Minimalism, Refillism, & Bulkism in Santa Barbara
updated: Aug 24, 2013, 12:00 PM
Around Town Asides - Local Finds For Those With Refill In Mind
By Kelley Skumautz
To me, huge stockpiles of stuff is crazy making. All I see are expiration dates and things calling out "do
something with me!" The idea of buying cases and pallets of merchandise individually packaged and
then some, ala Costco, screams waste. I prefer to source household staples in simple, sustainable
I have always enjoyed the co-op model of buying goods in bulk and I have not purchased shampoo,
conditioner, lotions, hair spray, detergents, or most soaps off the shelf in more than three years. I have
refilled these and other goods in empties instead. There is probably some arithmetic to calculate
containers not landfilled or "recycled," but my satisfaction comes not in enumerating exact quantities,
but rather in how I feel - lighter, more empowered, with greater peace of mind.
There are other materials-reduction territories out there too that I am just beginning to explore. I have
been slow on the uptake (which I attribute to my lack of acuity in the kitchen), so it has only been
recently that I have had "aha" moments about avoiding pre-packaged goods in this room of the house. I
now bake cookies instead of buying thrice-wrapped Trader Joe-Joe's. I make salad dressing and
preserves instead of buying in bottles and jars. I no longer purchase boxed pastas, cereals, and grains,
or canned soup and get them in bulk instead (joining foods like honey, cooking oils, candy, beans, dried
fruit, nuts, peanut butter, sugar, flour, and chocolate chips).
Depending on where I am going around town and what I need, I have identified three favorite reliable,
easy-in, easy-out, independent retailers of bulk foods:
Pacific Health Foods in Carpinteria where you can
pick up a few staples for the week including nuts, granola & oats, dried fruit & beans, trail mix,
chocolate (chips and malted milk balls) and more.
Best bulk find: Sea salt (great for seasoning and for use in the neti pot).
Claim to fame/customer testimonial: "In the back of this lovely store is the BEST SMOOTHIES I have
Fun fact: Every so often PHF tucks away past-their-prime items in a basket at the end of the first
aisle on the left for customers to take home free of charge.
Tri-County Produce located at the south end of
Milpas; their open-air store makes shopping fun. They offer many of the same items as PHF but with
more variety and a few additions like soup mix,
Best bulk find: Hands down, three flavors of licorice - cherry, anise, and grape.
Claim to fame: "If it's any fresher, it's still in the field."
Fun fact: Bring your own bag and you get to vote for a local charity to receive funds from TCP.
Isla Vista Food Co-op offers the mother load
of bulk items in our region. Even though I shudder to think of traipsing to through student housing to
get there, they always have room to move about and the employees are genuinely friendly and helpful.
Best bulk find: Literally hundreds of spices & herbs, also soy sauce
Claim to fame: "The little co-op by the sea."
Fun fact: The IV Co-op publishes a full listing of bulk items in stock. Click here for the August 2013
It is in simplifying and modifying my routines that I gain some semblance of control in my epic battle
against too much stuff, over-packaging, and having to throw things away or recycle them before they
are thoroughly used, and I am looking forward to conquering new feats in package reduction and
sharing my discoveries with you.
Kelley Skumautz is the owner of Refill to You in
Carpinteria, CA, a direct-to-consumer service for people who seek to counter our disposable
marketplace. She also writes a weekly blog about
simplicity, sustainability, community & commodity in the greater Santa Barbara area and beyond.
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