A Refill Station on Wheels: Out Of The Box Eco-Store

Owner Aline Bloch and the van. Photo credit: Shelly Borga - Dakota & Co.

Aline Bloch launched the first mobile eco-refillery in the Seattle area this spring. Out Of The Box Eco-Store aims to make low waste living more accessible by bringing refillable home and personal products to customers. Bloch and her van “Phil” are offering people an eco-friendly way to refill on everyday products like soaps, cleaners and more.

We interviewed Bloch recently to learn more about her new business.

Seattleite: It looks like you were first a cardboard artist! How did you make the jump to Out of The Box Eco-store? 

Recycling was my first step into low-waste lifestyle. When we moved from Paris to Seattle area, I realized how much stuff we had and how many cardboard moving boxes we had to throw away.
This is when I felt guilty and overwhelmed about the waste my small family was creating. I wanted to do something about it and I started by learn how to recycle properly and how to reuse and transform these moving boxes into something functional. I designed my first piece of furniture then continued with home décor and event décor.

I have always been willing to provide an opportunity for people to learn, engage and contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle. I started my own zero-waste journey, shared tips and challenges with my community and decided to take the next step by opening a refill station and zero-waste store.

Seattleite: Was this a business born in the pandemic? 

Yes. Well, the idea was born early on, I knew that I wanted to open a store, but I did not know exactly what it would be… a maker space, a sustainable art store or a workshop.

The mobile concept is absolutely a response to the pandemic. As my family was going through the pandemic, adapting to the situation, and finding new ways to live and consume. I recalled the time I was spending my vacation breaks at my grandma’s in France. She was living in a small town, isolated from everything, and I remembered the regular visits of the baker, butcher, and fisherman’s trucks.  Right here, at my Grandma’s front door, they parked their small truck, opened the large windows, and sold their goods to the neighborhood. It was the opportunity for customers to buy goods for the week, from local producers, to have a conversation and create a connection.  At the same time, innovative, meaningful and community oriented, our low-waste mobile store seemed to be perfectly adapted, offering a safe, healthy, and simple way to consume, while aligned with our values and our customers’ expectations.

Seattleite: What is your vision for Out of The Box Eco-store? 

I believe in the mobile concept, which facilitates convenience and accessibility while staying local. In the future, I see maybe 1 or 2 more “refill vans” traveling around the area, and a brick-and-mortar shop that will also focus on education, offering virtual and in-person workshops and events around low-waste living.

Seattleite: I pursued the selection of items you carry, how did you curate this list? Are you adding new items often or is this pretty set? 

Since the beginning we wanted to have products aligned with our values. We looked for earth friendly, natural/plant-based, cruelty free, sustainably and locally sourced products. These products would cover house cleaning, home care and personal care. We added “unscented and scented version” at first for some products, and we are now thinking of adding—along with our customers requests—more specific products, like shampoo for curly hair, products for babies, or bulk for DIY lovers.

Seattleite: How do you think about the environmental impact of driving the Out of the Box van to someone’s house versus them shopping at a brick-and-mortar that offers similar services? 

We wanted to offer solutions to make eco-living simple, convenient, and accessible to all, so we decided to go mobile, with the awareness that we will be driving around. We are very organized and work by areas to limit our carbon footprint. Our vehicle is recent and small. In a perfect world, our refill van would have been electric, but we have to be patient. After 4 months of operations, we have a good idea of our environmental impact, and we are working on having a fully carbon neutral operation and offset the emissions resulting from our driving services.

Seattleite: How is business going and how are folks finding out about Out of The Box?

It is going great! We have had a wonderful four months so far and have learned at lot. We believe in creating long term relationships with our customers and want to support them in their journey. The word of mouth is for us the best way to grow awareness about the way we consume and how it affects our planet and our future and invite people to take the ride with us.

Seattleite: What advice would you tell people who are interested in sustainability, but also intimidated by it?

It’s okay to be intimidated because it is intimidating. Changes do not happen overnight and without some adjustments. I always recommend starting with a small goal. Small changes and not comparing yourself to anyone else’s lifestyle. “Start where you are, with what you have and do what you can.”

Seattleite: What else haven’t I asked that you think readers might want to know? 

Low-waste living does not have to be complicated; it can just start with refilling your home essentials.

Find Aline and her refill van at a location near you. Scroll to the bottom of the website’s home page for an event calendar. Or you can book a visit or host a refill party.