It's 2019, and most Americans finally admit the earth is warming because of human activity. The question: Who is to blame – the individual or the corporation? It's probably a mix of both. While industrial production — of clothes, of fossil fuels, the list goes on — does result in the majority of carbon emissions, consumer demand starts, well, with consumers.
Aside from driving a car, plastic use is perhaps the most visible expression of our reliance on fossil fuels. And with all that knowledge comes the inevitable conundrum: What can one person really do?
Eliminating plastic is difficult, but it's not impossible. A few tried-and-true methods include taking cloth bags to the store, avoiding putting fruits and veggies into those flimsy plastic bags and bringing drawstring cloth sacks to take home bulk dry-foods.
Once you've accomplished these tasks, you'll face one of the biggest challenges of them all: sourcing shampoo, face wash, lotion, detergent and household cleaning products without disposable containers.
Luckily, there are stores where you can actually refill your old shampoo bottles, bath salts and even your Dr. Bronner's soap bottles. Their names: Joy Fill, Homefill, ZERO Market and EcoMountain.
They allow you to bring in your own containers for various personal care items. Most of the goods they sell are local. They also offer bamboo toothbrushes, reusable menstrual cups, biodegradable floss, metal straws, beeswax wraps, to-go cutlery and more.
These products avoid toxic substances often found in household cleaning agents and beauty products. Additionally, unlike many national brands, these local companies allow Iseli to bring back glass containers to be refilled on site, so she doesn't have to use giant drums of laundry detergent.
"The few plastics we do come in contact with are all number two, so I partner with Sustainability Recycling in Arvada. I do the best I can to try and avert anything from going in the landfill," says Iseli. "But even when we do have to order a five-gallon drum of a product in plastic, it is still substantially less plastic than smaller packaging. It's still certainly reducing plastic use as opposed to each person buying plastic over and over again."
Running a business, Iseli has to consider more than her carbon footprint. "I consider price points," she says. "I know that it's more expensive than what folks are used to. I also consider the choices folks have when they walk in the door. Even the most eco-conscious person that comes to refill their product is used to a shopping experience with nearly limitless options."
Joy Fill opened in June of 2018. Iseli had been working jobs in medical sales out of college, but frustrated by trying to reduce plastics, she realized she could use some of her business savvy for the greater good. Joy Fill is, she hopes, one small way she can make a lasting impact.
While stopping at one of Denver's refill shops does add an extra trip to an afternoon of errands, Iseli argues that it's just an adjustment like any other.
When it comes to reducing your carbon footprint, "a small change here or there is where to start," she says. "It becomes easier day by day. It's getting into a habit that ultimately will change your perspective."
Find out for yourself at the following shops:
3843 Tennyson Street
2936 Larimer Street
2501 Dallas Street
4350 Alcott Street