Low-Waste Living Advice from an Expert
When we’re not thinking about increasing sustainability on tours, in music venues, or at festivals, the REVERB team often find ourselves looking for ways to reduce waste in our everyday lives. Lucky for us, we’ve got a great neighbor and friend in Laura Marston—founder and CEO of GoGo Refill, a zero-waste store based in South Portland, ME.
We talked to Laura to learn more about the store and the growing momentum of the zero-waste movement. She also offered some great tips on small things we can all do to make a collective difference in waste reduction…and of course we had to ask what she’s listening to these days.
Follow GoGo Refill on Instagram for more low-waste inspiration!
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about GoGoRefill?
I’m Laura Marston, founder, owner, CEO & chief custodian of GoGo Refill. GoGo is a zero-waste store – we say that our mission is to spread the joy of low-waste living. And we do that by offering bulk refills of home & body essentials – think laundry detergent, hand soap, dish soap, shampoo, conditioner – and so much more. We encourage our customers to bring their own containers to refill.
What’s GoGoRefill’s origin story?
GoGo was born from my own personal plastic awakening – starting with a new year’s resolution to never use a single-use plastic water bottle again. Once I took that first step I saw plastic everywhere, and became slightly obsessed with plastic pollution and toxicity. I tried to “hack” Portland as much as possible to shop plastic-free and saw that there was a hole in the local offerings – I wanted high-quality, plastic-free home & body essentials. So GoGo was born!
We’re in the midst of New Years Resolution season—and we’re sure many people are looking for ways to reduce waste in their lives. Do you have tips to share?
I sure do! First, take it one step at a time…
- Do a waste audit! Learn about the waste you’re actually creating, that way you can identify some targets for reducing waste.
- See if there’s a refill shop or bulk food store near you. If you’re in the Portland or Brunswick areas, come see us. If not, check out LITTERLESS.COM to see what’s near you!
- Use up what you have – it can be exciting to find new products that are plastic-free or zero-waste, but the least wasteful thing to use is the thing you already own! When you’re ready to replace something, then you can pick the least-wasteful thing.
- Pick an area or two of your life and start finding zero-waste swaps, like your kitchen, cleaning supplies, or grocery shopping for example.
- Be easy on yourself, this path is littered with zero-waste fails, and we must simply identify, accept and learn from those challenges. Every good change and shift is a step in the right direction, so make sure to celebrate your wins.
It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of the climate crisis, but we at REVERB strongly believe in the power of collective action. How have you seen that phenomenon in action at GoGoRefill?
We have the saying “Think big, start small” painted on our wall in the shop. There’s probably nothing we believe in more. And since we’ve been at this for a few years, we have the stats to prove it! In our first four-and-a-half years in business, we’ve helped our refillers (that’s what we call our customers) refuse over 200,000 plastic packages – that’s 200,000 plastic containers that won’t go into the waste stream, 200,000 containers that can’t end up as litter in the environment or in the oceans. And we did it together – one refill at a time.
We’ve received so many accolades since we opened – in fact, in 2023 we were named the Maine Woman-Owned Small Biz of the Year by the Small Business Administration and that was a spectacular feeling, our team is so proud of that recognition. But to be honest with you… the daily satisfaction of happy customers who are reducing their waste tops it all. When people say “I shop at GoGo and I have so much less trash” I know our hard work is paying off.
What changes have you seen over the last 4.5 years you’ve been in business?
Well, we opened our doors like 6 months pre-covid, so I guess we still don’t really know what a “normal” year is supposed to look like. But we have seen so many new brands entering the refill/plastic-free space. We have many more options to choose from when we source our products which is really exciting. It used to feel like if you wanted a sustainable option you might have to sacrifice on performance, design or price – but that’s just not true anymore.
Can you spotlight a product(s) that has a surprisingly powerful ability to reduce waste? Or just a favorite product in the store?
Lately I’ve been thinking a ton about the kitchen sink. That’s an area where you can pretty easily swap out a bunch of waste easily & simply. You can make those swaps for your whole kitchen sink routine (dish soap, hand soap, all-purpose cleaner, sponges, scrubbers & brushes) for starting around $25-$30, which is fairly accessible, and that’s a lot of waste immediately gone from your household, from your recycling bin & trash. But that’s not super exciting, I know – so my favorite product? The spork & cork, a little travel-sized bamboo spork that comes in a little cork pouch that I always have in my pocket or my purse so I never need a plastic utensil when I’m out on the go.
What are your goals for the future of GoGoRefill?
The retail shop was just the first step of the process for us, we’re really excited to be creating a community wide conversation about waste. We are also working to promote and support the reuse economy in all sectors. We are unashamed of our belief that reuse is the way of the future. Therefore, we are working to advocate for any and all legislation in Maine & beyond that creates a regulatory landscape for reuse businesses to grow & thrive, and for more businesses to join in this reuse revolution!
What does it mean to you to be doing this work in Maine?
Maine’s incredible natural beauty and our coastline is what makes us unique, hearty and dedicated to the environment. Like so many other zero-wasters, the impact of plastic on the ocean and marine life is what originally pulled me into the fight. But also, the Gulf of Maine is warming rapidly, and rising sea levels are easy to see with recent storms. In other words, the climate crisis is right here on our shore. Which is a huge motivator to do whatever we can. We all, in every state, have incredible access to our government, and everyone can get involved. Call/write your representatives, get involved in your legislative process – it’s so easy. I can’t express that enough.
What are you listening to these days?
I’m so glad you asked. I’m almost always listening to Tedeschi Trucks Band (the best band in the land) or Jason Isbell, getting ready to see him in Portland in February.