You’ve heard of “reduce, recycle, reuse,” well the newest step in the green movement is all about creating zero waste. While it’s actually impossible to make no trash, you may want to reduce the amount of waste you throw away every day. But how do you get started? Well, there is a refreshing new store in Ann Arbor that is all about helping you reduce your waste, something owner Emma Hess has been working on for the past few years.
“My low waste journey started while I was in college,” says Hess. “For me, my first ever swap was shampoo bars.”
When COVID hit and she graduated college, she kicked her low waste goals up a notch. She moved in with her brother and they started composting and switching to un-paper towels instead of the disposable ones. She was looking for a place to get container-less refills of soap, laundry detergent, and more but she couldn’t find one, and that gave her an idea, she would start her own.
Her business began as pop-ups. Over 8 months she did more than 30 pop-ups in different communities around southeast Detroit, but she wanted to grow more. She started looking for retail space and found one tucked away in the basement of a complex in downtown Ann Arbor. She called her store BYOC.
“BYOC stands for ‘bring your own container,’” Hess explains. “I just liked the idea of being downstairs, having folks have to kind of find us a little bit, and I liked the space that we could kind of grow into.”
Here’s how it works, you can either bring your own container, purchase one of their pretty new ones, or pick one up from their free shelf. Then they will weigh your container and store how much it weighs in what they call their tare process. This way you don’t get charged for the weight of the container. Then you fill it up with whatever you need. They have cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, hand soap, even shampoos, and conditioners. They will weigh it again at the end, and charge you per ounce for the product.
Besides refills, they have lots of other reusable or low waste products. They have solid shampoo and conditioner bars, and body soaps you can cut yourself. Popular items include biodegradable doggy bags, un-paper towels, and reusable makeup wipes. They also have products for kids and pets.
In terms of cost, many of the refills are similarly priced to what you would find in the grocery store. Their shampoos and conditioner are a little higher-end, and they like their products to be made with plant-based, natural ingredients. The reusable items will come in at a higher price point than what you would typically find at the store, but the thought is you purchase these once and keep using them for a long time, saving you money in the long run.
BYOC is a community space, with classes and events to teach you how to live a lower waste lifestyle. Plus, they also collect items that are tough to recycle.
If you want to dip your toes into the low-waste movement, Hess has some advice, “I would say... just start with one thing honestly. It’s more that we are working towards zero waste, and actually achieving that goal, and making things as maintainable for your lifestyle as possible.”
BYOC is located at 225 E Liberty Street in Ann Arbor.