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Don't dump, refill: 13-year-old starts shampoo bottle refill business

Isaac Graubard, 13, from Port Washington, used his time "stuck at home" during the shutdown to start North Shore Refills, a shampoo and laundry products bottle refill business. Newsday's Daysi Calavia-Robertson has the story. Credit: Newsday / Daysi Calavia-Robertson; Debbie Egan-Chin

A 13-year-old from Port Washington wants to refill your shampoo bottle.

Isaac Graubard, an eco-conscious eighth-grader at Weber Middle School, used his time "stuck at home" during the shutdown to start North Shore Refills, a shampoo and laundry products bottle refill business.

The budding entrepreneur came up with the idea for his new company after seeing a pile of empty plastic bottles in his parents' garage.

"I started thinking maybe there's a way to cut back on that plastic waste," he said. "What if we just refilled those bottles instead of having to buy new ones every time?"

With the support of his parents, Jordan and Morgann Graubard, he then researched bulk options for household detergents and personal care products that were "responsibly sourced, organic, toxin and cruelty-free, and hypoallergenic."

He settled on Aromaland Natural for the shampoos, conditioners, body washes and soaps, and chose Nellie's all-natural for the laundry and dish-cleaning products.

An online order later — paid for thanks to a $750 "loan" from his parents — and Graubard's business was born.

In early October, he set up a table at The Science Museum of Long Island in Manhasset, where along with his family he participates in the "composting program," and later at The Port Washington Farmers' Market, where he has a booth and has been selling for three weeks.

"We also make house calls," Graubard said Saturday, while tending to customers at the farmers market. Graubard has about a dozen "regulars," his father said.

"The idea is to refill as many bottles as possible … and the way it works is simple, you bring your bottle or buy one from us, choose a product, whether it's shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, dishwasher or laundry powder, and we'll refill it for you."

North Shore Refills charges 90 cents an ounce for personal care products, 80 cents an ounce for laundry detergent for sensitive skin and 60 cents an ounce for unscented laundry detergent.

For $3, customers can buy 15-ounce bottles, "filled with a product of their choice, and we'll donate a portion of sales to [4ocean] an organization dedicated to cleaning plastic waste from the ocean," Graubard said.

Port Washington resident Gail Schwartz said patronizing Graubard's business is worth every penny. Schwartz, who on Saturday visited North Shore Refills' booth at the farmers market along with her daughter Sarah, 13, to "re-up on some handsoap" said the two are now "basically regulars."

"The first time we didn't know what to expect," she said. "But we knew we definitely wanted to switch over to more environmentally friendly [products] in our home so, we were super psyched … now, we're saving all of our bottles to bring them here to get refilled."

Graubard's new venture hasn't only inspired his clients to take eco-friendly steps but also motivated his parents to make changes.

"His father and I are incredibly proud of him for starting this business and motivating others to reduce their carbon footprints, but a special part of it is how he's inspired us," Morgann Graubard said.

"At home, we switched from a scented laundry detergent that was full of chemicals to the one Isaac sells … it's much cleaner and less-polluting and by making the change, we're really helping the environment, which is really what it's all about."

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