While the plastics industry has taken steps to reduce the amount of material it uses for consumer products, it's cold comfort when you consider how much we rely on plastic in our daily lives. The EPA says that in 2012 alone, we generated 32 million tons of plastic waste; just 9 percent of that was able to be recovered for recycling. The rest of it is hogging up space in landfills, floating in our oceans and creating pollution in every state of its existence. When plastics break down, they leach toxic chemicals that are eventually consumed by the animals that many of us later eat. I think you know where I'm going with this.
We'll never fully rid our lives of plastic. With such intense national focus recently on saving the environment (or at least preserving what we still have), it's good to know we have people like Deidre Prozinski helping to educate us here at home on how to live more simply and in ways that don't harm the planet. Owner of Blue Dot Refill (4799 1/2 Voltaire St. in Ocean Beach)—a small, no-frills refill shop for all your laundry, bathing and general cleaning needs—has made it her mission to reduce plastics pollution, one bottle at a time. My only question is: What took so long?
"I feel like there wasn't enough traction for a refill store even just a couple years ago," the former corporate lawyer says. "Now, everyone who comes in here is like, 'Finally!'"
Formerly a cell-phone store, Blue Dot Refill is generating a ton of foot traffic at its prime location right next to People's Organic Food Market. Prozinski, who used her savings and credit cards to get up and running, is already breaking even—after just four months of being open. It's almost silly how simple yet novel the concept is: Bring your empty bottle. Fill it with whatever cleaning or hygiene product you need. When you're done, come back with the same bottle. She'll rinse it. You'll reuse it. It's the kind of recycling that leaves no footprint. And Prozinski thinks it's just a matter of time before the "refill revolution" really catches on.
"The single use of something is simply not sustainable," she says. Plus, "plastic is expensive! Wouldn't you rather pay for the product and not the packaging?"
And you won't find a better price, anywhere, for what Blue Dot sells. ShiKai, EO, Biokleen—you can get these all-natural, environmentally friendly products and more for anywhere from 10 to 50 percent off retail. ("And If you don't see what you want here, I will get it for you—the selection is fluid," Prozinski says.) It's an obvious win for those who shop at Whole Foods and Sprouts, where the markup on these same brands is painful. But it should also be a plus for the frugal. Stores like Target sell the cheap stuff—but not the nontoxic, eco-friendly stuff. At Blue Dot, you can spend less, get more and have better. Oh, the beauty of buying in bulk. If sales continue, as Prozinski predicts, she promises to expand as soon as possible.
For now, she'll continue to keep a tally of every plastic bottle saved. On the day of my visit, that number had reached 500. It's a number she's proud of, considering she's only been open since March, but she recognizes it's hardly enough to make a dent.
"Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, but I feel like I need to do something. It's not going to be a very long time until the health of the ocean reaches a tipping point. We're using our planet as a garbage disposal."
She could go on, but she's careful about not letting her passion sound preachy to those who really just want to refill their bottles and leave. Not everyone wants to engage in the politics of pollution. And that's fine with Prozinski; all she wants is for us to stop throwing our bottles away.