On World Refill Day 2023, Let’s Strategize

It’s on Friday, June 16th.

Photo by Nik on Unsplash

I learned recently that this Friday is World Refill Day.

We can all use the day being on the calendar as a reason to think and talk about refillable containers. Preventing pollution from disposable packaging is a worthy problem, and thinking about it at the same time makes climate action more effective.

Let’s take the opportunity to strategize. We’ll need to in order to build a habit and culture of using reusable containers (for carrying water to drink, buying coffee, and taking to bulk stores to fill with food or cleaning products).

We need to work against the typical hurried lifestyle that society pushes us toward.

As we experiment with the habit of carrying our own containers around, we can identify the snags that get in our way and problem-solve around them. And better yet, share our findings with others who are trying the same thing.

Here are some prompts for you to reflect on how to make reusables a bigger part of all our lives.

Figure out your reusable container logistics

As I wrote in How Do We Increase Adoption of Reusable Coffee Cups?

Let’s think through the logistics of having a reusable mug handy when you need it. There are a few different actions you would need to add to your day:

– (Remember to) pack your cup before heading out for coffee.

– Ask the barista to serve the coffee in your own cup.

– (Remember to) bring your cup back in the house.

– Put the cup into your dishwashing workflow (either the dishwasher or hand-washing).

– (Literally) rinse and repeat.

These actions can become part of your routine if you identify cues for or schedule each of these steps into your week.

Find stores that will refill your container

You can look up package-free stores for food or supplies near you that let you bring and refill your own container with their goods.

The keywords to look for are “package free,” “bulk,” and “zero waste” stores. Your local farmer’s market may also be a good place to buy package free.

I found one guide to package free stores for California: https://www.litterless.com/bulk-food-guide/california. There may be a similar guide for where you live.

If you work at a store or have an ‘in’ to talk to someone who manages one, think about what they can do to make it easier for bulk buyers! Or avoid supporting disposable products in other ways.

When it comes to improving the bulk-buying workflow, and the store itself is where the most leverage is.

Photo by Nationaal Archief on Unsplash. Refillable used to be the default. It’ll look different now, but maybe it can be again.

Remember why

Using refillable containers is part of the larger sustainable idea of using less material overall, by making products more durable and getting more use out of them.

An individual refillable container usually takes more resources to make and has a higher carbon footprint than an individual disposable container, so the advantage comes from being reused. (Not just reusable.)

Having just a few containers and using them for approximately a lifetime is the trick to getting the environmental benefits of less resource use over time and preventing plastic pollution.

So, this can be a tough one, but resist the urge to go out and buy snazzy new mugs, containers, and tote bags, unless you absolutely need them.

Sadly, the way eco-friendly products are marketed can lead us to assume the solution for a bad product is to buy a better product. But in this case, the solution is to buy fewer products.

Which leads me to…

Mend or repurpose something

What are some ways you can get more life out of a product you already have?

Earlier this year, I busted out my sewing kit for the first time and mended a backpack.

A section near the zipper was fraying to shreds, leaving a yawning gap. I’d gotten my fingers tangled in the strands trying to get something often enough to sit down on the carpet, stream a mystery series, and make a project of it.

Photo by the author. The gray strip is some lining I used as an attachment point. Hope it lasts.

I did a pretty rough job, having no sewing experience, but it held together when I took it on a trip! And, boy, did I feel cool. Cottagecore, self-sufficient, and all that good stuff.

Do you have a product you can fix or turn into a functional container? Or something you could decorate to make exciting to use again?

That’s a chance for a potentially fun activity as well as a product. And feeling accomplished.

Using refillable containers takes foresight, and it’s understandable that it doesn’t feel natural to many.

Seconds before running out for errands isn’t the best moment to figure out what container to take.

Instead, let’s take a moment to step back and think strategically, so we make the decision easier in the moment. World Refill Day might be the reminder we need to do that.

Also appears: Medium

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