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Refillism owner works to inspire change at sustainable refill shop

Refillism owner works to inspire change at sustainable refill shop

  • Before launching Refillism in York, Elizabeth Bower, NCIDQ, spent 15 years as a licensed interior designer and six years in the Air National Guard.
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Elizabeth Bower’s journey toward sustainability started after she got sick of paper towel rolls ending up in a trash can.

She switched to buying cloth napkins from thrift stores, keeping a basket of clean towels on the kitchen counter and a laundry basket under the sink.

She never imagined that one small step would eventually lead to opening Refillism, an eco-friendly refill store in York City.

Today, a basket of cloth napkins is one of the first items for sale when customers walk in.

“One step at a time,” Elizabeth says. “Do what you can do and do it better the next day.”

Growing offline

During the pandemic, Elizabeth began selling natural cleaning products online. She was working from home as a licensed commercial interior designer but was ready to launch into something new.

As the world opened back up for business, she branched out to local marketplaces, setting up shop at Gray Apple Market and York Flea.

At every event she was asked the same question: “Where is your store?”

“I started to realize people were ready for an option,” she says.

With two kids at home and a successful design career with her company EB Co. LLC, Elizabeth had to wrap her head around the idea of taking the leap.

‘A little serendipitous’

Starting was scary, she says, from leaving her comfort zone to fighting imposter syndrome.

Still, she felt strongly that the core of her sustainability journey needed to be a hub in her local community.

When she found the little shop at 38 South Beaver Street, Elizabeth knew she had found her flagship shop. A giant mural of a deer sticking her nose in the grass graced the side of the building.

“It almost seemed a little serendipitous,” she says. “It felt a little bit like it was meant to be.”

Elizabeth opened Refillism on April 22, 2022—Earth Day.

Following the mission

Floor to ceiling bottles, vats, and bins line the shop walls. The scent of warm lavender wafts through the air as she straightens collapsible water bottles, eco brushes, and bamboo utensils. Row upon row of glass pump jars filled with shampoos, lotions, and cleaners fill a central island.

Running a retail store has been a new experience for Elizabeth, filled with plenty of challenges. But grit grown from six years as an airplane crew chief in the Air National Guard, coupled with 15 years as a commercial designer have girded her go-getter attitude.

In the future, she envisions expanding to multiple locations and making sustainable refill stores easily accessible.

“What keeps me confident and going in it all is the mission of what I really want to do with this and why it’s important,” she says. “It’s not to sell people a bunch of eco stuff; it’s to really get people to change their habits, even if it’s one or two things in their daily life.”