By John Gregory
Couple’s company refills used containers with natural products
Local residents who want to help preserve the environment while saving cash may bring their empty containers to Earthwell Refill in North Park and leave with the same containers filled with natural products of their choice.
The store will refill the containers with anything a customer wants, from household cleaning liquid to body lotion to shampoo.
It’s a way to re-use containers and reduce the massive quantity of plastic waste filling up area landfills, according to owners Kris and Katrina Oprisko.
All the products from Earthwell Refill are plant- and mineral-based, which helps reduce San Diego’s carbon footprint.
“Once you use them, you don’t go back,” Katrina said.
The Opriskos opened Earthwell Refill last fall on University Avenue in North Park, across the street from the popular Carnitas’ Snack Shack.
Their concept is not new, but the store is the first of its kind in the Uptown area. The owners are expecting customers who want to make a difference in the way the Earth is treated.
“There is a population in North Park that is very concerned about the environment,” Katrina said.
The Opriskos, who left San Diego a few years ago but moved back with their two children, were looking to begin a new business. Kris was one of the founders of IDW Publishing, a San Diego-based comic publisher that has risen to international fame. He left that company and eventually became interested in starting another business, this time with his wife. Now, he said he is glad to be doing “some substantial good in the world.”
Katrina had always used natural, environmentally friendly cleaning products in her home, so when she came across similar refill stores, she began to consider the concept for a family.
“We really want to start people thinking of refilling instead of just tossing things away,” Kris said. “Hopefully, we can create a tide that can make a dent on the overflowing landfills and polluted oceans.”
Earthwell can refill items such as plastic shampoo and hand lotion containers, dishwashing liquid bottles, both glass and plastic beverage bottles, and many food containers such as yogurt tubs.
Products available at Earthwell include lotion, soap, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent.
Customers can bring in their empty containers, which can be refilled as long as they are clean and dry. The empties are weighed, filled with the product chosen, and re-weighed. All products are sold by the ounce.
Earthwell Refill offers a discount for 9 ounces and above, encouraging customers to buy in larger quantities to save money. Customers may save by getting the exact amounts of product they want. Many of the products, such as some of the cleaning detergents, are in concentrated form and meant to be diluted in water, which means they will go farther before needing to be replenished.
Earthwell makes an effort to use local products as much as possible, including West Coast brands Biokleen, Copper Moon Apothecary, EO, Ecos Pro, Griffin Remedy, ShiKai and Uncle Harry’s. Essential oils may be added to the many unscented products to produce a desired scent.
The store also offers lip-care products and deodorants in compostable packaging, locally produced bar soap and hand-poured soy candles.
Gift items include jewelry, candles and leather goods. More unusual items are gecko sculptures made from recycled cans, and necklaces, bracelets and earrings created with antique typewriter keys.
A men’s corner offers items such as aftershave and deodorant. The men’s items can be scented with masculine essential oil blends such as “Forest” and “Spicy.”
Gift baskets are available for the holidays. Some have been pre-made but others can be filled with any Earthwell Refill product the customer chooses. Each gift basket comes with a discount coupon for future refill.
The Opriskos have considered adding art displays and holding craft workshops in their store, and hosted a Meet the Artist event on Dec. 10 with Richard Shaw, who creates whimsical 3-D wire art.
Katrina said customer reaction to Earthwell Refill has been very positive so far. “Everyone has been overwhelmingly ecstatic. They love the concept,” she said.
Katrina described how one day a woman parked her car nearby and sent her husband into the store. When Katrina stepped outside to see where the man had come from, she spotted the woman in the car shouting, “We’re glad you’re here.”
—John Gregory is an assistant editor at SDCNN. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.