Visit Fulfilled Goods at the GreenEXPO/Harvest Fair in the Newton Center parking lot on Sunday October 16 from 11-4. Come join us for many ideas on how to grow your zero-waste life style and to move away from fossil fuels.
This fall is the soft-opening for Newton’s first zero-waste store and refill station, Fulfilled Goods LLC (612 Washington St. Suite 2, Newton). You’ll find bulk hand and dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner, lotion, and more available for purchase using your own containers from home or donated and sanitized containers available at the store. Bulk grocery items like coffee, tea, spices, grains, dried fruits and nuts will be added to the offerings later this year.
Owner Shara Ertel tries to source her products as locally as possible, and prioritizes those vendors with closed-loop systems. This means that they send their empty containers back to the suppliers to be sanitized and refilled making the interactions between vendors and the store zero-waste as well. Canada and the west-coast have been leading in the zero-waste movement, so Shara says she’s sourcing some household products from them for now, but food products will have a huge focus on local vendors.
Shara worked in the biotech industry until 2014, when she wanted to make a career change to entrepreneurship. She was motivated to open Fulfilled Goods when a friend told her about the concept of a bulk goods and refill store, and planted the idea. Although she had been recycling and composting for years, the concept of “zero-waste” was new to her. But she loved the idea of buying as much or as little of something as you need, decreasing packaging and food waste, and wanted to make this mode of shopping available to the broader community.
If you’re wondering where you can start to make low-waste changes in your own life, Shara says the easiest place to start is with reusable grocery bags and water bottles! Beyond that, laundry detergent, shampoo, and safety razors are all items you can easily switch to zero-waste options. Shara’s favorite zero-waste item is a Swedish dishcloth. They are sustainably manufactured, easy to use, and last a long time.
Some people are reluctant to consider making a switch to “zero-waste” alternatives because they believe it will be more expensive. Shara weighed in, “I’m definitely aware of that issue, and to me the most important thing is to provide options and information about sustainable swaps. In many situations, shopping low-waste is actually cheaper over the lifetime of the product – like in the case of the Swedish dishcloth which replaces 15-20 rolls of paper towels.” Or, in the case of a safety razor, the upfront cost is more, but you save in the long run since the blades are a fraction of the cost of replacement heads or disposable razors. It’s also worth it to consider that items may be more expensive because they are ethically sourced and don’t contain harmful ingredients, so it’s important to consider what kinds of businesses you want to support, if given the choice.
Shara uses the same guiding principle in creating her store as in her personal life: start by creating a space that is judgment-free, where people will want to ask questions and learn. “Reducing your waste is about progress over perfection,” Shara says, so the choices you make must be sustainable not just for the environment, but for your lifestyle as well.
Maya Lobel worked for Green Newton as a summer intern in a grant program funded by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). Currently, she is in her junior year at Boston University.