A South Delta business established in late 2020 is helping people stay away from single-use plastics with innovative local products. The Hub Refillery Ltd. curates high-quality items that encourage consumers to live a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. We connected with Owner and Founder Tiffinie Hammerer to find out how she uses her excellent research skills, honed during her previous job in forensics, to source eco-conscious products in refillable containers or with recyclable or biodegradable packaging. The Registered Holistic Nutritionist flexes her curiosity and ability to read the fine print as she educates shoppers on how to choose—and use—the right products. Rather than continuing the endless production of plastic containers that purchasing shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, or cleaning agents encourages, The Hub Refillery makes it easy for consumers to refill extended-use containers. Also featuring a website that includes an online store and convenient curbside pickup, The Hub’s range of home, health, and beauty products is well-curated. Tiffinie helps shoppers adjust to the store’s concept with tutorials that explain how the heck you use a shampoo bar and schedules store shopping appointments to show them what a refillery looks like. Reducing the consumer's footprint is at the heart of the store’s philosophy, and Tiffinie takes great pleasure in listening to her customers’ needs and sharing insight with producers, some of whom are using her research and feedback to create delightful wares specifically for The Hub Refillery.
Let’s start with your origin story; how does someone marry a passion for forensics with nutrition?
I was a forensic bank investigator for a number of years, working on money laundering and crime; I really love investigative work. I took a holistic nutrition program because I was interested in the field and figured I might do something with it down the line. Then I went on to become a holistic nutritionist, life events happened, and I decided to make it my focus.
Years ago, I went to The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver and I loved the concept. I wanted a way to make changes—not changing your life completely, but just a way to make more conscientious decisions. Honestly, I’d been waiting for somebody else to open something like The Hub here in South Delta, because I knew the people in this community would want a store that could help them make easy environmentally-friendly changes. I think most people want less waste. When I came across the space I’m in now, which is small, divided by a pony wall, and co-shared with Soltis Art + Design, I figured it was a great opportunity to test the local market.
My forensic and holistic nutrition backgrounds are complementary to my business because they give me the skills to thoroughly research different vendors and make sure that I’m getting great products and sourcing products as close to Tsawwassen as possible. I've done a ton of research to build up a selection of products that I stand behind.
You started your business when the local market was uncertain due to COVID-19 restrictions. What motivated you to open up a shop during a pandemic?
It’s kind of funny because people say, ‘Oh my gosh, you started something during COVID?’ But this business actually helps offset some of the increased disposable practices we’ve had to implement, such as with masks and plastic gloves. Prior to COVID, I think we were starting to make better choices with reducing our waste, but there have been setbacks. Plus the demand for certain products has even been spurred by the pandemic. For example, I carry a hand sanitizer, Love To Be Clean, that's made in Manitoba that uses aloe vera and essential oils, so it doesn't dry out your hands, plus you can just bring your bottle in and refill it when it's empty.
COVID has helped us to pause and reconsider how we consume, and a lot of innovation has come out of it. Some of the products I carry deliver the same thing in a different way, so there’s an educational piece to it that goes along with customers rethinking how they do things. My favorite part is getting feedback from customers, because they’re so blown away with how good the products are. I think sometimes people think environmentally-friendly products don’t work as well, but that's not the case—sometimes they're even superior.
Can you provide some examples of the innovative products on your shelf?
Of course; it's really fascinating to see the different products that are out there. Our main liquid refill line is Carina Organics from North Vancouver. We carry their lotion, body wash, gel, hairspray, shampoo, and conditioner in various different scents, including their signature sweet pea scent. They are family-owned and have been around for 40 years.
Companies spend a lot of time and energy transporting liquids, which is mostly water, so whenever possible I encourage people to try bars in concentrated forms. For example, we have shampoo bars, conditioner bars and 3-in-one bars from The High-End Hippie. These bars are incredible and compete against salon shampoos—in fact, that’s usually where you’ll find them. Owner Amy worked with a green chemist to formulate the right PH level and has a flowchart that helps determine which bar is best for your specific hair needs.
I also have a soap square that replaces liquid dish soap, which is equivalent to three bottles. When you see the size, you realize how much water we’re paying for in these products. Ambleside Soap’s dish soap square works really well, and I got local potter Robin Jenkins to design a dish soap plate specifically to elevate it.
Then there’s Elate Cosmetics from Victoria; their products all come in chemical-free bamboo casings with your blush or lip colour, for example, held in by a magnet. When you're finished, you tap the palette out and then just replace that part—so there's no plastic involved whatsoever. The replacement palette comes in a little paper sleeve that has flower seeds in it, so you can soak the paper and then plant it! They’ve made a lot of effort in thinking about their packaging and its environmental footprint all the way to end-of-life.
We also carry Change Toothpaste tabs, which almost look like mints. You just chew them and use water on your toothbrush to get them to foam up. Deodorant from Ambleside Soap is sold in a brick, so there's no plastic. You can either melt it down and pour it into a container you already have to use like your regular deodorant, or you can use it in brick form against the heat of your body or by running it under warm water.
I also have products from an innovative company called The Rogerie. It’s run by a couple from Kelowna that uses the plastic from old window frames or TVs, recycles it into pellets, and then uses those pellets in a 3D printer. They make everything from wine glasses to composters—with charcoal filters so they don't get stinky—and they’re quite pretty too, so you can leave them on your countertop.
With most of my products, the idea isn't to make your life more difficult. They’re all user-friendly, there just might be a slight change initially from how you’ve typically used a product. Once people see how they’re used, it's really easy. I share a lot of tutorials on my website and Instagram.
It sounds like you're always in a state of product research, and you act as the go-between for the producers and customers. Is that where you thrive?
Absolutely; and the best part is, the producers are receptive when I throw ideas out there. That's one of the nice parts about working with small companies—they're excited to get the feedback. I feel like it's such a great opportunity to create something to feed demand. I carry these amazing bath bombs, but some people don't take baths; after working with the producer, Ambleside Soap, they’ve come up with shower steamers. They’re so easy—you just throw them in the shower and they dissolve with this amazing eucalyptus and mint smell like you're in a spa. It's neat to come up with creative ideas as you see what people are looking for.
I like to make sure that I'm trying to leave the world a better place; it’s part of my personality. I feel like other people often want to do that as well, but they just don't have the tools or don't know where to start. I feel like I'm helping make that connection for people, which is a big drive for me. Between my attention span and my desire to always be learning something new, I can lose interest if things get too mundane and repetitive. Knowing that the products are changing all the time and that I can research them and even get the producers to tweak, change, or improve their products for the end-user excites me too.
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