Q + A

the voice of brittney la gesse

It’s a revolution, a Refill Revolution, that is. Boulderite Brittney La Gesse is using her voice to lead the charge against single-use plastics and to promote living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Refill Revolution is a one-stop-shop for all your low-waste needs. Think bulk refill items such as home cleaning supplies, sustainable-packaged goods and products made with materials that won’t contribute to landfills. Beyond her Boulder-based brick and mortar shop, you can find all your home goods — including eco-friendly cleaning supplies — online.

What’s your background story? 

I come from a tiny town in rural Wisconsin where I was brought up milking cows, hunting deer and burning tires for bonfires. I was raised to catch or hunt your food and have meat with every meal — not exactly the most sustainable place to be. After college in Wisconsin, other endeavors brought me out to Colorado about four years ago. While working a sales job and moving here to fulfill a dream of becoming an herbalist, other paths led me here.

Give us your 10-second spiel on how you landed in the zero-waste movement. 

I was following an Instagram account when I first moved out here about four years ago. Their platform was based around their non-profit at the time that taught people to produce less trash. I saw they were doing a meet-up in Boulder at Eco-Cycle. I attended their meeting, and it was incredibly eye-opening. I dove right into this thing called “zero-waste” and decided to start doing pop-up markets, which then led to opening a storefront.

To what do you attribute to your success?

The zero-waste community and their willingness to support not only Refill Revolution but also their efforts to reduce waste — even in a world where it can often seem so hard to do. There have been times I’ve wanted to give up, but the excitement and dedication I see in all of these wonderful people make it easier to keep going. 

Tell us a bit about the design intent of your brick and mortar shop?

Just like the entirety of my business model, the intent of the design is based on mindfulness. Every shelf, display, etc. is made from upcycled materials. This is an essential piece to zero-waste living: dissecting the way things are made and what they’re made of, what the intent of the product design was, and where these materials will end up at their end life. In addition to that — plants are a must! They bring good energy to the space. 

What are a few easy ways Refill Revolution can “clean up” a household to be greener?

  1. Compost, compost, compost. We are fortunate enough here on the Front Range to have accessible composting. Composting will lessen your garbage loads, not to mention reduce or eliminate garbage odor and, as a bonus, it benefits the Earth.
  2. Stop junk mail. When I was assessing what I was still throwing away after going low-waste, junk mail was a major player. There are many different ways to get off the lists — Eco-Cycle has a great list right here.
  3. Food Packaging. This one doesn’t have to be hard — and it’s certainly not going to be perfect, because we’re all human and have different dietary needs. Buy naked produce when you can and use your own bag or none at all! Buy in bulk — in some cases, stores won’t let you use your own jars, so I recommend bringing your own drawstring bags and transferring it to a jar once you’re home. Think about the materials the food is in — can you get it in glass, aluminum, etc., over something disposable like plastic?
  4. Use what you have/ slow consumerism. So many people get this idea twisted about being zero waste. It’s all about the transition! Use what you have when you can. Get creative! Thrift, swap, borrow. You do not always need to buy new, but when you do, be mindful of the materials you’re purchasing and the quality.

Recall the most interesting or inspiring meeting you’ve had in Boulder. Who was it with? Where did you meet? What did you speak about?

This past October, Eco-Cycle hosted a huge zero-waste event at the eTown Hall featuring Bea Johnson (considered to be the founder of zero-waste) and also highlighted local businesses, like Refill. We have fantastic resources right here in our backyard; this is not a “typical event” you would see just anywhere. It was amazing to see this event sell out and experience our community come together to talk and learn about the zero-waste lifestyle.

Finish this quote: In sustainability, …

Doing something is everything. So often I hear things like, “well, I can’t commit to a zero-waste lifestyle.” My response is usually something like “that’s cool — nobody can.” Sustainability thrives on the idea that you can’t do everything, but everyone can do something. 

What’s your favorite hidden gem in Boulder?

Right against the foothills, in the neighborhood just below Sanitas, there is this big tree I’ve seemed to have stumbled upon a handful of times. There is a box with little paper tags, ribbons and an assortment of markers. You can write whatever message you’d like to share — keeping it positive, of course. The last time I was there, the owner of the house came outside. I thanked her for sharing the coolest tree in her backyard, and she replied, “well, really though, it belongs to the Universe.” If that’s not a hidden gem in Boulder, I don’t know what is.

If you could recommend any pivotal books, podcasts, leaders, influencers, etc., what would you recommend?

Influencers // 

Andrea Sanders – IG: @spaceandpause

Amanda – IG: @mamaeatsplants

Immy Lucas – IG: @lowimpactmovement

Taylor Pfromer – IG: @taylor.pforwords

Books //

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things Book by Michael Braungart + William McDonough

Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution by Marcus Eriksen

How do you gauge the success of Refill Revolution? Mass Instagram following? Selling out of products? Zero-waste converts?

For me, the success of Refill Revolution is based on much more than the number of sales we bring in through zero-waste products. It is based on the difference we see.

Has COVID-19 impacted your local business? If it has, how can we help?

Like many other businesses, yes, unfortunately. We are, however, doing well with adjusting our business model and are grateful for the supportive response from within the community.

We have decided to close our storefront (in efforts to reduce the COVID-19), and we now offer delivery service as well as our usual online shipping orders. We are delivering bulk products to customers in reusable jars. They can either keep the jar, or we will swap them out with their next order and give them a jar deposit back.

Ways to help right now: share our delivery service with friends and people you know — this is a very niche industry, and this is an extra niche service we are offering. Most people have never heard of anything like this, so sharing the concept is very helpful for us right now, as well as purchasing gift cards and placing orders, of course.

explore more // RefillRevolution.com