The Refill Stop
Let’s make no waste in New West! is The Refill Stop’s motto. The reason is that we are really a community store. I began The Refill Stop because I wanted to put together a local shop that takes in and reuses containers and refill them with products customers use. The greater Vancouver area has always been seen as a “green” city. But trying to get to shops that allow for refills wasn’t always easy. Or was only an occasional weekend trek for many of our customers, and my family, because access is limited to these type of stores.
Also, we carry lots of products that are made here in Canada, and right here in BC, to help create a circular economy. We refill containers with body care products, laundry and dish soaps, DIY items and cleaners. And in return, the local producers that we carry, pick up their containers and reuse them as well after we are done with them. All of the products that we carry are eco-friendly, plant based and local when we can.
As an owner, I used to work in the construction industry. I loved it. But it is a very wasteful industry and I’ve seen so much go to waste. It was awful. And I am a person who loves to put things together and make things. But I also like to make things happen. I wanted to put together my own business. But I could not see myself carrying further in the construction industry. I wanted to put together a business that worked with the environment, and not against it.
The other reason why I put this refill shop together was to be closer to my brother. My brother Mark has Downs Syndrome. Mark and my husband helped me put the store together. Every shelf, our front counter, our tables were built by myself, my husband and Mark. We reclaimed most of the wood used in the build. I was proud that the three of us put this project together.
My family is small. My husband and I have lived with my brother for years. Since my parents have both passed, I have found that Mark has gained weight, most likely is dealing with depression, and because I was not able to pay a lot of attention to him, he needed to find something to do during the week days. He is an adult and although there are programs for him, he does not go by himself, and no one really pushes him to do so. During the weekends he has his own job, but without someone to push him to do things on the other days, he does not have much of a life outside the home. And I wanted to have something that he could help me with during the weekdays too.
However, because of Mark, I have reached out to the BOE program at Douglas College, a two year program that helps people with different abilities learn skills of independence, job training and help them find employment. Mark took this program and I have reached out to them to take on students in our shop. This shop to me goes beyond many things. We want to make a difference in the way we shop, and help teach people to reuse first. Let’s go beyond recycling. I love a challenge. But I also love to make a difference.
I’ve made mistakes too and there’s a giant learning curve that I am still on. Trying to source companies that not only keep me in business but are truly eco-friendly, I’ve learned that they’re shipping and packing practices need some adjustments or that some of my suppliers do refills but are no longer local and I need to switch companies. It’s not easy. And it can be a slow process. But we are always striving to do better.
One thing I’ve learned in this whole process is that most people want to make a difference. What I find rewarding is that there are people all over the map in terms of where they are at in the process of becoming more aware of using plastics and our environment. I like being there at all stages of people’s journeys. I like learning about how I can be better. Being even just a small part and helping our community get to those practices is what we are all about.