I’ve been on a crusade for the last six months or so (here, hold my handbag while I climb on my soapbox). Ever since that cute-but-disturbing ad about the orangutan in a little girl’s bedroom was released, I’ve been trying to adjust and align my shopping habits to ensure that they are more eco-friendly. My first step was to remove all palm-oil based products from our house, get a worm farm (yes, it’s a thing, no we haven’t named them), and stop accepting those damn prolific plastic bags every time I shop.

It’s a good way to start, but what to do when large retailers continuously insist on individually wrapping and packaging everything from chicken breasts to coffee capsules? Our post-modern, digitally-connected and always-on lifestyle demands convenience to ensure sanity, but is it worth it when convenience comes at the cost of a planet?

Enter Sam and Dom
Sam and her husband Dom understand, in their words, that “there is no planet B”, and that’s why they’ve opened one of Joburg’s first packaging-free stores, The Refillery, in Cedar Square. “We decided to do plastic free July last year,” Sam, the mother of two small children tells me, “And we found it easier than we thought, even with two kids. That’s when the idea for The Refillery was born.”

Convenience with a conscience
As the name indicates, The Refillery gives shoppers the option to stock up on pantry and household essentials, without the impact to the planet. I’m impressed as I take a walk around, and notice I can get everything from dried herbs, spices, oats, tea and biodegradable coffee capsules to facewash and shampoo bars (another lifestyle change I’d highly recommend).

It’s a weigh-and-pay system, and if you forget your glass jar or container, you can buy another set at the store, along with other goods to make your home a plastic-free one, like bamboo toothbrushes and bowl covers (made by vulnerable women) in lieu of using plastic containers or cling wrap. But one of the things I’m most impressed by is that The Refillery also hosts large containers that offer shoppers household cleaners like laundry detergent, handwash, fabric conditioner and more.

The best part of all? They offer free delivery for orders over R500, when you shop via their website.

An easy lifestyle change
Sam says that she and Dom decided on the Fourways area, because they themselves are locals, and know that there are a lot of young families around them who are capable and keen to change their consumption habits. That said, other stores are in the pipeline, with 3 set to open in Cape Town, a second in Johannesburg, and possibly another in Nelspruit. They will also look to stocking fresh produce from local, organic suppliers in the near future.

For now, I can enjoy convenient, guilt-free shopping at a beautifully-outfitted little store owned by people who are trying to reduce the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, one consumer at a time.

Alright, I’m getting off my soapbox now.


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