Saving The RGV One Refill At A Time

Words by Abigail Vela

When we think of the most sustainable and greenest cities in America, McAllen is pretty low (and nonexistent) on the list. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t people like Marisa Bravo who are taking the necessary steps to make positive and eco-friendly changes within the RGV community through her community-centered and sustainability-focused shop, RGV Refillery. 

 

The Beginning of RGV Refillery


Marisa Bravo is an RGV native hailing from Mission, Texas. RGV Refillery began in her home during the COVID-19 pandemic after Marisa grew interested in sustainable living. “I noticed a lot of plastic waste in my life that I was producing, so I wanted to change that. I did a lot of research online, and that’s how I started my little zero-waste journey. I did small changes and advocated for small changes, like for anybody, like all my customers. I tell ’em, small changes do matter.” After two years of research and planning, RGV Refillery celebrated its grand opening on December 2nd, 2022, becoming the first refillery in the RGV.

Large jars filled with different types of eco-friendly soaps for body and home.
Jars filled with bulk goods.
Wooden shelves on white wall stocked with eco-friendly goods for customers.
Wooden shelves housing eco-friendly goods.

When entering RGV Refillery, you will immediately be greeted by an assortment of large jars filled with body and home products such as hand soap, dish soap, and laundry detergent. “A refillery is essentially a bulk store where you can bring your own container to save on plastic waste. You bring your own container and refill on anything that the [shop] might have. We have household products and a little bit of personal care products too.” However, if you forget your jars, they offer a community-donated jar section containing clean and sanitized jars ready for a refill.

 

“I did all my research on all my products [and] made sure that all the products were sustainable. They were made small-batched, plant-based, and eco-friendly, Marisa explained.  “The good thing about this company that I work with— Rustic Strength— is they have a closed loop system where when I finish my products and send [them back to their] company. They reuse all the containers and ship [products] back. So essentially, there’s no waste being produced.”

Products from local small businesses are displayed on wooden shelves, such as McAllen-based zero-waste store, Bin less, and South Texas Menudeo, which offers handmade and second-hand goods. “I met [Gaby from Bin less] at the markets where we started and connected instantly. Then I met Michelle from South Texas Menudeo; she does cloth pads, bags, and napkins from second-hand fabrics. We work with Reusarte, a nonprofit organization where you can donate unwanted and used art materials, and they make projects out of that. We [also] work with Sage Apothecary. We try to get locally made products to support local businesses.”

The RGV Refillery also houses a mighty Terracycle station, where community members are encouraged to drop off non-recyclable items, such as razors and flexible plastics.

 

Leading Sustainability Through Workshops

 

RGV Refillery’s mission is to educate the community by hosting workshops that help inform, teach, and advocate for low-waste lifestyles and sustainable practices.

“As Latinx, we’re already sustainable. I think it’s just like a little push that we need [and] a little bit more education on how to take care of your stuff, reduce our plastic waste, how to recycle, how to compost. Not a lot of people know, and I think there are very few resources here [on] how to do these things.”

 

Marisa shared her experiences hosting previous workshops: “In the past, we hosted clothing swaps where people could bring ten items of clothing and swap out with another ten items or less to reduce the amount of clothing entering our landfills. We do have clothing at the end. So we try to give back to the community to low income families and we give them those clothing items and to the homeless too.

View of entire store from entrance. A large wooden table with jars of bulk goods, wooden shelves against wall, and dark wooden floor.
RGV Refillery housing local and sustainably made products.

“We [had] education workshops on how to compost, and we did that with Bin less; she’s been composting for about seven years, so she has a lot of knowledge. [Recently] we (South Texas Menudeo and I) had a cloth pad workshop. We did that because a lot of people had questions about the cloth pads, and it was nice to know that Michelle was going to be there. She had a lot of demonstrations on how much liquid they absorb, and it makes a big difference.”

 

Since April is Earth Month, RGV Refillery is throwing a Neighborhood Clean-Up Challenge, where people are encouraged to clean up their neighborhoods, take a picture, and send it to them on April 22nd, also known as Earth Day. Marisa created the challenge to “bring awareness to how much plastic we consume and what steps we could take to better our neighborhoods, as well as how to properly dispose of it and recycle it.” She will also host a DIY Coffee Coconut Body Scrub Workshop on Earth Day.

 

Small Steps Do Matter

 

“What sustainability means to me is taking small steps. Small steps do matter. I preach for that all the time. So taking small steps on your sustainability journey doesn’t have to be that big or anything. You could just DIY something at your home and, you know, just start from that. That’s how I started.” One small example Marisa shared is to reuse your containers and packaging. “They do have a lot of life,” she says.

 

The RGV Refillery is more than just a refillery— it’s a space where like-minded community members, small businesses, and organizations can come together to learn and educate each other. Through her work with RGV Refillery, Marisa Bravo is proudly forging a path towards a more sustainable, eco-conscious, and greener Rio Grande Valley. 

Storefront of RGV Refillery: A door with an image of earth painted on it and a sign with the store's name next to the door.
RGV's first refillery, proudly stating that every day is earth day.

Join the local sustainability community. Follow RGV Refillery on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with sustainability products, workshops, and happenings!

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