One day in 2009 eco-conscious Angeleno Tonia Soteros was taking a shower, when the sight of rows upon rows of plastic product containers perched on every edge suddenly triggered a panic attack.
Now her shower does not have a single single-use plastic in sight; nor does her bathroom, bedroom, or pantry. Instead her home is filled with reusable containers stocked full of mindfully sourced, vegan, eco-friendly household consumables from cleaning products, to skin care items, laundry supplies and hair care items.
In other words she is living the zero waste dream and thanks to her store Recontained, any Santa Monica resident can do the same. Recontained offers a wide range of household products in easy to refill containers at a variety of price points with a goal of making a disposable-free lifestyle as accessible as possible.
While Recontained began its life at farmers markets in 2019 and later opened as a brick and mortar store on Abbot Kinney, in March 2021 it found a new home in Sunset Park at 2601 17th St, Suite B.
Soteros said the residential neighborhood is the perfect place to build a loyal customer base and that being located opposite Bob’s Market makes it easy for locals to pick up their groceries then swing by Recontained to stock up on household products.
Customers either bring their own containers or purchase them in store, fill them with as much product as they like, and then slap on one of Recontained’s cute custom labels, which are designed to peel on and off without leaving residue.
The store’s goal is to protect the environment by encouraging others to not merely recycle their waste, but to remove it from the equation altogether.
“Even if you put it (waste) in the recycle bin, It’s very often just not going the right place. China’s not taking our trash anymore, so it’s a problem,” said Soteros. “The only way to really stop it is to just stop creating it, stop using it.”
In addition to the packaging being environmentally friendly, Soteros’ ingredients are ethically and sustainably sourced, and all products, with the exception of one containing beeswax, are vegan.
“If you get into it (zero waste living) for the environmentalism… you’re going to end up being healthier, because you know what is bad for the planet? It’s not just about the containers, it’s what’s inside the bottles,” said Soteros. “I think the product inside the containers is healthier, and you are going to ultimately end up putting less toxins on your body and in your house.”
While the business concept for Recontained stemmed from her plastic induced 2009 shower panic attacks, she waited almost a decade to put it into action. In the meantime, she was an entrepreneur in the field of garment sourcing, trying to push clothing companies to use biodegradable shipping materials.
It was in 2018 when she heard a friend raving about a refill store that Soteros took her entrepreneurial skills and made the leap towards launching Recontained.
“I just knew in that moment, if I didn’t do it, it was going to be one of my biggest regrets,” said Soteros, adding that she is also glad she waited as in the interim the trend of zero waste grew immensely in popularity.
In a very short amount of time—which included a supply chain disrupting, businesses reshuffling, economically destabilizing pandemic—she built a thriving retail and e-commerce business that now stocks over 200 products.
She is particularly passionate about her skin care products, which she says are sourced with the highest quality ingredients and offer an excellent price point compared to many other skincare brands. One of her favorites is the daily facial moisturizer made with rosehip seed oil and organic hibiscus extract.
Soteros designed the personal care products to cater to a range of budgets and preferences. For example, she offers both a run-of-the-mill shampoo at 95 cents an ounce and a more luxury shampoo at $2 an ounce.
When it comes to embracing a zero waste lifestyle, Soteros said her advice is to take baby steps and never feel ashamed of falling short of perfection.
“So people will most likely come in here and they’ll usually start with either a body wash, or a body lotion or one of the cleaning products,” said Soteros. “Then the longer they come, they start… buying more and then I have customers now that they’re like ‘my entire house is Recontained!’”