Refill to Reduce at Earthwell Refill

This family-owned Kensington refill shop makes reducing plastic easier.

Your friendly neighborhood refill shop … that’s the way owner Katrina Oprisko describes her zero-waste store in Kensington. Since 2016, Earthwell Refill has provided eco-conscious San Diego shoppers a way to fight the excessive plastic waste accumulating in our oceans and landfills.

Katrina and her husband and co-owner, Kris, alternate days in the store, which offers dozens of natural, chemical-free products. San Diegans can bring in their empty bottles and containers to fill with shampoo, conditioner, soaps, household cleaners, and more. Your container’s weight is first zeroed out on a scale, you fill it with your product of choice, then pay per ounce. Products like natural deodorants, steel safety razors, and reusable feminine products are also available for purchase.

—Photo by Angie Huang

Katrina and Kris first became inspired by sustainable living while they lived in Spain and were introduced to starkly different ways to deal with waste. “If you had trash to throw away, you had to walk it into town. So, if there’s a way to repurpose something rather than tossing it, you did it,” recalls Katrina. After moving back to the United States and starting a family, the couple became believers in using only natural products after realizing how harmful chemicals can be — a commitment they’ve kept for two decades.

Now grown, the couple’s two children are still eco-conscious. Their son lives in Los Angeles where he works as a cartographer, mapping out areas to add more bike lanes in the city. “He doesn’t have a car, he bikes everywhere he goes, which isn’t easy in L.A.,” Katrina says. “But he still gets places faster than his friends because he isn’t sitting in traffic.”

At Earthwell Refill, Katrina tests all products herself and with friends and neighbors before she will offer them in her shop. But you will have to come into the store to find these tried-and-true products. “We did a customer survey that showed that our customers aren’t interested in a delivery service,” says Katrina. “They like walking into the shop. They want to have that human interaction and recommendations on products.” Customers have been primarily from Kensington, North Park, and University Heights, but the store is right off I-15 and has parking.

San Diegans can bring in their empty bottles and containers to fill with shampoo, conditioner, soaps, household cleaners, and more.

Katrina says the pandemic didn’t affect business — the shop stayed open with safety precautions — but she did see several vendors shut down because they couldn’t source their ingredients. However, her business has taken a hit just in the past year due to inflation. She says most people don’t realize that the cost of eight to twelve ounces of her products is very comparable to commercial products of larger sizes. “Many of the products are concentrated, so you don’t need to buy thirty-two ounces of these products at a time. A little goes a very long way.”

At home you can find Katrina and Kris composting, gardening, and cooking as part of their efforts toward sustainability and eco-friendly living. In April, Katrina will be speaking at the University of California San Diego’s Green Talks about the important role refill shops play in a community.

Teaching others about the importance of sustainability and environmentalism is something Katrina is deeply committed to. “It’s all about people who care about each other. There’s a sense of community. And it doesn’t have to be complex. Small changes can make a big difference. We already have the solutions — we just need to use them.”

Earthwell Refill, 4114 Adams Ave., San Diego.

Less is more

  • Globally humans buy a million plastic bottles per minute. 91% of all plastic is not recycled.
  • In the United States alone, 550 million empty shampoo bottles are thrown away each year, which would cover 1,164 football fields.
  • It is estimated that by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish.

Small changes make a big difference

  • 1 reusable bag can replace 170 plastic bags.
  • 1 glass floss container can replace 7 plastic floss containers.
  • 1 reusable coffee cup can replace 500 disposable ones.

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Kelli Schry
Kelli Schry
Born and raised in San Diego, Kelli Schry has more than 15 years of experience in public relations, writing, and content development. Her work has been featured in People Magazine, USA Today, Martha Stewart Living, the New York Times, the LA Times, CNN Money, the Washington Post, and more. Her passions include travel, food and wine, animals, and conservation. When she isn’t writing, she can be found exploring sunny San Diego with her husband and two kids.
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