What to Know About Shopping at Zero-Waste Stores


When we talk about refilling at the pump, we’re usually talking about gas prices.

But this time, we’re talking about refills that are much better for the environment — maybe even your wallet.

It has to do with the boom in “zero-waste” and refill shops, where containers no longer end up in the local landfill.

Walk into Adrienne Grolbert’s store, Refillary, and you’ll find typical grocery items.

“We sell household cleaning products, laundry, dish soap and shampoos,” she said.

But instead of rows and rows of small one-time-use containers, the pumps here let you re-fill products yourself.

“So instead of buying a shampoo bottle that you throw away to buy another shampoo bottle, why not bring it in and have it refilled?” she asked.

Low-waste refill shops like Refillary are popping up across the country.

According to the blog LitterLess, there are zero- or low-waste stores in all 50 states, plus a growing number of retailers offering bulk or refill products online.

The idea, of course, is to reduce your carbon footprint by using fewer single-waste plastic items, like bottles for soaps or mouthwash.

What to know while trying to shop ‘green’

But there are a few things to remember before you hit the pump.

Jessica Davis of Indiana University says not everything claiming to be “green” is a real zero-waste product.

“Things that might lead you astray are if the packaging happens to be green or it has a picture of leaves or the planet on it,” she said.

If a company claims to be zero-waste, she suggests you look up labels or certifications you’re unfamiliar with.

Some companies, she says, might try to lure you in with words like “green” or “eco-friendly,” when they are not really zero-waste.

Also, she says, remember to save and bring containers with you.

“Am I going to remember that I have to run to the store after work, and need to have the container in my backpack if I’m hopping on the train or the bus?” she said.

That’s not a problem at Adrienne Grolbert’s shop.

Here, some customers donate jars for others to use, so if you didn’t bring one, you are OK.

When it comes to cost, Grolbert admits, her prices can’t compete with Walmart or the dollar store. She doesn’t do their massive volume to keep prices super low.

But, if you’re already making more sustainable shopping choices, she said, “this will save you money, this will reduce plastics.”

So consider refilling to cut down on waste, and save by reusing your old grocery store containers or purchasing inexpensive ones at Goodwill or the Salvation Army so you don’t waste your money.

About the Author

John Matarese

John's goal is to help as many TV viewers as possible save money, avoid bad deals, know a rip-off when one comes their way, and be educated consumers. His informative weekly consumer segment "Don't Waste Your Money" now airs on 45 TV stations from San Diego to Tampa to Houston and Cincinnati. More.

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