C/O Rosanna Ciulla
How the Glass Jar Refillery is giving used containers and bottles a new life to foster sustainability
By: Emma Shemko, contributor
In elementary school, most of us were taught the three Rs of solid waste management: reduce, reuse and recycle. However, this list is missing a crucial fourth R: refill.
What does it mean to ‘refill’? In terms of waste management, refilling is the act of replenishing old bottles of common household and hygiene products rather than purchasing new ones. Refilling your old containers and bottles helps to keep single-use plastics out of landfills and to prevent our oceans from being further polluted.
Rosanna Ciulla is the owner of The Glass Jar Refillery, located at 544 Concession Street. Inspired by the Bulk Barn model, she wanted to expand the concept to include everyday household and personal care products as well. Now, Ciulla’s products include laundry detergent, dental floss and hair and beard oil among many others.
Ciulla partnered with several ethical businesses to ensure everyone can find the perfect product in her store. Most of the companies she has partnered with are also local or at least based in Ontario, such as The Bare Home, Earthology and Pink Posh Fox. These companies and The Glass Jar Refillery share common values and a common mission in helping to create cleaner environments at the local community level.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic brough many challenges for Ciulla and her business. She was forced to change the location of her store, delay her grand opening and limit in-store hours and ultimately had to start as an online store. Ciulla was disappointed to miss out on in person interactions with her customers as she loves interacting with and learning from them, believing these interactions are an important part of creating a physical space where people can become more environmentally mindful.
There is so much pressure to be the perfect waste-free consumer, but a finite number of resources are available to help us do so.
The Glass Jar Refillery strives to make this shift easy and accessible, offering consumers more choices and options. With 24/7 online shopping, local delivery, access to in-store refillery services and a 10% discount for students, The Glass Jar is readily available to support the Hamilton community.
Switching to sustainable and plastic-free alternatives can be daunting at first glance, but it’s not as challenging as it seems. There are three main steps which fall under what Ciulla calls environmental mindfulness that can help simply this transition.
“We have to be cautious and we have to be aware of how precarious our situation is. We take [living on this Earth] for granted. And our actions speak louder than words. We need to be very careful. When they say, “practice mindfulness,” I think mindfulness can also be applied to Mother Earth,” explained Ciulla.
For Ciulla, how we decide to interact with Mother Earth is a form of environmental activism and this type of activism begins with our habits as consumers.
The first step is to create a collection of items that can be used to refill your essential products. Pickle jars, shampoo or conditioner bottles and empty candles are perfect refilling options.
The second step is to observe how you live: what products are you continuously buying? What areas of your home use the most plastic? Is it your kitchen? Maybe it’s your bathroom?
The third and final step is to remind yourself that you don’t have to make these switches all at once. Start by refilling your dish soap one month and see how it goes. Then try switching to refillable laundry detergent the next month and so on.
The beauty of Ciulla’s store is that you can purchase as much or as little product as needed.
“If you want to try a new product that you’re unsure of, just try three quarters or a quarter of your bottle and then come back and say, “Hey, I want to fill up the rest of it”,” explained Ciulla.
Ciulla is looking forward to what the future holds for her store and is hopeful that she will soon have more days throughout the week where customers can shop in-store. She has many plans ahead, including creating a starter kit for students because she knows how busy our schedules can get and wants to help us become conscious and environmentally mindful consumers.
“I’m just excited about what the glass jar is and will become. I think it’s just starting to flourish. I’m excited to see where it goes next and I’ve got some exciting plans for it,” said Ciulla.