If you Google “plastic waste 2022,” it won’t take long for the search engine results to offer up some pretty sobering statistics. Those keywords are exactly what I searched for as I began writing this article. “This will be a great lead,” I figured. “I’ll start with a good, juicy stat on plastic waste to illustrate the problem.”
What a wake up call. There wasn’t just one good plastic waste statistic I could lead with; there were too many to count. The further I scrolled through the search results, the more information I encountered that only accelerated my already-accelerating existential dread. The U.S., for example, is among the world’s top producers of plastic waste, outranked only by China and flanked by Germany. We generate more than 35 million tons of plastic, but we only recyle 8.3% of it. And there’s the fact that there are about 30 million tons of plastic waste clogging up the seas and oceans alone…I could go on.
The point is, the problem of plastic waste is a behemoth, but we don’t have to accept it as the status quo. Small actions can result in big change — and one of those actions is shopping at your local refill store.
What Are Refill Stores All About?
When you hear the words “refill store,” your mind probably goes straight to zero-waste. Yes, refill stores do encourage zero-waste living — after all, they’re here to reduce consumer-generated plastic waste. However, there’s a common misconception that shopping at a refill store means you’re never allowed to produce any trash. It’s virtually impossible not to produce any waste, but the fear of not practicing the zero-waste lifestyle perfectly keeps a lot of us from even trying.
Going zero-waste is less about being perfect and more about continuously improving. It’s a concept focused on waste prevention that encourages the redesign and reuse of resources, keeping plastic waste out of landfills and the oceans. It doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. It can be as easy as grabbing a couple of reusable containers and heading to your local refill station.
However, visiting a refill store — whether it’s ours or one of the others you can find in and around Austin — can be intimidating for first-timers. That’s why we’ve developed this handy guide so you can feel like a pro before you even step through the doors.
First, we’ll go through the process of shopping at the Slow North refill store: how it works, what to bring, et cetera. Then, we’ll give you a rundown of all the beautiful zero- and low-waste products you can find on our shelves.
The Slow North Bulk Bar: How Does It Work?
We call our refill station the bulk bar, specifically because it’s great for stocking up on dry goods in bulk. Whether you’re looking for soaps, teas, herbs, or household products, you’ll be able to find them here. (Read on for an in-depth breakdown of our package-free products!)
When shopping for zero-waste goods at Slow North, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the selection at first. Don’t worry! Our team is here to answer any questions or offer you guidance if you’re unsure where to start. Once you’ve decided on your bulk selections, we’ll help you decide on the right container and start weighing.
Refill stores charge by weight, which means that before we weigh your selection, we’ll weigh the container you’re carrying it home in and subtract that from the weight of the product. You can bring your own container - like old tupperware, glass jars or bottles, or wax paper wrap - but if you don’t have your own container, the bulk bar is also stocked with paper bags, jars, and bottles. From there, we’ll seal and label your container, then meet you at the register. It’s that easy!
You can also bring in empty Slow North containers to refill them with your favorite Slow North products. For example, if you loved our Lavender + MSM Facial Mist, bring in your empty container and we’ll fill it up with a package-free version!
What You Can Find At The Slow North Bulk Bar
From cleaning products to fresh herbs, here’s a list of everything you can find at our Austin refill store. Want to learn more about each product? Head to our Bulk Bar Menu and click on the drop down lists for more information.
Bulk Dried Herbs
Our bulk bar is home to a beautiful, diverse array of dried herbs that can be used in a variety of applications. P.S. if you haven’t already, check out this interview with our herbalist-in-residence, Stephanie Tait. She’ll give you the rundown on where to start if you’re new to natural medicine and recommend a great herbal remedy for menstrual cramping.
Here are the herbs you can find in our bulk bar:
• Holy Basil
• Lemon Balm
• Milky Oats
• Raspberry Leaf
We’ve got plenty of package-free incense (and incense accessories) at the bulk bar, too. You can use these as an accompaniment to a wellness ritual like yoga, meditation, or journaling. They’re also wonderful for clearing the energy in a room.
Incense + accessories you can find in our bulk bar:
• Copal Resin
• Myrrh Resin
• Frankincense Resin
• Benzoin Resin
• Palo Santo Cones
• Palo Santo Sticks
• Black Sand
• Charcoal Disc
Bulk Face and Body
Natural, plastic-free products are a must for any clean beauty connoisseur. You can find all of these at our bulk bar to satisfy your package-free cravings. (Note: if you’re buying products like epsom salt or himalayan pink salt, we also sell wooden scoops so you can scoop them without the mess.)
Here are the body care products you can find in our bulk bar:
• Calendula Mist
• Powder Charcoal Face Mask
• Powder Kaolin Face Mask
• Soothing Bath Soak
• Epsom Salt
• Dead Sea Salt
• Himalayan Pink Salt
• Liquid Castile Soap
• Organic Argan Oil
• Everyday Face and Body Oil
• Face and Hair Serum
• Herbal Bath Tea
• Herbal Facial Steam
• AHA + Peppermint - Refreshing Toner
• Lavender + MSM Facial Mist
• Beetroot + Turmeric Clay Mask
• Cleansing Spray - For Hands And Surfaces
The bulk bar also features a variety of household products that are low-waste, such as our fabric dish covers and wool dryer balls. I personally love our wool dryer balls — they’re biodegradable, sustainably-sourced, cruelty-free, and they keep the toxins associated with conventional dryer sheets away from my clothes and sensitive skin. Pro tip: add a spritz of linen spray (also available for refill!) to each wool ball before tossing them into the dryer. It’ll give your laundry a subtle, fresh, and natural scent.
Our newest addition to the bulk bar is our natural laundry powder. You can choose from a variety of scents ranging from minty and herbal to floral and citrusy (or unscented if you prefer!). No matter the scent you choose, our all-natural laundry powder formula is free of synthetic fragrances, brighteners, and dyes so you can rest easy knowing that it’s safe for you, your family, and even your septic system.
Plastic-Free Is The Way To Be
The problem of plastic waste isn’t going to solve itself. It takes action from people just like you and me — those of us who need to grab soap, skincare products, or household cleaners from the store every once in a while. Shopping at a zero-waste store shows true commitment to caring for both yourself and the planet. And, as we’ve outlined above, it doesn’t need to be intimidating or even time-consuming! Stocking up on plastic-free products is as easy as grabbing a few containers and going wild at your local refill store.