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Women and Girls: Towards a sustainable future: bath and body edition

Jen Mitchell and Sarah Blando's new business model evolves around reuse.

THUNDER BAY -- Conversations about the love for the environment and the evils of plastics in the backyard for more than 25 years for the sisters, Jen Mitchell and Sarah Blando led to the establishment of The Refill Co.  The sisters, as environment aficionados, spent years learning about waste, encouraging everyone to follow the three Rs in life: Recycle, Recycle, Recycle. However, they acknowledged a broader issue when they realized that only nine per cent are recycled.

This led to the basis of their new business model: Reuse. While bring your own cup has worked for the food and beverage industry, a gap had been existing in the home, bath and body industry, which the sisters hoped to bridge with their new business.

Bulk refineries were present all over Canada, and upon researching different brands, and manufacturers, the sisters were nearing their goal of establishing a refill store for the bath body and home products.

A section of Jen’s house in Murillo was transformed into the storefront for The Refill Co. in the early days of its inception in 2020, which has since grown. After working for more than two years, the store has been renovated into a large space, transforming a garage into a store.

The Refill Co. aims to provide a sustainable line of products for the local community in Thunder Bay and surrounding areas. “We wanted to create zero waste products for the people in the community and provide products which would be package free for those opting for the refills. Our main goal is to provide products which can be swapped for zero waste in people’s homes,” Blando said. “Switching to a sustainable lifestyle does not have to be expensive or having to compromise on your current lifestyle. The first step is to get one foot into the store. We have a wide range of products to cater to everyone, ranging from refillable package-free shampoos and soaps to recyclable and reusable bamboo toothbrushes and spoons.”

The company outsources its manufacturing to Canadian and local manufacturers to help the local economy grow. Blando acknowledges that sustainability comes with a premium as it is made with safer and better ingredients. It is made cruelty-free and mostly plant-based, so people should have an innate to do better for the environment and be excited to opt for sustainability.

“We are blown away by the reception we got from the local community here. Even online, there is a strong push for going local, which is encouraging us to grow. We thought COVID will be an obstacle, but since we were in Murillo, people were glad to head outdoors for a drive and pick up the products,” she said.

The company carries two ranges of products- one for the bulk consumers, like personal hygiene powders and liquids that can be refilled. The other is detergents and beauty products like clay masks, etc.

“We echo Maya Angelou’s words, do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. These are the words we live by as there is always room for improvement,” she said. “It is easy to feel overwhelmed but educate yourself and start with baby steps. You can achieve a sustainable lifestyle without compromises.”

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