Second Nature Refillery, located in the Zero Place building, is a new bulk grocery store that specializes in reducing waste when shopping.
Owner Wendy Toman opened up shop on Nov. 19 just in time for the holidays. “It was slow on Black Friday but people are still traveling and this isn’t the kind of store that most Black Friday crowds go to,” Toman said. “I’m going to be getting more Christmas gift-type things, lots of stocking stuffer-type things that you can give people.”
Although Second Nature opened just two weeks ago, Toman has had the idea of a “refillery” for a while. “I always saw and observed people just wasting too much,” she said. “In Gardiner, I was a recycling manager at the dump, and I had to teach people how to properly recycle things. That was really hard. There’s still so much energy and waste in the recycling process, so I wanted to do something just focusing on reduction.”
In fact, only 5% of plastic in America is actually recycled. The other 95% ends up in landfills or litters the ocean. According to the Ellen MacAurthur Foundation’s new plastic economy initiative, no one type of plastic in America meets the definition of recyclable. Things like plastic bottles and jugs must have a 30% recycling rate to be considered recyclable; none of the plastic meet this specific rate.
The shop is divided between produce on one side and “non-edibles” on the other. The walls display nature inspired paintings like butterflies, rabbits and a composting banana. Big tubs of shampoo and conditioner fill the cabinets on one side, where customers can stock up on colorful soaps and dissolvable toothpaste in this section. A row of fruits and veggies such as apples, potatoes and carrots are stocked in bags locally sourced from the Mud Puddle Cafe. All the storage units where the products are displayed are made from repurposed materials by Toman’s husband Dave Toman. The eggs are from local farms and most of the produce can be found in the state. “A lot of the stuff in the store, 90% of it is New York grown. The potatoes, sweet potatoes, Yukon Gold, this is all from New York,” Toman said.
It’s encouraged that customers bring their own containers for the different products. Most of the pricing is based on weight so containers are weighed before and after they are filled. If customers don’t have their own containers, the refillery has plenty of reusable containers to purchase that customers can bring on their next visit to the shop.
The Zero Place building is a perfect place for the refillery. The four story residential building does not emit any carbon emissions. Toman says even though the building and her business are environmentally conscious, she doesn’t like the term “zero waste.” “Even as hard as you may try, nothing is zero waste. I offer it at lower waste for the consumer, I still have the waste of what it’s packaged in to come to me and there’s also all the waste and manufacturing it and then shipping it and then getting the resources to make the food and the products so there’s no such thing as zero waste,” she explains.
Toman values the feedback of customers. “If there’s things that they [the customers] are interested in finding without plastic, and they can’t find it anywhere, they can come and request it. If I get enough requests, and if I can find it plastic-package free, then I’ll try to get it.” she says. Second Nature plans on getting plastic-free tofu that comes in a big bucket that customers can scoop out and put in containers.
She also acknowledges how pricy lower-waste products can be. “I’ve had people, when they found that I was going to open the store, ask me if I could carry stuff that was non organic and that was a lower price point for cleaners and shampoos. I can to some degree, as long as the ingredients are still healthy for people,” she says. Toman says most products in the store are organic but she was able to find some non organic products at a lower price.
Everyone in New Paltz can do their part to at least reduce their waste. You can be more environmentally conscious by “just being conscious consumers and not buying anything until you really need it and just re-examining what your needs are versus your wants or your impulses,” Toman says.
Using your own containers at cafes and restaurants also diminishes plastic. “If you’re finding yourself wanting to go get a coffee or tea and you forgot your container, then just punish yourself and not go in and if you do that a couple of times and you’ll remember to have an extra one [coffee mug] in your car or something like that,” Toman says. Second Nature has metal takeout tins for sale so customers who go out to eat can take home their leftovers without any waste.
To support Second Nature Refillery you can stop in Wednesday through Sunday and for more updates you can take a look at the website www.secondnaturerefillery.com or follow the shop on Instagram @second.nature.refillery