Sacramento — A couple of months ago, ABC10 photographer Julian Paredes and I were at an apple festival in Auburn. We were looking for stories, asking people to tell us about something going on in their part of the world that everyone else needed to know.
That’s how we met Shannon Davis of Sacramento.
She told us about a store in her Midtown neighborhood that was taking recycling one step further by refilling empty containers with everything from laundry soap to mouthwash. After doing a bit of research, it became apparent that 29th Street, between R and S Streets, was a growing hot spot for businesses engaged in something called “zero waste.”
Zero waste is all about having nothing to throw out after you use a product. A few days later, we asked Shannon to take us on a tour so we could learn more.
29th and R St.
The neighborhood is a tree-lined mix of tidy houses and brightly colored shops, and the air is filled with the constant hum of the Capital City Freeway, which passes by overhead. “I love this corner because I think it’s kind of a zero-waste headquarters,” Shannon said.
A longtime environmental advocate, she says zero waste is where we need to be headed. “I feel like, in the States, we just use it once and recycle it, but we don’t put a lot of emphasis on re-use and refill.”
First Stop: Refill Madness
“I’ve been coming to Refill Madness for a while and it was the first place I found where there was a whole store dedicated to refilling and re-use, and preventing landfill waste,” said Shannon.
Bring your clean, empty bottles or glass jars and the shop will fill them up with laundry soaps, kitchen cleaners, bath and body products, and more. They’ve been around a little over two years, and owner Sloan Read estimates they do around 1,000 refills a month.
“It just takes a little bit of a change in habit, kind of like bringing your grocery bags with you to the grocery store,” she said.
Inside, the shop is bright, cheerful, and looks like a cozy country store. Sloane describes their stock as “head-to-toe and floor-to-ceiling.” Cost is based on product weight, and Sloane estimates refilling is about 20-30% less expensive than buying comparable packaged products.
“It’s the little things that make a big difference. Sacramento has almost a half a million people in the city limits. If everybody just refilled just one bottle, imagine how big of a difference that makes,” she said.
Next: Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op
Just down the street from Refill Madness, you’ll find the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.
“One of the guiding principles of the co-op is environmental responsibility, and a part of that is zero-waste,” says outreach manager, Julia Thomas. “Even with our grocery items, we try to get less packaging,” she said. “It’s a great way to save money and reduce waste.”
Like Refill Madness, you can bring your own containers, or you can buy one there. Many customers fill up in the bulk foods section, which Julia described as the busiest part of the store. It’s where you’ll find everything from staples like beans and flours to candy and olive oil.
The biggest seller might surprise you. “Our number one selling product in our store is our bulk water. That reduces a lot of waste because a lot of people used to buy bottled water,” said Julia.
The Co-op also tries to keep it local and purchases from area food artisans and farmers as often as possible. “It supports our local economy, which is what the co-op is all about. Supporting our Sacramento Region is really important to us.”
Almost on cue, we ran into Daniel Alafetich of Say Hay Farms in Esparto. He’d just made a delivery and was picking up a few things while he was there.
Juggling a bunch of bananas and a bag of coffee while grinding his own peanut butter, he told us, “I come in and grab the stuff I can’t grow.”
Last Stop: Revolution Winery & Kitchen
To round out the day, Shannon took us inside of Revolution Winery & Kitchen, which is right next door to Refill Madness and the Co-op.
Outside, the banana-yellow eatery has a patio surrounded by palm trees, while its sunlit interior features lots of wood, and a polished, comfortable bar. After Shannon met up with owner Gina Genshlea, the tour began.
In the back, we were surprised to find a full-blown production facility. “We actually make all of the wines that are on our list, everything, and we actually do everything from grape to bottle in the winery,” Gina told Shannon.
They also built their own keg wine system from the ground up. “We realized early in our business that there’s just so much packaging that we were throwing away, so we started to develop our keg wine program,” she said.
“Part of the program too is that all of the wine we serve on-site is served from a carafe. So, we’re not even opening bottles to serve wine on site. So everything comes out of a keg.”
And if you want your wine to go, you can buy a $5 refillable growler.
“The refill program, we call it ‘Renew’ and we have these Renew bottles. One liter, and they can fill it up, take it home, bring it back and refill it,” Gina told us.
She estimates that it keeps 15,000 to 18,000 wine bottles out of local landfills.
Gina says Revolution keeps it as local as possible with the food served, as well as the grapes that go into their wine. “I think our furthest vineyard from here is 50 miles, but most of our vineyards are really local, like Elk Grove, Galt, Clarksburg.”
Shout Out for Shannon
Our special thanks to Shannon for turning us on to this story, for sharing her time and knowledge, and for being an awesome tour guide and interviewer. We had a lot of fun, and we’d love to have more of you take part in our storytelling.
If you know about a zero waste business near you, or have a story suggestion for something amazing that you want to share, leave a comment and tell us about it.