Interview with Elizabeth Bower

Interview with Elizabeth Bower

Hanna Leach
Interview with Refillism’s Owner (Transcript)
check out the video here!

Interviewee: Elizabeth Bower

Interviewer: Meg Leach

Date: Monday, March 27th

Elizabeth: (00:27)

My name's Elizabeth Bower. I am the owner of Refillism. We are a refill and eco-lifestyle store in York, PA.

Meg: (00:35)

So it's been one year since you opened Refillism. How does that feel?

Elizabeth: (00:39)

It just makes me feel so proud. I'm proud of, of course myself, but I'm proud of my family and all of their support. I'm proud of the community really rallying around the movement we're trying to start. You know, it's not easy opening a business, but it's easier when you have the support. So now that we're a year in, I just, I mean, I don't have any other word other than proud.

Meg: (01:07)

For anyone in the community who hasn't heard of Refillism, who hasn't heard of like, low-waste living, what's a suggestion you have for them to get started?

Elizabeth: (01:15)

I think the first thing you have to think of is it starts with simplicity, right? So you just come from a simple place, just going back to the basics. You know, you don't have to do what you see online where people are trying to put their trash in one jar.

Low waste living can be something that's attainable, functional, and something that can be sustainable within your own household and family. It just starts with simplicity. Doing the simple basics of reducing, reusing what you have, and of course, refilling. 

And if you just start with those and you do something different each day or try to implement something new, you'll be on the journey to low waste. It's not really a thing you do, it's a journey. It's something that you do every day, just being mindful of the things that you consume and the things that you do.

Meg: (02:05)

And I remember you saying a lot about just taking one thing. Like, it's just about getting that one thing, not about changing your whole life all at once, which I always really like.

Elizabeth: (02:14)

Right! Yeah, I mean, you don't have to blow up your life and try to mimic the things that you see that are tailored and curated on social media. We have to keep that in mind. You see somebody that is doing low waste and it looks like they're doing everything perfect. That's not the goal. It's not the goal to be perfect. It's the goal to do better each day.

Meg: (02:49)

What are some of your favorite sustainable swaps?

Elizabeth: (02:52)

So of course I really just love the reusable - and I'm talking for my own personal love - the reusable face rounds. That's something that I haven't purchased, you know, the throwaway cotton rounds, in such a long time - in like years. And I use even a cotton round for my nail polish, and I use the same one over and over again. Same with my face rounds. You just use them and then you wash them.

Another thing is just really redoing my whole dish washing routine and having a lot of the dishwashing accessories that are reusable. So a sponge that I wash with my rags, and brushes and solid dish soap and just changing that routine.

And then of course for laundry, wool dryer balls are a game changer too. At least in my household, I don't even remember the last time I bought dryer sheets. And you hear about the chemicals that are in them and it's just really not even necessary and I've just been using wool dryer balls for a long time. So those are my favorite things.

Meg: (03:57)

Can you give some encouragement for someone who is starting their low waste journey?

Elizabeth: (04:01)

You just need to change one thing in your routine at a time. You don't have to do it all at once. You can just change one thing. 

And then the other thing that I like to tell people is that you have to think about the logistics of what you're doing, especially if it involves other people, like family members and kids. You can't say, “hey, everybody, we're gonna stop using paper towels,” but not really think through the logistics of that. So for example, in my house, I have a bin on top of the cabinet and that has all of our clean napkins in it. And then I have a bin under the sink, and that's for the dirties. So there's always clean ones in the bin for people to grab, and there's a place for them to put the dirties. 

So really thinking through the routine to make it easier for you and your family to implement these eco-friendly things is also just as important. You can't just roll things out and not teach them how to use it or come up with a routine on how to use it. So, we have to keep in mind that being eco-friendly is not just something you buy, it's something you do. It's a lifestyle.

Meg: (05:12)

How does it feel to have saved over 2,300 bottles from the landfill?

Elizabeth: (05:16)

It actually blows me away. We set this goal on World Environmental Day last year, and the goal was 1,500 containers saved by December 31st. We blew that out of the water by December 1st, which is really awesome. And now, each day it's just more and more and more.

We update the number about every, you know, every few weeks we'll update the number on our board. It's just nice to see results in facts and figures, you know? It's one thing to have people bring in the bottles and you know you're doing it, and people are doing it, and it's another thing to actually see the number. 

So we keep track when someone brings in one of our containers to be refilled or if someone brings in one of their containers to be refilled. And we put that into our numbers and update our board all the time. And it's really fun to see. And I'm really, you know, again, back to being proud, I'm proud of the community and people catching on and wanting to join our movement.

