Thea Merritt is the Owner of Eco Now, O.C.’s First Zero-Waste Shop and Refill Station

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

The realities of the global climate crisis can seem overwhelming. Every day, there’s new information about how the environment and human health are being threatened. And the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic has people wondering about possible parallels.

But there are plenty of Orange County residents fighting to make positive change. We highlight that great work here—from green businesses and university researchers to volunteer groups and civil servants. Passionate locals are working together to create a sustainable future; let them inspire you to take action in ways large and small.

What is zero waste?
I like to think of it as having zero-waste experiences. You can have little moments where you’re realizing, “Oh, I didn’t throw anything away; I didn’t have to throw anything into a recycling bin. I don’t have to sit here and try to figure out how I’m going to repurpose something.”

How does a refill station work?
Bulk shopping is a thing for dry goods or food. You can bring your own bag and fill up on beans and rice and be package-free. A lot of people have been starting to say, “Why can’t I refill my cleaning products? Why can’t I just get my dish soap package-free by bringing it in and filling it up? Why not do bulk shopping for these products?” You bring in your container, support your local business, you get stuff that’s nontoxic, and you can trust in all of that. You ran out of shampoo; instead of tossing the shampoo bottle in the recycling bin and crossing your fingers it’s going get recycled, you just take your shampoo bottle to us at the shop, weigh it, fill it up, and then weigh it again.

What inspired you to create this?
I realized we needed to create a bit of a community around sustainable practices and help people in our community learn alternatives to single-use waste, teach people different ways of consuming. Because I am so passionate about the subject, I thought, “Who better to do it?”

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