SoPo’s new BYO container shop helps Mainers break their household plastic habit.
Photographs by Mat Tronger
In 2016, after countless family road trips that ended with a car littered with empty water bottles, Laura Marston made a New Year’s resolution to never again use another single-use plastic bottle. “Everybody has that thing that triggers them to see the bigger picture,” says the Cape Elizabeth–based former software executive. And once Pandora’s, er, bottle was open, she “couldn’t look away.” Like most of us, her home was packed with plastic spray and squeeze bottles, toothbrushes, razors, combs, deodorant and floss containers, makeup compacts, snack bags, straws, utensils, and more. Heck, even her daughter’s hair elastics had plastic in them. She did some research and realized recycling wasn’t enough — most plastic is only recyclable twice before it has to be thrown away. So she started cutting back, buying in bulk, and making her own cleaning spray, lotion, deodorant, and toothpaste. “The idea to start a store began as kind of a joke,” she says. “I was spending a lot of time thinking about [plastic waste] and it was like, ‘Hey, maybe I’ll quit my great job and open a bulk store.’”
Among the offerings: natural handsoap and cleaning spray (in dispensers Marston returns to the manufacturer for reuse), and eyeshadow customers decant into containers they bring or borrow from the store’s “library.”
The result of that fantasy, SoPo’s new GoGo Refill is Maine’s first shop dedicated to refillable and reusable products, and an airy, bright testament to the sustainable ethos, with a check-out counter and display tables made of red oak from Marston’s backyard and a biodegradable gray Marmoleum floor punctuated with playful yellow bands. Customers can bring in their own vessels, purchase new ones, or borrow from a container “lending library” to stock up on eco-friendly household supplies including cleaners, shampoo, eye shadow, and lotion, as well as reusable products like cotton produce storage bags, biodegradable silk floss in refillable glass receptacles, and, yes, plastic-free hair elastics. “There’s the idea that this lifestyle is really challenging or elitist or you have to have a ton of time and money to make these changes, but what I really want to communicate to people is that you can change one thing and that makes a difference,” Marston says. “My advice, whenever people ask, is to just start with one thing.”