El Segundo resident Sarah Brockhaus co-owns The Waste Less Shop in Manhattan Beach. She offers advice for consumers wanting to make small, earth-friendly changes that add up.
By Maureen Kingsley
In recognition of Earth Day this month, The Scene spoke with Sarah Brockhaus, an El Segundo resident and co-owner of The Waste Less Shop in Manhattan Beach. Sarah and her business partner, The Waste Less Shop’s CEO and founder, Stephanie Cochrane, own and operate the only refill shop in the South Bay and are believers in the power of cumulative small changes to help reduce pollution and heal the environment.
“Our mission at The Waste Less Shop is to curate sustainable everyday goods for home and body to help people reduce their plastic waste,” Sarah says. “We aim to make sustainable products accessible to consumers.” She offers examples of some of those products available for purchase in the shop: a stainless-steel razor that lasts a lifetime and whose blades can be replaced as needed is one. Stasher-brand reusable silicone kitchen (or anywhere) bags are another. The shop’s refill station, dubbed “BulkBar,” contains such products as hand soap, body wash, and laundry detergent for refilling empty containers of any type. These products are sold by weight with none of the typical consumer packaging that tends to find its way to oceans or landfills.
“We try to stay as price-competitive from a bulk-refill standpoint as possible,” Sarah says. “I’m very proud to say that all of our laundry options, for instance, are really competitive with what I see in grocery stores.” The shop will even deliver refill products for home and body to select zip codes (including 90245) through its local delivery program.
The shop also accepts donations of clean jars from the community, which are repurposed as reusable containers for The Waste Less Shop products.
“Why [in modern society] do we manufacture these resource-intensive products that are only used once, then remain in our environment for hundreds of years?” Sarah asks, as part of her explanation of why refill shops like hers are important. “This is a legacy issue: What kind of planet do we want to leave future generations? We can ‘right-set’ our behavior by reusing containers and seeking out more sustainable options. A lot of it is going back to how we thought of and used products decades ago, before single-use plastics were invented.”
One initiative Sarah is especially proud of is the shop’s partnership with a local candle-making business, Kin Candle, which makes candles from sustainably sourced coconut wax. “In our closed-loop program with Kin,” Sarah says, “customers who buy Kin candles from us can bring the empty candle and lid back to the shop. In return, that customer receives one dollar from our shop, and we return the empty candle to Kin Candle. Kin cleans out the glass jar and lid and reuses it for a new candle.” Sarah anticipates forging more of these closed-loop relationships with additional small businesses in the future.
Sarah and Stephanie are passionate about their mission to reduce plastic pollution, and they encourage everyone to try making small, manageable changes toward greater sustainability in their own lives. (See the “Sarah’s Starter Tips for Sustainability” sidebar at left.)
“Don’t be discouraged,” she advises anyone wishing to try. “Start small, start easy, take simple steps. If you run out of a product and want to refill—start there. Use up what you have first. Small changes per person really add up.”
The Waste Less Shop
3515 Highland Ave.
This story appears in the April 2022 issue of The El Segundo Scene. Photos provided by Sarah Brockhaus of The Waste Less Shop.