Exploring Megan Gill’s package-free shop, The Good Fill, is like wandering the luscious aisles of a candy store. Every which way you turn, shelves and bins and shiny containers entice with zero-waste options for those everyday items we all use. From personal hygiene products to home cleaning supplies, customers refill jars or bottles they already own and forgo tossing more plastic in the trash.
A former hairdresser, Megan “witnessed a tremendous amount of waste in our industry.” The overwhelming number of plastic bottles she trashed, or attempted to recycle, troubled her. One day, balancing a plate of food at a party, she wondered how long it would take the styrofoam to decay. And she knew the answer was “forever.”
Megan began a determined effort to lead a less wasteful lifestyle. She bought—and pitched in the trash can—fewer plastic bottles. When grocery shopping, she put tomatoes and broccoli and bananas in cotton bags, instead of the proffered plastic. She traveled with a reusable water bottle and coffee cup in her car.
She didn’t resort to drastic measures—like purchasing second-hand underwear—but Megan did what she could to limit her plastic consumption. “If everyone skips plastic here and there, the tiny steps will add up,” she says.
Nowadays, she shares those tips and products at her online and package-free shop.
Light and airy, The Good Fill occupies a prime spot in trendy East Nashville. “Business is booming,” says Megan. This fall, she’ll open a second store in The Nations, another thriving community across town.
For many, it may be daunting to look at the stainless steel tubs loaded with conditioner and laundry detergent and sunscreen. Where does a consumer, new to bulk buying and zero-waste products, begin? “I point people to the items they use every single day,” says Megan. Like hand soap or hand lotion or body wash.
Customers may bring a bottle or jar to fill from the shop’s tubs. “It’s best to sanitize the container in the dishwasher,” Megan says. Think of all the glass, shampoo bottles, laundry detergent containers, and hand soap bottles we have in our cupboards. “Instead of throwing them away, why not give them a second—or third or tenth—life by refilling and reusing them,” says Megan.
Like most of the package-free shops popping up around the country, the store also offers pouches for customers to fill if they don’t have a container. “Return it to the store on your next trip (or online), and we’ll clean it, reuse it, and refund your deposit,” says Megan.
What does Megan say to the customer who fears the shop’s soaps or lotions are not as good as nationally-advertised brands? Or the hair products are inferior to those at a salon? “Samples are a good way to ease people into trying new products,” says Megan. The formulas are simple and pure and work well for most people. “Almost every product I use at home comes from our store, including face serums and toothpaste,” she says.
When Megan suggested I try a shampoo bar, I hesitated. After all, for five-plus decades, I’ve poured shampoo—out of a plastic bottle— into my palm. But the former hairdresser selected the proper bar for my hair type and insisted it is safe for color-treated hair. I’ve since washed my hair with great success. And no shampoo bottle to recycle.
“Much of what we recycle isn’t actually recycled,” explains Megan. Recycling is a complicated process. Most of the public isn’t educated on how to separate the different kinds of plastics, which causes contamination in the recycling streams. “We’re running out of countries that will accept our recycling for reuse,” says Megan.
Instead, she proposes we adopt the philosophy to refuse, reduce, reuse. Then recycle. Refuse the plastic bag at the market. Reduce plastic water bottle waste by purchasing a reusable bottle. Reuse a laundry detergent container, and refill it at a package-free store.
On days away from the shop, Megan likes to work and sip coffee at Crema. The zero-waste coffee roaster serves beverages in all-compostable cups, rather than the typical paper cups with a plastic coating on them.
She also enjoys hanging out in one of the parks around town. “The more you appreciate parks and green spaces, the more you want to take care of what you have,” she says. “And that leads to how you spend and consume.”
Tags: business, environment, package-free shop
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