Clean Refillery to promotes local, low-waste lifestyle

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Clean Refillery personal products refill station.

In October 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 23-year-old Alexa Hecksel officially opened Clean Refillery. Clean Refillery, located in Lansing, is an eco-friendly, “low-waste” personal products store where people can both refill products such as laundry detergent and shampoo and recycle their frequently purchased bottles and containers. By bringing in a container or purchasing a reusable one from the refillery, products can be purchased  while preventing extra waste that would otherwise come from packaging.

Hecksel started Clean Refillery in her mother’s basement in October 2020. She began making local deliveries to the people of Lansing, until she opened her storefront six months later in April 2021.

“It was the middle of the pandemic, and I was working a real estate job. I had been thinking about opening a refillery in some way for a time, and I was like, ‘Okay there is no better time. I will never have more time to do it than now,’” said Hecksel.

Soon after,  Hecksel was able to hire employees like Anna Szabo.

“We helped put the gutters up and everything,” said Szabo, refill expert at Clean Refillery. “Alexa was very open to suggestions.”

Alexa Hecksel, owner of Clean Refillery. Courtesy of Alexa Hecksel.

The opening of Hecksel’s Refillery was inspired by her father who died in 2017 due to pancreatic cancer.  Her father used to refer to the people around him as “invisible people,” and that commitment to make an impact on them through acts of kindness inspired her business. After her father’s death, Hecksel began to think about who the invisible people were for her and how she could make her impact on them.

“It’s the people who you see every day, and they’re always around you, but you don’t really take the time to spend with them,” Hecksel explained. “I was trying to think about who those invisible people were for me, and I realized that they’re the people who make our clothing and really the next generation too who we’re leaving the planet for.”

Hecksel has been passionate about living a low-waste lifestyle ever since she was a kid. She wanted to create a resource for others to be able to participate in a low-waste lifestyle as well.

“I could go to the grocery store and usually get my food without a whole lot of extra packaging, but I couldn’t get things like personal care items or cleaning supplies,” Hecksel said.

Clean Refillery personal products refill station. Credit Leah Natzic.

Having no experience in running a business, Hecksel experienced a learning curve when it came to creating the Refillery.

“I don’t have a degree in business, so a lot of it was learning on the spot,” Hecksel said. “But that’s why I started doing it because I was trying to leave the Earth in better condition than when I found it,” said Hecksel.

Hecksel believes in creating a sense of community within her business. She values building relationships and collaborating with others.

“I would say one of [Hecksel’s] values is people over profit. She absolutely embodies that in the work that she does and the environment that she has created with the shop,” said Sam Stiles, manager at Clean Refillery.

Clean Refillery products. Credit Leah Natzic.

For the future of Clean Refillery, Hecksel hopes that refilleries become more accessible for more people to be able to participate in a low-waste lifestyle.

“I hope Target puts me out of business. I would love for Target to have a refill section,” Hecksel said. “It’s not because I don’t want my shop to exist anymore. It’s because I want refilling to become the norm, I want it to become more accessible,” said Hecksel.

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