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First refill store in Hunterdon County opens in Frenchtown

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Eco Loka, Hunterdon County’s first refill store, opened the first weekend of November in Frenchtown, N.J.

Refill shops – stores designed to help people reduce the volume of packaging that ends up in landfills, incinerators and oceans – have been springing up all around the country.

It works like this: You bring your own reusable container (or buy one at Eco Loka) and fill it with soap, shampoo, conditioner, cleaner, laundry detergent, etc.

Eco Loka shares space with Yoga Loka, the longest-running yoga studio in Hunterdon County. Owner Bonnie Pariser decided to create the store in the large reception area in the front of the street-level yoga studio she has operated since 2003.

“When we practice yoga, we seek to follow ahimsa, non-violence,” Pariser said. “It is the first instruction we are given as yoga practitioners.” This extends to everything, Pariser said, not just our bodies and interactions with other people. “When we can be kinder to the environment by reducing our use of plastics and eliminating single-use items, we will be kinder to everything.”

Sometimes we will need to buy water in a plastic bottle, but if we reduce single-use plastics in other places in our lives, we are still doing what we can when we can. “Having Eco Loka here makes it easier for everyone to practice ahimsa and be kinder to the environment. It gives people another option,” said Pariser.

The decision to open the shop came when Pariser got tired of hearing herself say, “I wish there was a refill store nearby,” every time a shampoo or detergent bottle was emptied. Pariser has hosted community clothing swaps at Yoga Loka for years, and recently started a mending circle where people can come together and repair their clothing rather than adding to the landfill.

“I have been a dedicated thrift store shopper since high school,” Pariser said. “Like thrift stores, clothing swaps and mending circles keep viable clothing in use rather than buried in the ground.”

Pariser’s shop local, reduce and reuse philosophy extends to the creation of the Eco Loka space and the sourcing of its merchandise. Local artisans are assembling the shelving, and displays were purchased from Goodwill. Product sourcing has focused on small and local vendors who use natural sustainable materials.

Many customers have been waiting for a store like this to open. They have been coming in with their containers to fill with laundry soap, shampoo and hand soap. Many are taking inventory of their supplies at home so they know what to purchase next. For some, this is a new concept, and they are considering how they will join in to reduce their plastic consumption, whether it is by filling a container or purchasing a sustainable dish washing brush rather than a sponge made with plastics.

Eco Loka is currently open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and by appointment.

For information, contact Bonnie Pariser at EcoLokanj@gmail.com or visit Eco Loka online.


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