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There’s no need to feel like a wasteful consumer with the help of a Delray Beach business. After purchasing something there, there is practically zero waste involved.
Customers walking into Zuke’s Refillery will notice that the products are not heavily packaged. Most of them are organic, non-GMO, cruelty-free with many of them contained in larger, refillable containers.
That’s the small retail store’s concept: Buy once and keep the container forever. The fact that plastic has a long life in the oceans and in landfills is one of the motivators for Lindsay Zukerberg’s new business.
Product refilleries are not a common retail option, but she said they are becoming a trend in the effort to combat the wastefulness that begets our throwaway consumer culture.
Zuke’s Refillery, nicknamed after its founder, is the only store of its kind in south Palm Beach County. The business has been open since October 2020 but opened its first retail location in The Big Apple Shopping Bazaar at 5283 W. Atlantic Ave. last October.
According to Zukerberg, a refillery is a place where you can bring your own container from home to fill up on everyday products and pay by the ounce for the contents. Although the foundation of the retail outlet is about making products more sustainable, the consumer aspect is not really what inspired her to create it.
“My main motivation is not just about making money,” she said. “It’s not just about getting these products in the hands of consumers. It’s really about creating community. What I really want to do is to create a space where we can talk and take action surrounding the issue of climate change and environmentalism in general.”
Zukerberg looks at her efforts as part of a larger trend to create community with other small businesses, nonprofits and make a bigger presence for sustainability in Delray.
“I want to create more awareness in this city,” she said. “We are literally on a beach. There’s so much more we could and should do for the environment. I want to get more sustainability leaders in the community together and create more change.”
Origins of the low-waste concept
Zukerberg said that, growing up in Boca Raton, she has always had an interest in the planet and animals. When she moved on to college, she discovered the hospitality and business side of herself.
“I went to college in Tampa with a focus on hospitality,” she said. “I learned that I love customer service, helping people and planning things. And that was something new, because I didn’t expect that. I left college with a degree in hospitality management. From there, I got involved in hotels.”
But Zukerberg found out that her interest in hotels and eventually sales wasn’t fulfilling.
“I worked in hotels for a while, then I bounced around a couple of other jobs,” she said. Just before the pandemic, I found a sales job that I thought I would be into, but I got furloughed when COVID hit us in March of 2020. I had two months off with nothing to do, and I really got to thinking about my passions. I realized that the planet was always a passion of mine, but I never really thought I could do anything with it.”
After the peak of the pandemic that year, Zukerberg got a part-time job at a cafe just to make ends meet. During that time, she brainstormed and realized that business combined with environmentalism was her gig.
“I found out about zero waste, which was a big movement online,” she said. “It was about reducing what you use and getting rid of all your plastics, whether it was in food or cleaning products, or any other items. And, of course, there are no plastics allowed in the movement.”
Zukerberg said she wondered why there weren’t any low- or zero-waste refillery stores in the area.
“I found out that they’re all over Europe. They have a ton of stores like this. Florida was behind the curve. When I was in college from 2013 to 2017, there was definitely nothing like that in my hometown,” she said.
When Zukerberg was considering what her business would look like, that’s when the idea of a refillery popped back into her head. She had known enough about these stores online that she had purchased from already, so she decided to use that business model.
Since 2020, the refillery business has been healthy and has survived the last year-and-a-half without breaking the bank. That brings hope to Zukerberg that more people in the area are becoming conscious about sustainability and that the community surrounding environmentalism is growing.
Building an eco community
Zukerberg has developed returning customers since she started. She said that one of her regulars came in recently and brought in four containers to fill with soap, laundry detergent and other products.
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“I have ended up finding people in Delray who had been wanting something like this,” Zukerberg said. “I found people who wanted to do more for the environment, but they didn’t know how to do it. These folks were happy to find me to help them. It’s just really cool.”
Zuke’s Refillery organizes a beach cleanup every month, co-hosting the event with a nonprofit.
“Every month, Zuke’s donates to different local nonprofits, depending on which one I want to do that month,” she said. “We also donate 10% of retail sales every month. I also try my best to educate others through social media about intersectional environmentalism.”
Her eco-mentality educates her in what she ends up stocking in her store and the services she offers her customers.
“It’s really a mindset change about plastics, as well as how people are treated,” Zukerberg said. “My products might be a little more expensive than they might find at the Dollar Store or Walmart, but my customers are willing to spend a bit more. That’s because through my products, I do what I can to make sure that people and the environment are treated fairly. I do my research to make sure that my products meet those standards.”
- Every piece of furniture in Zuke’s is secondhand.
- Cardboard from its product deliveries are reused to make business cards and price menus in the store.
- Every product is made by people in fair working conditions using sustainably-sourced ingredients. They are plastic-free, plant-based, cruelty-free, palm oil-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free and phthalate-free.