The Refillery is Ready to Celebrate One Year of Zero-Waste
The Squirrel Hill store allows customers to bring, borrow or buy containers and fill them with locally sourced personal care and home essentials.
Larissa Russo, owner of The Refillery — a zero-waste reusable container store in Squirrel Hill — got the big idea for her business while scrolling through 45-second TikTok videos during lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
A former engineer, Russo says after she discovered zero-waste retail stores on the social media site, she decided to leave her job and start a zero-waste business of her own.
“I just started to feel like my work as an engineer wasn’t really that impactful, and I wanted to align my personal values with my professional values, so I resigned from that position,” she says. “Realizing that Pittsburgh didn’t really have a dedicated store for zero-waste yet, I just decided to take the leap and go for it.”
Russo started The Refillery as a pop-up in June 2021. She opened a brick-and-mortar space in Squirrel Hill last October, where she will soon celebrate one year in business.
As the name suggests, Refillery customers can bring, borrow or buy containers to be repurposed and filled with locally sourced personal care essentials such as laundry detergent, dish soap and hand soap. Customers pay by the weight of their filled containers.
After nearly a year in Squirrel Hill, Russo says the store has saved 6,135 bottles from landfill, but she aims to reach 10,000 bottles by October. Additionally, she hopes to create more connections with other local small businesses.
“Moving forward, our brick-and-mortar store is going to host a lot more in-person pop-up events,” she says. “We want to make a space that other small businesses can come and collaborate and just create that community even more between people that are looking to reduce their waste.”
In June, Russo and The Refillery team adjusted the store’s layout to create a permanent pop-up space for other local businesses. She also plans to use the space for hosting lectures about women in business, although no dates have been decided yet.
The Refillery will also continue to set itself apart from other zero-waste stores by only sourcing its products locally — from brands such as Lovett Sundries, HeiDIYhandmade and Earthy Edith’s — even though it may be more difficult to find some items in Pittsburgh, Russo says.
“I think that it’s important to create connections in our community and support local businesses and local people,” she explains. “And the more local you can keep [the products], the less impact you’re gonna have on the environment because you’re not relying on emissions and shipping.”