MAPLEWOOD, New Jersey -- The idea of transforming into a zero-waste lifestyle may seem daunting to many, but the arrival of zero-waste shops like Good Bottle Refill and Dry Goods Refillery is making the idea of living a sustainable and plastic-free lifestyle easier.
"This idea is not all or nothing. I think people can feel very intimidated that they somehow have to transform their pantry into this beautiful, you know, zero waste thing. And at the end of the day, every small step counts," said Rachel Garcia, owner of Dry Goods Refillery.
The shops, which are part of the General Store Cooperative, are enabling local families to reduce their personal plastic waste, in a space in which local artists, bakers, and entrepreneurs also come together to promote and strengthen the idea of a strong and sustainable community.
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"We're the first refill shop in New Jersey, and you can bring your own containers and fill up on canned and dish soap, laundry detergents, cleaning products, and bath and body products, we have refilled over 16,000 bottles, those are 16,000 bottles that would have been bought at a store and probably tossed into the recycling bin without even a thought," said Deanna Taylor-Heacock, founder of Good Bottle Refill Shop.
Dry Goods Refillery, on the other hand, sells about 130 different types of food products, which range from olive oil and maple syrup to beans, grains, and rice.
For Garcia and Taylor-Heacock, two New Jersey moms who live out sustainable lifestyles themselves, the level of community support has been overwhelming.
And despite the challenges they've had to overcome as a result of the pandemic, they have been able to pivot their businesses to meet these challenges all while providing customers with prices in line with other grocery stores.
"We really see this as a judgment-free zone. Some people are very new to the thought of reusing bottles, and we just want to be a welcoming place to show you that you can make a difference," said Taylor-Heacock.
Moving forward, Garcia and Taylor-Heacock hope that stores, in general, can adopt a zero-waste concept while proving that living a sustainable life is not as daunting as it may seem.
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