The Refill Shoppe

The Refill Shoppe

November 14, 2019

Going Zero Waste: The Story of Stuff

by Ariel Maccarone

At Ethic Marketplace, we believe in story. We believe in your story; in our story; in the stories of the people who make the “stuff” you love––like the cotton in your favorite t-shirt. We believe human beings are like little snowballs, bumping into the world here and there, absorbing the impact of experience, accumulating a sense of who they are. We’d like to share the story of one snowball with you: Michelle Stevens, owner of Certified B Corp, The Refill Shoppe.

Anything you read about Michelle will undoubtedly include her childhood aboard a 42-foot sailboat named Pictor. (Yes, really. Michelle lived at the bow of the boat while her parents and two dogs lived in the half cabin.) Eventually, the family moved the boat to a live-aboard dock in Naples, Florida. Her parents' choices were not part of some grand career plan, but rather an expression of a set of values and the desire to live a lifestyle reflective of those values.


the refill shoppe owner


The Refill Shoppe (brainchild of artist and activist, Michelle Stevens) reflects the same life approach. Based in Ventura– a beach town an hour and a half north of Los Angeles– The Refill Shoppe is a testament to what can happen when you begin to ask yourself why the world is the way it is. “Why do Americans buy roughly 400 million tubes of toothpaste a year, culminating in a cost of 759 million dollars when they could make their own using coconut oil and baking soda for only fifteen cents?”

At The Refill Shoppe’s brick-and-mortar store on Main Street, you can bring in your own reusable containers and refill them with a variety of bulk household products - 99% of which are made in the United States. You can choose from a variety of refill options such as all-natural shampoo; multipurpose cleaner; laundry detergent; and face wash, just to name a few. If you didn’t remember to bring a bottle, you can choose from a variety of reusable containers for sale at the shop.

the refill shoppe zero waste bulk


Those who do not live in Southern California can buy the very same items on The Refill Shoppe’s website. (The Refill Shoppe even goes so far to ship items exclusively through USPS, which travels frequently and uses common- used routes; in turn, returning the shopping footprint. When you buy online, the items are shipped in refill pouches and include a pre-paid envelope. The idea is for you to mail the pouches back so they can be sterilized and reused for the next customer.

Every item that The Refill Shoppe carries has been ethically and sustainably manufactured––a fact vouched for by independent auditor B Lab, the auditing arm of Ethical Consumerism frontrunners, B Corporation. Zero Waste is not just about how each person’s buying choices impact the land. It is also about how one person’s story connects to countless others. This fact is powerfully evident in the infamous collapsing of garment factory Rana Plaza. Michelle used the example of one person she heard of who researched everything that required to make the average sandwich.


the refill shoppe zero waste bulk


“The grains that were in the bread...who grew that; where did the seeds come from; where did the water come from that watered [those seeds]? It’s kind of crazy when you look backwards....[It’s about] the resources and the human effort that went into [making these things] and also what they mean to you. There are way too many things in the world. If we stopped producing clothes today, we could all have things to wear for the next hundred years....[Even thrift stores] are throwing clothes away...they get too many clothes [and have to] throw them away every so often; a dumpster of perfectly good clothes....”.

“We all have to be working toward something,” Michelle said. "I feel like our checks and balances are way out of wack, and the corporations are winning and the people are losing.... ‘Shopping small’ makes a difference, period. Every purchase you make with a company that cares is a little vote for the kind of world you wish to live in.”


the refill shoppe owner

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