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The Unwrapped Refill Shop first opened in April 2020 as a sole proprietorship business owned and operated by Sarah Devin, located in Asbury Park, along the New Jersey Shore. The Unwrapped Refill Shop’s mission is to bring no packaging, no waste, and eco-friendly goods to customers for personal and home use by reducing single-use plastics. All products sold are ethically produced, environmentally friendly, and carefully chosen and manufactured by other companies. This helps to bring awareness to UN SDG's 12, Responsible Consumption and Production, and 14, Life Below Water, as it works to reduce pollution and reduce the amount of plastic waste in the environment. Sarah strongly believes that buying and consuming environmentally friendly products will help make a difference towards the planet. Her refill business is the only one of its kind on the New Jersey Shore.
This shop is based on a new business model that promotes stopping the use of single-use plastic products. Sarah’s small business relies on customers bringing in their recycled containers or up-cycling one of the Shop’s pre-used containers, free of charge. Customers can fill up on a collection of environmentally friendly and ethically produced cleaning, personal care, pet care products, and accessories manufactured by other companies. Examples include organic baby shampoo, bubble-bath, and body lotion. Sarah also sells facial creams that are vegan and free from sulfates, parabens, fragrances, and are cruelty free. Laundry products are vegan, dye-free, fragrance-free, cruelty-free, and palm oil free. Almost all of Sarah’s products are sold by weight. Additional products include bamboo soap dishes, French market bags, and UNpaper towels. Her mission-driven goal is to give people who care about their impact on the environment a place where they can make a difference.
Sarah Devin (Founder)
When Sarah added another empty shampoo bottle to the recycling bin, she realized that it probably would never be recycled and wished it could be taken somewhere to be refilled. She knew that if she felt that way about her empty bottle and the impact that plastic has on the environment, then others must feel the same way; collectively, they could make a difference. Her daughter, Shaylynn, told her of a shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that sells refills of different products. Sarah was unaware that those types of businesses existed, so she took a trip to Massachusetts to meet the owner, who was encouraging and advised her to “start any way [she] could.” Sarah’s family, especially her sons, were also instrumental in making Unwrapped Refill Shop a reality. Sarah stated, “I was a little naïve when I first started about how much physical and emotional effort it would take. My sons were always there when I needed them, whether it was lugging heavy buckets of laundry powder or offering advice.”
When Sarah began Unwrapped Refill Shop in 2020 at the Asbury Fresh Farmer’s Market in Asbury Park, she was approached by many patrons who were excited to find a refill shop in their geographic area. When the farmer’s market closed for the season, Sarah opened up at a permanent location in the Shoppes at the Arcade in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Sarah’s business was invited to participate in an Earth Day Festival and Green Fair in Bradley Beach, New Jersey. The event included environmentally conscious organizations, and zero waste/green crafters and vendors. Sarah said, “it made me feel as if we were accepted as an important part of the city and its promotion of environmental issues, while making a positive impact.”
According to the United States National Park Service (nps.gov), it can take up to 450 years for plastic bottles to decompose in the environment. Thus, single use plastics’ effect on the environment is a concerning problem that will adversely affect future generations. In only 18 months, Sarah conservatively estimated that Unwrapped Refill Shop has kept at least 1200-16 oz. bottles from ending up in the landfill by selling her refillables of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hand soap, dish soap, and castile soap. Her estimation does not even take into consideration the other refillable sizes that she offers (by the ounce). It is vital to believe that every person can make a difference. Unwrapped Refill Shop’s website sums it up best: “No effort is too small, and every bit makes a difference.”
By implementing the idea of reusing plastic bottles and filling them with shampoo, conditioner, detergent or whatever one desires, then the amount of plastic waste thrown in the environment is decreased, which creates less cost in manufacturing. Having this move start with a few individuals, who then influence others to act like them, is how society starts to act towards a change and implement that concept as a norm. Slowly, overtime, the concept of this business could influence big businesses to come with a way to reuse their bottles. For instance, the famous shampoo brand, Garnier, could open stores where people could come and refill their empty containers with more shampoo for a discounted price.
The innovation of Unfilled Refill Shop is making changes to help reduce pollution in the environment, utilizing methods of reusing and refilling plastic items to prevent single-use products from going to waste. By allowing people to refill their jugs with their favorite cleaning liquids or powders, it will help reduce the trash on the streets and stop waste combustion. Promoting the idea of this refill system helps to preserve the most essential global resource, water, where thousands of marine life reside and works to protect their home from being contaminated. This innovation guarantees a much more sustainable future as it works to conserve the global system of the ocean protecting not only animals but people and the environment as well.
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Sarah Devin, Founder
The Unwrapped Refill Shop promotes stopping the use of single-use plastics as well as other single-use packaging. They knew that their feeling of dislike for how plastic was being used, and having a strong desire to change the way it was used, would inspire other people to feel the same way!