For Better Basics co-founder Sam Rayner, sustainability has always been a very personal mission. She grew up eating local, recycling waste into crafts, and composting (she remembers being the first family in their neighbourhood to compost: “People would think it was disgusting, but it was always a part of my life,” she laughs).

She and longtime friend Caitlin Rushton founded Vancouver-based Better Basics in December 2019, with the goal of reducing plastic waste in local households. Both Rayner and Rushton grew up in the city (Rayner in Douglas Park and Rushton in West Van) and share a passion for entrepreneurship and the environment. “We’re looking at how much we put in the recycling bin, and knowing that a lot of what ends up in the recycling bin doesn’t actually get recycled,” says Rayner. “It ends up in a landfill and gets incinerated—we’re trashing our environment.”

Better Basics offers reusable replacements for common plastic items like stainless steel water bottles, tumblers and soap dispensers, grocery bags made of 100% GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton, reusable bamboo face wipes and beeswax wraps. And this week, they’re launching a unique soap refill service. “We’re the first to do it in a system like this,” says Rayner.

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Customers can make a one-time purchase of the 1.5L refill jug, or choose how often they’d like to receive one: every one, two, three or four months. It makes sense to start with one and see how long it takes to go through the jug before committing to a subscription, but if you do subscribe, you get 10% off (each jug is $36). The 1.5L fills up the Better Basics soap dispenser 4 times. They’re also offering refills of dishsoap and all-purpose spray.

The refill containers aren’t perfect, but they’re a good start. “We’re shipping them in a paper jug that is compostable, but it does have a thin plastic lining—so it is not 100% plastic free yet,” says Rayner. That plastic lining can be removed before you compost the jug. It’s less plastic than a bulk brand, and way less plastic than buying individual soap dispensers. 

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Why do we buy those little individual soap dispensers, anyway? Because the smells are usually a lot more fun than bulk brands. But there’s good news on the smell front, too: the hand soap comes in both “Mandarin, Cedar, Basil” and “Rosemary Peppermint” scents, so it’s not your average boring bulk baby-powder-esque smell.

Rayner and Rushton are inspired by the work that local refilleries do to reduce plastic waste (The Soap Dispensary and Kitchen Staples and Nada both offer refills for soaps, shampoos and conditioners). “This is just a different avenue,” says Rayner. “I think it comes down to conscious consumption, being aware of what you buy and what you need.”

And heaven knows we all need soap, right?