Thursday, July 11, 2024

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BUSINESS MONDAY: Spotlight on Refill GB—a mission-based shop with a welcoming vibe (and zero plastic!)

Founded three years ago by Berkshire native Jamie McCormack, this charming Great Barrington retail space helps you make better choices for your health and the planet.

“This is an amazing store! I could spend all day exploring the carefully chosen items that cover all household and personal care needs that are sustainable, beautiful, fun. The atmosphere is calming, the refill process easy, and it smells so good in there!”
— Katherine Hinds, Google review

Rosseter Street in Great Barrington is fast becoming the cool new place for all your self-care and wellness needs. Tucked in the seam of railroad tracks stretching behind The Granary building, you’ll find Mulberry Hair Company, Berkshire Bodywork, Emma Dweck Whole Health, and Wise Body Healing. Add to the offerings Refill GB, which recently moved from Main Street to 27 Rosseter Street, and you can now take care of even more wellness needs in one stop!

Founded three years ago by Berkshire native, psychotherapist, and mother Jamie McCormack, this charming converted retail space is packed with things to help you make better choices for your personal health and that of the Berkshire environment we all strive to preserve.

Pandemic-inspired conscious living

Many people became more conscious of the impact we have on natural ecosystems during the pandemic shutdown—when nighttime stars suddenly “reappeared,” garden supplies disappeared from store shelves, and people had time to observe the spectacular wildlife and beauty in their own backyards. Some of us may have resolved to spend more time in nature or adopt more conscientious habits to live more sustainably. For Jamie McCormack, the pandemic created greater awareness of the impact plastic (in particular) has on our health and the health of our planet. And that awareness turned into action.

McCormack decided to open a business to provide consumers with options that, at the time, were not being offered anywhere else—including shampoo and body wash, dish soap and laundry detergent. As she began researching, she found not only refillable, reusable packaging but alternative products that didn’t require bottles at all, helping to curb the exponential build-up of plastic containers in our landfills. “Our goal is to help customers reduce their use of single-use plastic. In addition to refills, we also source non-refill products with environmentally friendly packaging,” she explains.

She credits her son with inspiring the idea for the store. When he was young, he adored animals (like most kids) and had “favorite” animals over the years. One long-lasting favorite was the Blue Whale. “When we learned about their population decline, it was evident that plastics contributed to their food loss,” she shares. “To have to tell a child that the choices humans are making are killing animals hits hard. I thought more about all the single-use plastic I purchased. This was something I was already aware of, but it took the blinders off about the importance of recycling and hit even harder. I wanted to do something and make some impact.”

The idea seeds a storefront

Refill GB began three years ago as an online retail business selling goods that were good for you and good for the environment. People placed their orders, and she hand-delivered them. Those early efforts grew into a “locally owned and operated small retail shop offering eco-friendly home and personal care product refills.” The emphasis is on cruelty-free products made in small-batch facilities and with natural ingredients—and not sold on Amazon.

McCormack’s first retail store was on Main Street in Great Barrington, sandwiched between Eagle Shoe & Boot Co. and Cumberland Farms. Acknowledging the former location was “better traveled,” she says her new spot offers better parking for customers in a uniquely suitable setting. She made the move in April after converting a single-car garage into an inviting shop.

The new Refill GB storefront—an “upcycled” garage—opened this spring. Photo by Robbi Hartt

You, too, can make a difference, dear reader!

Many of you are already sourcing more responsible products and packaging, but chances are you spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best options. And you are likely still placing orders on multiple sites, getting separately packaged boxes shipped to your door from across the country—or the world.

Here’s a smart solution: What if you could place your order online and simply pick it up in one place when you run into town for groceries once a week? Or buy products in bulk using refillable containers and only have to worry about replenishing your supplies once a month? (While this writer is no great mathematician, it’s not hard to calculate the savings in actual cost and the carbon footprint you leave.)

A different way to shop for your wellness needs, sustainably and thoughtfully. Photo by Robbi Hartt

Moreover, what if buying your products at Refill GB could help you significantly reduce (if not eliminate) your reliance on plastic? Vicky Ehrich, who met McCormack through their children’s school three years ago and now works with her at the store, explains, “We screened the documentary We’re All Plastic People Now at the Triplex this past Tuesday, and it really opened my eyes to the way plastic is affecting our health. The different chemicals from plastic streaming through our blood, baby’s placentas, mother’s breast milk, etc. are so alarming. I went home after watching the film and looked around and decided there was still a lot of work to do.”

The film, introduced by actor/environmentalist Ted Danson and produced by South Florida PBS, highlights the enormous toll our addiction to convenient, single-use plastic is taking on our well-being. It’s in the air, the water, the soil, the foods we eat—and it’s showing up in our saliva and blood. Calling this “an experiment in which we did not consent,” the film reports that 99 percent of all plastic is made from fossil fuels (oil and gas), and these plastics contain 29 toxic chemicals now causing cancer and reproductive problems in humans. Watch it, and then remember that there is another way to shop. “Jamie vets all of our products very carefully, making sure they are safe for us and for the environment, use sustainable or recycled packaging, and are sourced from local (where possible) or small-batch businesses,” Ehrich emphasizes.

Empty jars await (if you don’t bring your own refillable vessels) and the pumps are ready! Photos by Robbi Hartt

You’ll find products to help you care for your body, your laundry, your house, and more from trustworthy brands like Kit.sch., Super Zero, The Bare Home, Common Good, The Unscented Co., Mama Suds, Myni, Dirty Labs, Nellie’s, BKind, and Routine. They even sell bamboo bandaids and toothbrushes, natural silk dental floss, toothpaste-alternative tablets, and flaxseed comfort packs to soothe your aches and pains. There are reusable lunchbox items, backpacks for kids, cloth shopping bags, and books to inspire your journey away from toxic plastics and toward more sustainable living.

We can’t necessarily all achieve a zero-plastic or zero-waste life in the next year. Still, by refilling alternative containers and paying attention to how and where we source our products, we can start moving closer to, as “Zero Waste Nerd” author Megean Weldon puts it in her 2020 book, An (Almost) Zero Waste Life.

“We are not the only ones living on this planet who are being destroyed,” McCormack reminds us. “Our goal is to make sustainable shopping as simple and enjoyable as possible by curating the highest quality products made by people and companies we trust. We care about our planet and those who live on it. We take pride in our product selection and hope you find our products as fun and exciting as we do.”

The children’s corner is filled with mindful gifts. Photo by Robbi Hartt

In addition to ordering online and perusing the retail shop, you can find Refill GB products every other Saturday evening at the Berkshire Busk! Market in downtown Great Barrington beginning June 29 and ending August 31. “We’re hoping to get in front of people with a mix of refillable products and gifts and increase our store traffic once we’ve earned their trust,” Ehrich says.

The store is open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Sunday and Monday.


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The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.