Meg: (06:17)

What moment in your life did you realize you just loved nature and the environment and wanted to start making these changes to save it?

Elizabeth: (06:23)

Yeah, you know, I grew up camping in the summer, you know, multiple times a summer we would go camping, usually in Pennsylvania, around the area, different campgrounds. We started tent camping, and my parents, you know, we then moved to a pop-up camper and kind of like grew our camping vacations. 

But even when I was little, I was always outside. That was my thing. I was outside. Even when we were camping, I would get myself into things like, I'm gonna make makeup out of rocks, and I would grind up rocks and add powder and see the different colors and put it on my face. I'd be digging for animals, you know, in the ground looking for worms. Just being outside in nature was, you know, the start of it. I think that's really important because if you wanna save the earth, I'm sure most people have some kind of relationship with the earth, and that's why they want to protect it. And that, for me, started really young.


And then, you know, when you have your own family, I have two kids, it's really important for them to be outside. It's something we're always like, go outside and play. It doesn't matter what you do, just go out there, get some fresh air, go dig around in the dirt, get dirty, and hiking and all of those things are important to our family. So of course, that's kind of like the foundation of it.

And then when I started running my own household, I'm like, okay, we have to do some things better. We can't be being wasteful, especially when you add two more beings to the earth, you're also responsible not just for them, but you're also responsible when they're young for their footprint too. And so that's where I just started implementing things in my own home and it kind of just grew from there. Like, let's share that. Let's get other people to join in on these little, they seem little, but when you do all these little things, it makes a big impact. Let's get other people to join in on these little changes.

Meg: (08:21)

What is the most underrated item in the shop?

Elizabeth: (08:24)

So I think it's not really an item, it's an idea. I believe that gift giving is something that's underrated here at Refillism. It's a great place to come and get gifts, not just for the holidays and for stocking stuffers, but birthdays and wedding gifts, bridal gifts.

If you want to put together a little basket for people, for their home, I think giving the gift of sustainability is something that people forget about. And it's also something that's going to be used. A lot of the things in our store are usable items that you know will get used, and it's not just another thing that will be laying around the house from somebody. So I think, it's not really a thing, it's an idea, gift giving.

Meg: (09:07)

What is a crazy fact about yourself that customers might not know?

Elizabeth: (09:11)

Sometimes I feel like I've lived so many lives. I've done so many things and I'm only 39. But some people know that I was in the military. I'm a veteran, I was in the Air National Guard, but some people don't know what I did. And I fixed LC-130’s, so I was a crew chief. And that's an airplane that has skis on it. And our mission was to take National Science Foundation scientists to Antarctica and Greenland for their mission.

And that experience too had a lot of effect on what I do now with Refillism. I got to see firsthand the people who are working on climate change issues in Greenland. Got to, you know, driving in a car down a road and you come to a wall of ice, which was the polar ice cap. And of course it was beautiful and inspiring to see, but you also get to talk to the scientists about how that wall of ice used to start a lot further up the road. And so you get to see firsthand that global warming is real and that there are people actually dedicating their life to it daily and working on the issue.

Meg: (10:17)

Does your experience with interior design mesh with the shop?

Elizabeth: (10:20)

Yeah, I'm a licensed interior designer. I've been working in the commercial furniture industry for over 15 years. And, you know, of course within the industry, I got to do a lot of things that have to do with sustainability and green design and eco-friendly furniture and all of those things. So that kind of plays a role in what I do here at Refillism.

Meg: (10:43)

What’s been your favorite part about opening up the store in downtown York?

Elizabeth: (10:47)

Yeah, you know, my favorite thing I think is the community. There are a lot of shops downtown and organizations downtown, and we all work together to really support one another when it comes to collaborating or working together on different initiatives and marketing. You know, having that community feel really makes a difference. I think as a business owner, you're not just running a business, you are trying to build a community. 

And of course at Refillism, we're trying to bring people into our movement and it makes it even better and more fun when we already have a community around us to support us. So I just, I love being down here and also people, being able to walk and bike and just having that overall community feel is great.

Elizabeth: (11:39)

So April 22nd is Refillism's birthday. It's also Earth Day, and it's also Go Green in the City. So there are three amazing things happening. We are calling it our “B-Earth-Day” because we've been in business one year and it's also Earth Day. So, we're gonna have a lot of fun things. Of course It's going to be busy downtown with Go Green in the City. Refillism will be giving out seed bombs to everybody for free because we want you to spread the love to the earth, spread some wild flowers, get out in nature, throw those seed bombs, and let them grow - just as a thank you for helping us grow. So hope to see you there. It's gonna be a good time.

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