The term ‘zero waste’ is being used more and more these days. It could be because of what we see and hear in the news: several environmental crisis on an international scale, such as recycling disruptions and issues with single-use plastics. This has led to new efforts, or a new sense of urgency, to minimize waste, reduce consumption, and promote product reuse and repair.

This zero-waste movement is alive and well in Portland - from community-based efforts to businesses promoting a lifestyle of less.

One of these businesses is Utility.

Utility promotes refill and reuse by selling personal and home care products from bulk and encouraging shoppers to bring their own containers. Each ingredient in every product is researched, so customers can be assured they are using products that are safe for their health and the environment. The store also sells plastic free versions of commonly used items, such as toothbrushes, kitchen sponges, etc. The majority of products are produced locally and made to last.

Rebecca Rottman and Nadine Appenbrink started Utility in April 2019 as a way to help mitigate local plastic pollution and provide Portlanders an opportunity to buy products that are safe for their health and the environment. “We were both tired of having to go to multiple places just to buy shampoo and laundry soap that didn’t have petrochemicals and other harmful ingredients, were safe for the environment and had refill options. Inspired by the many “zero waste” shops popping up in cities around the U.S. and internationally, we decided to start Utility in Portland”.

Although Utility follows some tenets of the zero waste philosophy, Rebecca and Nadine refer to themselves as a “low” waste business rather than “zero”.

Nonetheless, here are some of the ways Utility aligns with zero waste:

●     Sells products from bulk instead of individual plastic bottles.

●     Encourages and promotes the reuse of containers.

●     Carries products that contain only natural ingredients and safe for humans, animals and the earth.

●     Sources from local producers as much as possible.

Utility currently operates as a pop-up shop and online store with local delivery only, no brick and mortar...yet. Pop-ups have been held at retail stores like J. Crew and Nike, bringing these tenets to employees and consumers around Portland.

Bring your own containers

There are pop-up events happening around Portland. Look for upcoming dates online and/or follow them on Instagram

Utility will be partnering with eco-conscious and reuse promoting businesses such as GO Box, Gather Resale and Patagonia this fall.

Read about other zero waste initiatives in Portland and get more tips to reduce waste at Resourceful PDX.