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Reduce. Reuse. REFILL. Where To Get Your Products Topped Off In LA

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Some of the products available in bulk containers at the Sustain LA store. (Photo: Brittany Kalaj Margulieux)
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You're out of shampoo so you toss the empty container in the recycling bin and grab a new one. Leslie Van Keuren Campbell --founder of Highland Park's recently opened Sustain LA store -- has another method. Refill.

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Sustain LA is part of a wave of businesses that encourage a zero-waste lifestyle and environmentally conscious products. "We've been sold for a long time that convenience equals more packaging, so our mission is to change those ingrained concepts," said Campbell.

She started promoting zero-waste over ten years ago when she first began Sustain LA as a consultancy that helped restaurants and businesses become sustainable.

Today, the brick-and-mortar store features a "refill station" with a wide variety of household and personal-care products that are sold by weight.

Here's how it works: you bring your own reusable container or buy one, fill it up with the product you're looking for, weigh it, and pay.

The store carries cleaning supplies like detergent, multi-purpose spray, borax and personal care products like body wash, shampoo, and even toothpaste that comes in tablet-form without packaging.

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The big idea at Sustain LA is to encourage reusing and reducing so potentially recyclable waste isn't being created at all. As Campbell said, "recycling is the minimum we should be doing."

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An infographic describing the refilling process to customers in English and Spanish. (Photo: Brittany Kalaj Margulieux)

And what we're "recycling" isn't all getting recycled.

About 25-30 percent of what Angelenos put in their blue bins goes to the landfill, according to Alex Helou, assistant general manager for the city of Los Angeles Department of Sanitation and Environment.

Many residents practice what some recycling experts call "wish-cycling," meaning they toss questionable items -- like oil-stained pizza boxes -- in the recycling bin with the hope they will be handled by the waste management system.

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They're not. They go to the landfill, said Helou.

And the situation has worsened in the United States since China stopped accepting our waste in 2017.

Before this, Helou said, China took about 50% of the trash produced in L.A. Today, he said, China accepts about 1% of it.

If Americans continue to keep their habits as they are, by 2050 there will be more trash in the ocean than fish, said Helou. "We are trying to emphasize the message that first you reduce, then reuse, and finally recycle. And shop smart."

Shopping smart is a part of the shift David Colgan, communications director of The Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA and co-author of The Green Bundle: Pairing the Market with the Planet, sees happening.

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While Colgan strongly believes that legislation is the key to a larger societal shift, he thinks people are becoming more acutely aware of climate change -- and the impact of their personal habits. As that shift happens, "we're going to see a continued surge in the market for these [environmentally consciousness] products," he said.

Campbell hopes refill stations like Sustain LA will be "a whole new frontier." Until then, there are a handful of outposts where Angelenos can reduce their footprint.

WHERE TO REFILL

  • 5d800a2dc92b3500089d0eb4-eight.jpg
    (Photo: Brittany Kalaj Margulieux)
    SUSTAIN LA

The founder of Highland Park's recently opened Sustain LA store started promoting zero-waste more than a decade ago when her business was a consultancy to help other companies become sustainable.

Today, her brick-and-mortar store carries cleaning supplies like detergent, multi-purpose spray, borax, and personal care products like body wash, shampoo, and even toothpaste that comes in tablet-form without packaging.

5214 Monte Vista St, Los Angeles, CA 90042 (323) 274-4383

  • 5c5492c4d2491b00084b9ee1-eight.jpg
    BYO Long Beach (Photo: Jill Replogle/LAist)
    BYO LONG BEACH

Founder Julie Darrell calls BYO Long Beach the first refill station in L.A. County.

The first location opened in Oct. 2017, in partnership with Algalita Marine Research and Education, a non-profit that does research about plastic pollution.

A second location is now open in Downtown Long Beach. Check the website for pop-up locations.

148 N Marina Drive, Long Beach (562) 598-4889
431 East 1st Street, Long Beach (424) 265-2924

  • 5d801588c92b3500089d0eec-eight.jpg
    (Photo: Callie Milford, co-founder of No Tox Life
    NO TOX LIFE

This family business offers non-toxic, vegan products that are handmade by its mother-daughter founders.
On Earth Day, No Tox Life opened the refill station that is now in its store.

They don't do pop-ups, but their products can be found at other stores.

3351 Fletcher Drive, Glassell Park
(818) 925-5075

  • 5d801698c92b3500089d0ef2-eight.jpg
    (Photo: Britt Kagan, co-founder of Recontained)
    RECONTAINED

You can also refill at Recontained, a low waste/ zero-waste store that also sells household products, personal care items, eco-friendly clothing and gifts.

You can purchase their products online too, and at their pop up locations.

1629 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice
(310) 314-6238

  • 5d800a1dc92b3500089d0ead-eight.jpg
    Founder Kelly Murphy pictured with the Refillery LA van. (Photo: Lawrence Lee)
    THE REFILLERY L.A.

A surf van-turned-refill station, The Refillery L.A. is a mobile refill station that travels to pop-up locations around West LA.

You can check here for regularly updated locations.

Various locations