(Re)Filled with Love
by Natalie Bencivenga
February 24, 2024
In honor of February being the most heart-warming month of the year, I chatted with Larissa Russo about her new shop, The Refillery X The Local Instead, and how this shop is showing some major love to Mother Earth by reducing our dependence on single-use plastics. By bringing your own reusable containers — or purchasing them in the store — you can fill them up with home essentials, like dish soaps, detergents and more. The product is charged by weight minus the container. Then, when it’s empty, you can come back in for a refill!
Talk a bit about your history. Have you always been eco-focused?
If you’re wondering if I’ve always been an environmental zero-waste warrior — the honest answer is — no. But I made the easy switches a few years ago. I started using reusable water bottles, bringing my own cup to coffee shops and refusing plastic bags.
What made you leap from working as an engineer for a corporation to opening your own business in April of 2021?
The pandemic shifted and confirmed my personal and professional values. There was no going back. I was at a point in my engineering career where I could no longer consider my role to be impactful or meaningful. I was unfilled and started asking questions such as, ‘How can I truly make a difference? What can I do to help my community?
Like many of us during the last year and a half, I was also spending a lot of time on social media. I started seeing on TikTok how many refilleries and zero-waste stores there were in different parts of the country to help combat the climate crisis. I realized that Pittsburgh didn’t really have anything like this yet. I wanted to give people an alternative to shopping at big box stores for their personal care and home essentials. I believe that individuals have the power to influence great change. The Refillery will continue to be a driver and agent of change within the Pittsburgh community and beyond.
How did The Refillery begin?
My first pop-up was June 13, 2021 at The Neighborhood Flea in the Strip District. The Neighborhood Flea is an extremely well-organized event and is highly attended so I was very honored to be accepted. Over the course of the summer and early fall, I did 37 pop-ups all over the greater Pittsburgh area.
I am delighted to put down roots in Squirrel Hill. Customers were looking for a consistent spot to refill. It was a great indicator of their interest and dedication to the concept.
Why is this an important concept to bring to Pittsburgh?
Reducing our single-use packaging consumption by refilling is important because of the intense demand for it. I can't tell you how many people have found The Refillery on Google, Instagram, or TikTok and have come in saying, "I've been wanting a place to open like this for years!" Pittsburghers are hungry to make a difference. There's no reason that Pittsburgh can't be a part of the solution to the climate crisis. We also wanted to be a part of the established, diverse, strong, and vibrant community that Squirrel Hill is so known for being. We’ve had so many kind neighbors stop in just to tell us how happy they are that we’re here and to wish us good luck!
What are some of your favorite products in the store?
One of my favorite refills during these cold winter months is our sugar scrub. It's great to use to exfoliate that dry winter skin. It comes in a variety of scents like peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender. Our hand and body creams from locally-owned Lovett Sundries are fantastic all year round but especially during these cold months. We have lavender, evergreen, and unscented. Both refills are made right here in Pittsburgh.
As far as zero-waste swaps go, one of my favorite products is our dryer balls. Dryer balls eliminate the need for single-use dryer sheets and speed up drying time which reduces energy usage. It's also one of the easiest swaps. Just pop them in your dryer and forget them. You can take dryer sheets off your shopping list forever. Our dryer balls are handmade in Pennsylvania by a woman-owned company.
What do you hope this inspires in people?
I hope that the mission, offerings, and resources that the Refillery provides inspire people to examine their consumption habits and realize their power in voting with their dollar. While we know that a handful of large corporations have the most impact on the climate crisis, we can still show even the big box companies what our priorities are. Even they have to notice when millions of people aren't buying a particular brand or product anymore because of the sourcing or packaging, for example. It's all about making gradual individual changes that add up to a singularly loud voice demanding change!
Why is climate change everyone's issue?
Climate change will affect and has already affected everyone's quality and way of life. On the most basic level, this includes access to fresh and clean food and water supply, reliable utilities, and safe housing which all ultimately affect our personal mental and physical health of course. We have opportunities every single day, in what we purchase to make our voice heard. At The Refillery X The Local Instead is not just our hope but also our responsibility to understand our role in providing eco-friendly retail options with as few barriers as possible. The Refillery is working towards a deeper understanding of sustainability, environmentalism, and climate change through the lens of intersectionality. We hope to see you soon!
The Refillery X The Local Instead at 1931 Murray Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15217.
The shop offers FREE delivery, as well, with orders over $25 within a 20-mile radius.
Follow along on Instagram: @therefilleryxthelocal