New downtown York shop aims to inspire community to join the ‘refill’ movement

By Anna-Grace Rowland

MODERN refill shops have been popping up all throughout the United States with many Americans now making an active effort to reduce their plastic waste. The wave of eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle products has made its way to central Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Bower, a local business owner in downtown York, sat down for an interview to talk about the refill movement, highlight her new refill shop, and give advice for college students on how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

So what led to Refillism, which opened in York on Earth Day?

A former contributor to Forbes Business Magazine wrote in an article published in 0ctober 2020 about the concept of refill shops. Refill shops are usually small, independent stores that sell personal-care items, household products or food goods where shoppers bring their own containers. The goal of these shops is to reduce the sale and use of single-use plastic products.

It’s a concept that has been around for a long time, only now modernized. “Remember the milkman, and those glass bottles you used to leave on the doorstep to be replaced with fresh milk each day? We had it right in the 1880s, when milk delivery in bottles began in the UK by horse-drawn cart. Before that, milk was poured from large containers into milk jugs at each house,” the author wrote.

According to the World Population Review, the United States produced almost 38 million tons of plastic waste in 2010, and seemingly hasn’t slowed down. This report attributed the United States as the second largest producer of plastic waste in the world.

Says Elizabeth Bower: ‘I wanted to share the movement with people.’ (Photo provided by Elizabeth Bower)

With that in mind, Bower says that she wants to inspire the York community to join a movement to help reduce plastic waste and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Bower is a licensed interior designer and was working from home before the pandemic as a corporate interior designer. She had the idea of starting an online refill shop for eco-friendly and refillable products and it turned into reality in 2020.

She says that she has made sustainability a focus throughout her life, and during the pandemic took the opportunity to bring her activism to others. “I’ve always done some of these eco-friendly things in my own household, like reusing napkins, repurposing bottles for other things, being a thrift shopper…,” she says. “I wanted to share the movement with people.”

Bower started her business online with the inspiration to make a sustainable lifestyle “functional and essential,” she says. When asked about how she came up with the name for her business, Bower says, “-ism per its definition means movement. It’s the movement of refilling things you already have.”

Refillism’s goal is to bring quality, natural, eco-friendly, zero waste, refillable and reusable products to the York community. The owner saus that the most challenging aspect of starting Refillism was researching and sourcing. “Finding eco-friendly ingredients that are cost-effective, not only for the business but for the customer, is a time -onsuming process,” she says.

The shop is open every day except Mondays. (Photo provided by Elizabeth Bower)

She talked about her pricing strategy and how she has compared her prices with other shops around the country and even Amazon, as ordering personal care products online has become more popular among consumers.

After the pandemic, Bower brought her business to trade shows for the first time. The demand to shop for her products in person was so high that Bower decided to leave her corporate job as an interior designer. Bower made the jump to turn the Refillism “side hustle,” as referred to previously by Bower, into her full-time business venture.

Bower launched the new brick-and-mortar shop, at 38 S. Beaver St., with a ribbon-cutting at Refillism’s grand opening on April 22. This is a new concept in central Pennsylvania, with Refillism being the first store of its kind in the area.

Refillism is a refill and zero-waste shop that offers eco-friendly, refillable household and beauty products and other zero-waste lifestyle products. Bower’s inspiration with the Refillism store is “to serve the community, to provide things that people need and use everyday,” she says. “We want to be as community-based as possible, that’s why we encourage people to bring their own containers from home to refill with products at the shop.”

At Refillism, shoppers are encouraged to bring their own bottles from home. “That’s the concept,” she says. “You pay for what you put in them. Buy or bring bottles and jars and start the journey.”

Elizabeth Bopwer Bower launched the new brick-and-mortar shop, at 38 S. Beaver St., with a ribbon-cutting at Refillism’s grand opening on April 22. (Photo provided by Elizabeth Bower)

At Refillism, shoppers are empowered to “reduce, reuse, refill, rethink” by being environmentally conscious with every purchase.

Bower was asked if she had any advice for college students to live more sustainably, “Don’t try to do it all at once, like don’t change all your routines,” she says. “The refillism movement is an aspiration to a lifestyle. It has to make sense within your life. Don’t think that you have to do it all at once. Large corporations push products made mostly in plastic containers and most people don’t know how to recycle the different plastics that the products come in. Combine those two biggest things together and take one step at a time. You can only control what you can control.”

Information regarding store hours and free parking can be found on Refillism’s website under the Visit Us tab. You can find Refillism on social media @shoprefillism on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.

The hours of operation are listed below:

Sundays, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Mondays, CLOSED

Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Wednesdays, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Fridays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Anna-Grace Rowland is a senior majoring in integrated marketing.

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