'Neighborhood eco-friendly lifestyle': Refillism aims to reduce plastic waste

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

Plastic bottles. Plastic straws. Plastic bags. 

For the average York County resident, single-use plastic consumption is a part of daily life. And few of them think about where those items end up: the landfill.

One local entrepreneur is hoping to shift that mentality — zeroing in on the age-old motto of "Reduce. Reuse. Recycle."

Owner Elizabeth Bower, of York City, at Refillism, a refill and zero waste, store, on South Beaver Street in York City, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York City-based Refillism opened this April, and store owner Elizabeth Bower has big plans for how she can shape York's future simply through consuming less plastic.

"It's a place where you can bring your own bottles and jars and fill it with household and beauty supplies," Bower said. "So they are low waste, biodegradable goods. Essentially a neighborhood eco-friendly lifestyle store."

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Refillism, located at 38 S. Beaver St., houses every type of cleaning product under the sun. From personal care products like shampoos or body washes to home products like laundry detergents and dish soaps, customers pay per ounce to fill their reusable bottles.

Refillism on South Beaver Street in York City, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.  Dawn J. Sagert photo

And while many of Bower's clients are "refill" pros who bring their own containers, Refillism also offers a line of glass bottles and jars for customers new to the refill journey.

"Our mission every day is if we can get one person to come in and change one little habit in their routine — we did what we're supposed to do," Bower said.

While customers can find household cleaning and bathroom products, Refillism does not stock traditional brands found in grocery stores.

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Instead, Bower partnered with eco-friendly labs across the United States to bring nontoxic, organic and cruelty-free products into her store.

"Refill stores are not a new concept because they are in bigger metropolitan areas," Bower said. "York was ready for one."

When labeling prices, Bower wanted to ensure it was fair and competitive. Through cross-comparisons with Walmart and Amazon, Bower was able to create unique prices.

A mural is shown on the south side of Refillism on South Beaver Street in York City, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.  Dawn J. Sagert photo

For example, Refillism's multi-surface cleaner costs $0.30 an ounce. With the average consumer bringing in a 10-ounce bottle, it would cost $3 for a fill-up.

"What are you spending on your eco-friendly options at Target and at Walmart?" Bower said. "It's definitely very affordable when you're jumping on board with refilling."

Initially, Bower started Refillism as an online store during the pandemic — with occasional in-person vendor shows. As more people sought this type of business in a brick-and-mortar variety, Bower pursued opening her own business in downtown York.

Various house and beauty products are available at Refillism on South Beaver Street in York City, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.  Dawn J. Sagert photo

When she's not running her shop, Bower also works as an interior designer.

"I think my favorite part about doing Refillism is is getting people to think about the things they do every day and making little lifestyle changes," Bower said. "That not only will be helpful for you now, but it's helpful for our future generation."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.