How To Set Up a Refill Station like Refill Hawaii

“The earth is not inherited from our ancestors, but rather borrowed from our children.” – Native American proverb. Damn Europeans had to come and ruin everything 😉

The other week I had the chance to speak with Ry, who is the owner and operator (along with his wife G) of Refill Hawaii. I’ve been trying to catch up with Ry for the past few weeks, ever since I read about the organization on the incredible blog http://plasticfreeguide.com/.

Our conversations were getting pushed back as he has been in the middle of fighting for something that he and other citizens of Kauai, Hawaii’s 4th largest island, hold very dear. Days before Ry and I spoke, Bill 2491 was up for vote and under heavy debate. If passed, it would provide more restrictions on agribusiness giants who have been experimenting on the land and ruining natural crop production for years. In Ry’s words, ruthless, deep pocket biotech companies have over run Oahu, Molokai and Kauai and need to be highlighted and evicted from these lands. The Right to Know bill, Bill 2491, provides for restrictions on pesticide usage GMO seed testing on Kauai. And the best part – the bill was passed in a unanimous 6-1 from the Kauai Council!


Here’s a short description of the island and how USDA and agribusiness view it:

Kauai is known as the “Garden Isle” and viewed as an ideal testing ground for new genetically-engineered varieties due to its climate, which allows year round growing seasons, including three corn crops per year. It has served as a virtual ‘ground zero’ testing headquarters for many of biotech’s biggest firms for decades.

The USDA issues permits to Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, BASF, and, of course, Monsanto to conduct thousands of acres of open field trials in Hawaii, with an estimated 15,000 acres cultivated on Kauai.


One of the most beautiful and unique places in all of the US has been handed over to these corporations by the USDA, and the citizens are tired of it.

If we are going to push back on big agribusiness, it will be a grassroots effort. Farmers need our support and local government needs to hear our voices.

So, I finally did have the conversation with Ry, and it was amazing. After the “Aloha” greeting, we talked in depth about his business that allows organizations as well as individuals to refill 1 gallon jugs of the “daily offenders” (the things we use each day that release chemicals into the environment and come packaged in plastic containers, like laundry detergents and dish soaps ).

I would really love to see a refill station at the local farmer’s market here in Providence, and with Ry’s advice and guidance, it may be a reality sooner than later.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

The company that provides the earth friendly products is called (appropriately) Earth Friendly Products and their main laundry detergent product is called ECOS. They have 5 manufacturing plants strategically placed throughout the US to minimize shipping costs and are also predominantly run on solar power. Earth Friendly Products are definitely on the forefront of reducing their footprint. Ry mentions that people should search out different environmentally conscious companies in their area to support local businesses if possible. He also recommends trying and testing a company’s products first, as some of them are ‘greenwashers’, and their products might simply be crap.

Earth Friendly Products are shipped to Ry in large drums from the west coast of the US. 55 gallon drums, to be exact. The allows a refill station the bulk capacity to fill customers’ 1 gallon bottles up.

Once the shipping and receiving aspects are taken care of, the next part is interfacing with customers, explaining how the process works, and tracking supply and demand.

Ry explained how I could get started opening up a similar operation:

  • Collect 1 gallon bottles with caps from recycle centers, restaurants, or businesses that usually toss them or recycle them (ideally no cost to the refill business).
  • Pre-fill these containers from large bulk containers of Earth Friendly products
  • Offer the pre-filled containers to customers in a hurry, or refill containers that customers bring.

There’s more to it than that of course. It takes a good bit of hard work and determination, but it’s definitely a model that other communities can emulate.

Get this working on a small scale, like once a week at a farmer’s market, and then expand it to local organic restaurants and grocery stores.

Needless to say, I was extremely grateful to talk with Ry and hear about how Refill Hawaii operates. Running a business that helps everyone reduce their plastic usage and raise awareness of the chemicals seeping into the environment is a fantastic use of one’s time.

Refill Hawaii’s homepage says it best:

​” let no one who follows regret you were here.. “​ ​

REFILL HAWAII ENCOURAGES YOU, YOUR OHANA & BUSINESSES TO PLEASE TAKE PART IN HELPING OUR ENVIRONMENT BY SIMPLY REUSING YOUR EXISTING PLASTIC CONTAINERS & REFILLING WITH OUR OFFERINGS OF 100% BIO-DEGRADABLE, SUPER EARTH FRIENDLY CLEANING PRODUCTS & BODY CARE PRODUCTS. LET’S KICK THE CONCEPT OF “SINGLE USE PLASTICS” AND CHEMICAL TOXINS TO THE CURB!

JOIN REFILL HAWAII’S 5 “R” ACTION STEPS:

REFUSE to purchase single use plastics.
REDUCE your overall plastic purchases.
REUSE your existing empty plastic containers,
&
REFILL your existing empty plastic containers.
then finally,

RECYCLE your plastics ​properly once they are retired.

Reducing plastic usage and fighting against toxic chemicals in our environment go hand in hand. I hope to take up both fights as much as I can. I also hope to visit Hawaii some day soon. Alaska Airlines miles may be an option.

(Kalalau Valley)

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