There is no doubt about it—humans create a lot of waste. But more and more people are doing something about it, embracing the Zero Waste Movement philosophy.
What does ‘zero waste’ mean? According to Ecocyclesolutionshub.org, the zero-waste approach seeks to maximize recycling, minimize waste, reduce consumption, and ensure that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.
Flux Bene founder Rebekah Joy was alarmed at how many garments ended up in landfills, creating huge amounts of waste. “Garments are the second greatest pollutants between dyes, solvents, and physical landfill space,” she said. “Nothing should be disposable, in my opinion.”
Joy found that the more she researched, the more distressed she became. She was moved to do something. “I thought, ‘We have so many clothes that could be used,’” she said.
Joy took a sewing class and soon was upcycling and selling clothing that she bought at thrift stores. After receiving a good response, she opened Flux Bene, a shop dedicated to small-batch ethical and zero waste clothing.
While she was creating, Joy realized that she could make more of an impact by teaching and guiding others to follow her steps. ”The Flux Bene team produces around 25 pieces each month. Through our patterns and teaching, we can inspire the reuse of many more garments,” she said.
Joy introduced her first pattern last year and will soon be releasing her second. It is her hope to release two patterns a year while still creating her own pieces. In an effort to encourage others to join her, Joy also launched the 10,000-Garment Project, with the goal of repurposing 10,000 garments by June 2025.
“I wanted to quantify our impact so I set a goal,” Joy said. While she realizes that 10,000 garments is ambitious, she hopes to encourage others to join the movement through her social media outlets and pattern releases. “The idea is to get others to join in and teach others,” she said.
Larissa Russo became concerned about her own consumption of products and waste, so during the pandemic, she used the down time as an opportunity to research consumption and waste. “I saw on TikTok that other cities had refill/zero waste stores where you could go to buy products to put in your own containers, but Pittsburgh didn’t have a dedicated store like that,” she said. “I thought we needed one and then I thought, ‘Why not me?’”
Russo resigned from her corporate job in April 2021 and started The Refillery, at first going to pop-up markets, then expanding to a brick-and-mortar store in Squirrel Hill last October. Customers can bring their own containers, buy containers at the store, or even take advantage of the community shelf where others donate containers that they can’t use. They then fill the containers with products that they need. “We have 36 variations of refills,” she said.
Russo offers numerous products including home essentials such as laundry soap, dish soap, dishwasher powder, toilet tabs and all-purpose cleaning solutions. There are also personal care products including soaps and body wash, shampoo and conditioner, skin care products, toothpaste, deodorant, and scrubs.
“We also have products such as shampoo bars, unpaper towels and plastic-free makeup,” Russo explained. And for those who can’t make it to the store, The Refillery will deliver within a 20-mile radius of the shop.
To make a further impact, Russo uses local sources when possible and has “closed the loop” with suppliers. “For example, many of our products come in 30-gallon drums. Once they are empty, we send them back to makers so that they can reuse them and no real waste is created,” she said.
Russo has been excited about the response from the community. “It’s been incredible. We are growing all of the time,” she said. Russo also takes feedback from the community to determine what products they will offer next.
The Buy Nothing Project is an organization that utilizes community Facebook pages to help local communities not only assist each other, but to find ways to reduce collective reliance on the market economy as well as reduce waste sent to landfills. Amanda Cole and Kate Summers are the co-administrators of the Buy Nothing Hampton page. Launched in December of 2020, the page just reached over 1,000 members. “It’s a big milestone for us,” Cole said.
Volunteers administer the pages where community members post items that they are offering for free. “In the last year, we’ve had nearly 12,000 posts either requesting items, offering to gift them or expressing gratitude for items received,” Cole said.
The Buy Nothing groups don’t encourage first-come, first-served, Cole said, to allow more of the community to benefit from the gifts that are offered. “We also don’t distinguish between wants and needs, and we don’t value one gift more highly than another,” she said.
Through their page, items such as empty egg cartons, cardboard boxes, leftover packing materials and broken items along with leftover diapers and garbage bags have been gifted.
“Aside from saving money and wasting fewer items, we’ve gotten comfortable asking our neighbors for help or for support in tangible ways,” she said.
For more information on Flux Bene, visit https://www.fluxbene.com. Visit The Refillery at
https://www.therefillerypgh.com. Buy Nothing pages exist for various communities on Facebook. Learn more about Buy Nothing at www.buynothingproject.org or visit Facebook and search for your community.