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Zero-waste business KnoxFill aims to make Knoxville "The Sustainable City"

The refill business's goal is to give sustainable alternatives to the products we use every day. Since March, over 500 households have made the eco switch.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Recently opened Knoxville business KnoxFill is making it easier to take care of the environment and cut down on trash and plastic waste in the community.

The female-owned company provides alternatives to the items we use every day, like shampoo, lotion, soap and even toothpaste.

"I know Knoxville is the Maker City and the Scruffy City, and I think we're well on our way to being the Sustainable City," owner and founder Michaela Barnett said.

She dreamed up KnoxFill after living a more sustainable lifestyle herself and wondering why the Knoxville area didn't have a place like it.

"I was buying a lot of zero-waste goods, trying to make some of my own, getting it all shipped in, and I kept waiting, 'When is someone going to start a zero-waste refill store in Knoxville?' and then I realized that that person was going to be me," Barnett said.

It's all run out of her utility room attached to her house in South Knoxville.

"KnoxFill is a zero-waste refill store," Barnett said. "So what I usually tell people is it's just like the milkman, but instead of being 1940s, it's modern day, instead of milk, it's personal care and household goods and instead of a man, it's run by a woman."

Here's how it works on the refillable side: you get a glass container filled with whatever product you want, and Barnett fills it up for you once it's empty. 

You can choose to pick up from one of three locations: Jack's 2.0, Commonplace Coffee or Modern Massage. You can also choose the delivery option.

Since KnoxFill started in March, the small space has made a big impact.

"We are five months in and we've helped over 500 households make the transition away from single-use disposable plastics, to refillable sustainable local goods, and that is amazing," Barnett said.

Barnett believes while Knoxville is already making strides to improve the planet, more can always be done. It starts with one.

"Individual action turned into collective action is incredibly powerful," Barnett said. "If just 20 percent of Knoxvillians reduce their waste by just 20 percent, we could keep almost 14 million pounds of waste from being generated every single year."

She's a doctoral student who studies the waste system. She knows the choices communities make today impact the future generations.

"It's a direct outgrowth of the research that I do, which is that we need to prevent waste at the source rather than just sustainably dispose of it after we've already created it," Barnett said.

She's aiming to create a greener Knoxville, one refill at a time.

"It's good for the planet and it's good for people," Barnett said.

In the future, Barnett hopes to open a brick and mortar shop. If you would like to get involved with KnoxFill, go to knoxfill.com.