often in discussion about the environment and climate change.
The nitty-gritty of a sustainable lifestyle can seem a challenge, especially considering the relatively small selection of low-waste stores in the greater Lansing area.
But Clean Refillery, Lansing's first home and bath refill shop, aims to change that misconception.
Founder Alexa Hecksel's goal is to help the community reduce single-waste plastic waste. It's not a large a challenge to get food with less waste, she said, due to nearby co-ops and farmers markets. But when it comes to finding home and personal care items with reduced packaging and clean ingredients, Hecksel said she had a hard time.
The store came from an unconventionalbeginning, opening in October 2020 amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. Hecksel and her team delivered products locally.
“We kind of treated it like the milkman,” Hecksel said. “People would leave old containers out that were empty. We would take those back and drop off a full container for them. That was the safest way to proceed during the pandemic, and I started (then) because I had time.”
A growing customer base propelled Clean Refillery into a physical storefront in REO town in April 2021.
The filling process requires two steps: bring in a container and weigh it, choose a product and weigh it again. If you don’t have a container readily available, many customers leave donation containers for others’ convenience.
“The great thing about the refill shop is that we sell in bulk, so you can get as much or as little as you want.” employee Kaila Redfield said. “If you don’t want to go full-swing and replace all of your home goods with refill products you can start really small. You can just buy one-to-two uses of something just to see if you’re interested in it."
"It’s not about getting rid of everything you have and starting over, it’s just about making wiser decisions as you move forward.”
Hecksel sources products locally whenever possible, she said. She makes one of the shop's products in-house. Clean Refillery stocks soap and dry shampoo from Soulful Earth Herbals, a storefront across the street. The top-selling product, laundry detergent, is sourced from Haslett, along with dish-soap and cleaning supplies.
Hecksel sells items from many Michigan vendors and women-owned businesses, she said, but her largest criteria is ideology.
“As long as the company is close enough to us and follows practices that we support, like reduced-waste and closed-loop, that’s part of the criteria for us carrying a product," Hecksel said.
The shop has built a clientele that hopes to preserve the environment, which they hope to expand, alongside supporting individuals who aim to transition to more sustainable lifestyles.
“The community that we have been able to cultivate is super supportive and really interested and passionate about helping our mission,” Redfield said. “I would love to see the shop expand, just to see more customers come in. A lot of people don’t know about it, and a lot of people don’t really understand what refilling is at the core of it.”
Heksel said when people come into her shop, they're "voting with their dollar."
“It’s really important because you’re supporting people and values, rather than corporations and profit,” Hecksel said. “It might not be as cheap as if you were to go to a big-box store, but (the products) are made by small businesses, they’re made by LGBTQ people and they’re made by women. And you’re actually supporting the people who are making them rather than the large corporation who is just paying minimum wage.”
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