Fill & Refill
Describe your success story.
There was a clear moment that inspired me to start Fill & Refill. On an elementary school tour with my daughter of our recycling center, I saw the many 6-foot square bales of plastic shampoo bottles, lotion containers and laundry soap jugs stacked up out in the back yard of the plant. What are those? There are a lot of those… My shoulders fell when I realized that those bales were not going anywhere.
Recycling is a business, plastic a commodity, and when those bales of squished plastic are not purchased, recycling is effectively just smashing plastic and squeezing it into a big bales that just sit. Later I found out the horribly low percentage of recycling that even makes it to the plant. It hit hard, recycling, great as it seemed, wasn’t a solution for all the plastic. That was my turning point, I knew we could do better, I knew I could help.
Fill & Refill has now saved over 8,000 bottles with refills, proving that working collectively we can make a difference. This number is solely refills and does not include the countless single-use plastic items saved from reusable items purchased in the shop such as reusable zip-lock style food storage bags.
One key moment in growing Fill & Refill was when I ordered my second 30-gallon barrel of laundry soap. That was when I knew people would switch their purchasing habit to refilling for the benefit of reducing plastic and protecting nature. The first 30-gallon barrel was a gamble and felt so risky. Now we purchase 5 at a time…
In October 2021, Fill & Refill had the pleasure of a visit from Governor Jared Polis and to be featured in a commercial for the Colorado Small Business campaign. We have so much gratitude for the attention given to our small Colorado business and our goals to protect our town and state.
We are now, after 2 moves in 2 years, located in a central location that is more convenient for refillers.
Why did you choose to do business in the Vail Valley?
Growing up, my father was an attorney for the EPA. There was always a photo in my house – a close-up photo of a hand holding a tiny fish next to a paper clip of the same size. We never talked about it, but I just knew the point of the photo was the importance of protecting even the tiniest fish. My personal drive to give back to my community was yelling at me, ‘You love this town, being outdoors all the time, raising your kids on the river, in the woods, on the slopes… how can you give back?’ Protecting nature is in my blood and what better place to protect than your home.
What are the advantages of doing business here?
Operating in the Vail Valley gives one the opportunity to see the difference you can make first hand. Creating a business owned and operated by a local creates a ripple effect of more jobs for locals.
Are you involved in the community? If so, how?
Working with kids in school is very important. We purchase TerraCycle snack recycling boxes for our local elementary school to support their Green (Recycling) Team, host field trips at the shop to educate about refilling and the benefits of reusable items and offer 1-on-1 interviews for youth to support their work towards their own sustainability goals. We also offer corporate discounts for businesses who refill, hoping to expand our footprint and make a larger impact.
How do you acquire and retain your staff? What do you look for when hiring?
Hiring is a particular challenge right now. Luckily, we find that people are interested in our shop and sustainability and often ask if we are hiring. Kindness is a baseline that we look for when hiring, curiosity, listening and interest in sustainability are also key. It is a small team with lots of respect for each other, tons of free product samples, great discounts and a terrific location. There is a good chance have the best smelling workplace around!
What advice would you give to someone entering our mountain economy?
Provide a solution to a problem that exists in the area. For research and support, contact the Colorado Small Business Development Center, they have been an excellent ally and continued source of support.
Learn more at: Fill & Refill