Emily Ting, owner and founder of the recently opened Right On! Refillery in Los Altos, said the tipping point for changing her habits came when the plastic waste from her purchases no longer fit in her recycling bin.
Ting became more aware of how much plastic waste her family generated after having children – she and her husband have a 6-year-old and 4-year-old twins – especially during the pandemic.
“You get into this kind of cycle where it’s, like, ‘Well, why would I go to the store? Why would I go drive the extra few miles to get the thing I need when I can just order it online?’” she noted. “And the amount of packaging that was coming to my house started to really concern me.”
Ting discovered refilleries when she began looking for alternatives to reduce waste – and that’s when she set out to open her own.
Located in what was formerly the playroom of Alkalign Studios at 249 First St., Right On! Refillery has occupied the space since April 28. Its shelves are lined with large bottles of varying products, including shampoos, conditioners, body washes, lotions and skin care products. Wooden baskets hold shampoo and conditioner bars, toothpaste pellets for kids and adults, as well as reusable products such as plastic-free razors, floss and bamboo toothbrushes.
Refilleries, as the name suggests, are stores shoppers looking to decrease plastic consumption can visit to refill containers with on-tap products and purchase reusable goods.
Ting said while many of the brands she has in stock are on the pricier side because they are made by small businesses – most of them based in the Bay Area – several of the cleaning liquids, skin creams and lotions start at a lower price point. The Saratoga resident added that she aims to create a line of products that is accessible regardless of customers’ financial situation.
“I think it’s something that really shouldn’t be available to anyone in one economic status,” she said. “I think it needs to be accessible to everyone; it’s a message that everyone needs to get, and so my goal is to really carry all types of products.”
Road to Refillery
Before opening Right On! Refillery, which Ting named after a saying her sister uses that often brightens her mood, the entrepreneur conducted extensive research into refilleries and visited some throughout the Bay Area.
“I spent probably two years just going around to refill shops, looking online, following different stores on Instagram, trying to get an idea of what best practices were, what type of products people were stocking, and also how people were working within the model,” she said.
Ting found that many stores deliver, some by van and others by bike, and realized the refillery scene in the Bay Area is collaborative and supportive.
The shop’s current location is not permanent. Although Alkalign Studios is set to close June 10, Ting said she hopes Right On! Refillery will remain there “at least through the end of summer, maybe September.”
While finding space to house her business is difficult in Los Altos, Ting would like to remain downtown because she wants to offer returning customers the convenience of coming to the same area.
“So definitely staying in the downtown area is what I’m hoping for, and then potentially having some other locations,” she said.
Ting added that she’s looking to make the current location more user-friendly by developing an app – which she hopes to release in the next six months – that would allow people to scan and scale their purchases using a QR code.
Right On! Refillery is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3-8 p.m. Fridays; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
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