Teresa Sanders, left, and Gabi Dubland, right, celebrate reaching 100,000 plastics saved at FILL Vernon’s Refill Store. (Photo contributed)

Teresa Sanders, left, and Gabi Dubland, right, celebrate reaching 100,000 plastics saved at FILL Vernon’s Refill Store. (Photo contributed)

Zeroes speak volumes for Okanagan businesses

Owners of FILL Refill shops in Vernon and Kelowna have saved, collectively, 110,000 plastics

At the front of a Lower Mission refill shop, on a chalkboard that marks milestones of plastics saved, Gabi Dubland lifted her blue chalk and wrote: 10,000.

On a slightly bigger chalkboard at the sunny entrance of a refill store in Vernon, Teresa Sanders raised her blue chalk and scrawled: 100,000. To the owners of both stores — FILL Vernon’s Refill Store and FILL Kelowna’s Refill Store — every one of those zeroes says so much.

“It takes me back to how it felt in the beginning when I was helping people fill their bottles and seeing the high that they would get in refilling and the impact we were making together,” said Dubland. She was among the first team of ‘fillers’ when the Vernon FILL store opened in December 2019. “I was so passionate about what we were doing and so excited, people would always ask, ‘Is this your store?’”

But it wouldn’t be long before Dubland could give a different answer to that question: The Vernon store had only been open a few weeks when Dubland and Sanders began to dream of opening a Kelowna store as partners. In November, that dream became a reality.

After completing significant lease-hold improvements in the span of just a month, in November FILL Kelowna’s Refill Store opened on Lakeshore Road’s Mission Park Shopping Centre, offering 1,250 square feet of opportunity to refill everything from dish soap and deodorant to shampoo and hand sanitizer across price points. Three months later, the store has already celebrated a major milestone: 10,000 plastics saved.

“We’ve had a really positive response from the community. People have really embraced it and it’s encouraging to see the plastic we’re keeping out of landfills,” says Dubland.

She and Sanders identify as ‘sustainability stewards’ and they remember every photo at the chalkboard.

“We were saving so much plastic, the thought of being able to bring that to another Okanagan community was a no-brainer,” says Sanders. When she opened the doors to the Vernon store — several months after winning first place in Enterprize Challenge, a startup boot camp that culminates in a Dragon’s Den style pitch to judges — she says it was like “a rocket ship took off.”

Even during COVID-19, FILL has been thriving. The store went online, offered curbside pickup or delivery and began selling surface and hand sanitizer, which arrives in one of three 210 litre drums that circles back and forth from the manufacturer so no new plastic is created. FILL even went through the Health Canada process of creating a new lavender-scented hand sanitizer that’s being used throughout Predator Ridge.

“We never considered postponing our plans to open in Kelowna,” says Sanders. They wanted to ensure if people wanted to refill, they could.

“Right from the beginning I felt, I have to make refilling more affordable,” says Sanders, who opted to have FILL carry plant-based and regular grade safe blends as well as organic. “We just want to support people in refilling, so our approach is to find out what someone’s needs and price point are, and then help them find the product that’s a fit for them.”

In the spirit of inclusivity while doing something good for the earth — and collectively contributing to all those zeroes — Sanders says FILL has really created a community of passionate supporters, and those relationships have grown even stronger during COVID, despite sometimes shorter, distanced visits and digital communication.

“Coming in to FILL is an experience. There is a sense of community and fun and a joy in what we’re doing. I think people find it very rewarding. Everyone leaves with a smile and I love being able to say to customers at the till, ‘Thank you for making the world a greener place.’”

READ MORE: New Vernon store Fills green need

READ MORE: New Kelowna refill store offers alternatives to single-use plastics


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Local Business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fifty-one improperly discarded needles were picked up from Vernon streets in four months as part of the Folks on Spokes program. (File)
85% fewer needles found around Vernon

Folks on Spokes numbers showing fewer improperly discarded sharps

In a feature article published April 10, 2021 in The Times of London, ‘headlined British Columbia has what it takes to rival Napa Valley,’ the valley is praised extensively for its natural beauty and wine. (File photo)
From the U.K. with love: Okanagan wine, scenery receives international praise

The Times of London newspaper recently featured the valley in a wine and travel piece

Skogie’s Express Tunnel Wash on Anderson Way in Vernon. (Submitted photo)
Lawsuit dismissed after vehicle damaged while inside Vernon car wash

Civil Resolution Tribunal dismisses driver’s claim following a collision inside Skogie’s car wash

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Forward Elan Bar Lev Wise of the West Kelowna Warriors (right, shown playing for the Vernon Vipers in 2019) has been suspended nine games by the B.C. Hockey League for being the instigator and aggressor in an after-the-game fight with Vernon’s Kjell Kjemhus Monday, April 12, at Kal Tire Place. Kjemhus was given a two-game suspension for his role in the fight after the game was over. (Morning Star - file photo)
West Kelowna Warriors forward handed lengthy suspension

Elan Bar Lev Wise fought Vernon Vipers forward Kjell Kjemhus after BCHL game was over Monday, April 12; Kjemhus suspended two games

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

A dumpster was on fire behind a residential complex in downtown Penticton Tuesday afternoon. (Brennan Phillips Western News)
Dumpster fire extinguished in downtown Penticton

There has been a string of dumpster fires lately

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The future of the Eagle Pass Lookout cabin is being discussed. (File photo)
Options presented for future of former Eagle Pass fire lookout in Shuswap

Stakeholders met in 2020 to discuss the restoration, or possible removal of the cabin

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Mayor Cindy Fortin - Peachland)
Peachland mayor declines early vaccination offer

Mayor Cindy Fortin said she wants seniors, immunocompromised individuals to get the shot first

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Conservation officers caught three men over fishing bull trout in Kinbasket Lake. (Facebook)
B.C. men fined $1.7K for overfishing near Revelstoke, Golden

The seized fish were donated to the Golden Food Bank

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021. (Kamloops This Week photo)
Clothing that ‘detracts from learning process’ removed from SD73 student dress code

Policy change underway after student in knee-length dress, long-sleeve turtleneck sent home

Most Read