My NOT so plastic-free July

My NOT so plastic-free July

My NOT so plastic-free July 

Living in the midst of a global pandemic was not something I expected to happen in my lifetime. Experiencing this first hand now has really opened my eyes to a few things about the lifestyle choices I have had the privilege of making prior to this crisis. I have been on a mission to reduce single-use plastic waste in my community and my own life for over 6 years now. At times, I’ve even given myself props: I have been very good at it! But a pandemic changes everything. 

Bulk Bins are pretty much closed 

They are no longer self-service – which means I can’t bring my own containers and pre-packaged is my only option. Even the bakery case is closed, so no plastic-free cookies! Every grab and go item seems to be double or even triple-wrapped in plastic. But, we have to eat! 

Economic Uncertainty

These are scary times for a million reasons. While certain revenue streams have stopped or slowed down, my children's appetites seem to have increased! They are now home all the time.  As we buy a lot more groceries to feed our family, food cost is a larger concern on our family budget. At times I have chosen bagged apples and oranges instead of loose because they’re significantly less expensive that way. I hate bringing a single-use plastic bag home, but it’s just a choice I’m making right now so that I can continue to feed my family fresh foods through the duration of this crisis. Of course, I’m recycling those bags at our local grocery store, but it makes me cringe for sure! 

The threat of a Potentially Deadly Virus

I’ve never been a “germaphobe.”  Knowing that antibacterial chemicals have an adverse effect on our immune systems and waterways, I have avoided these products at all costs. I’ve always had the “germs make your immune system stronger” mentality. Throughout the years you could find me refilling my trusty reusable water bottle at public places without batting an eye. And, I have avoided hand sanitizer like the plague.  I’ve always trusted that good ol’ Fillaree soap and water, and Fillaree Clean Dream, would and does keep our hands and surfaces perfectly clean.  But the threat of a potentially deadly virus has made me rethink my habits for current times. I suddenly have 2 small plastic bottles of hand sanitizer in my life, (note: we are working on a refillable option, though). For now, I’m still doing what I can to reduce waste – refilling the small bottle from a larger one, and adding alcohol to the clean dream spray to give it more sanitizing power. But these are new plastics introduced into my household… and ya know what, I’m okay with it.


I have always been aware of the privilege that makes it possible to choose less wasteful options. Our hierarchy of needs must be met further up the chain before considerations around plastic waste enter into the picture. And even though my own hierarchy has changed, I’m still in a position of great privilege as a white woman, from a middle-class family, with support systems and safety nets around me. That is the position from which I’m witnessing the social justice uprising happening around us. We’re watching a revolution unfold! 

So, it’s not just the pandemic that has adjusted my outlook, but the Black Lives Matter movement is influencing what I prioritize in my life and my business, too. My focus has shifted from how I can lead by example and walk the walk of a sustainability activist to how I can use my platform and business to support important social justice issues and make positive change.  Being proactively anti-racist takes consistent evaluation and effort toward creating equity and justice.

Through these personal evolving shifts, the mission of Fillaree remains steadfast and true:  To make refilling natural soaps and cleaners as convenient as it is rewarding. 

Fillaree was born from my own frustration at the lack of easy options to reuse and refill.  It is so clear to me that now more than ever companies like ours need to take the lead and make it easy, straightforward, and AFFORDABLE to live a less wasteful lifestyle.  Some of the hacks and tricks I have used in the past, no matter how difficult, time-consuming, and sacrificial, seem impossible right now. 

However, I do I think it’s possible to innovate and implement mass deposit systems at bulk bins, salad bars, and restaurants, to make zero-waste “grab and go” an easy no brainer. It is possible to take the responsibility off of the consumer and stop filling our precious planet with toxic plastic trash.  Fillaree has been using a deposit system for years and it works great. It’s a proof of concept that we can reduce and REUSE instead of single-use.

Consider this an open letter to the refiler community.  It is my hope that sharing my honest & personal experience may inspire you to lessen any self-judgment or doubt you may have as we all navigate these trying times from whatever positive we find ourselves in. I’m willing to bet we’re all still doing the absolute best we can. And I’d rather see a boatload of imperfect environmentalists doing their best than a handful of perfect ones. We are stronger together...

Peace, Love, & Refill, 

Alyssa Cherry


(Image: my daughter, Loretta, and I taking our recycling into Boulder, CO on a camping trip, there were no compost or recycling facilities at the camp ground) 

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