The Soap Dispensary
By YP Contributor

Fill Your Own

When Linh Truong and her husband Stewart Lampe moved from Victoria to Vancouver they missed Victoria's soap refill store, Soap Exchange, so much that every time they went back to Victoria they'd lug all their empty containers with them for refills. Hardly sustainable, this inspired Linh and Stewart to open The Soap Dispensary in their new city of Vancouver. Linh admits, “it was selfish really, I needed to refill my soaps somewhere so I had to do it.”

Opening on Main Street in 2011, Linh had to get permission from the BC Pharmacy Association to have the word “dispensary” in their name. She wasn't quite sure what the fuss was about until she received a few phone calls assuming they dispensed more than soap. “Every month we have someone call who thinks we're a marijuana dispensary. We've actually now researched which of these other kinds of dispensaries are good and responsible so we can recommend them to people.”

The Soap Dispensary may be about being green, but not that kind of green! What they are is one of two spots in Vancouver to buy and refill natural body care products and household soaps and cleaners. While you're filling up you can also pick up DIY ingredients for making your own soaps and products and stock up on plastic-free lifestyle products such as brushes, dustbins, kitchen accessories, zero-waste shaving gear and more. They also offer workshops on everything from making soap to making chocolate.

You're voting with your dollars when you choose greener, more eco-friendly products and that in turn helps them become more mainstream. - Linh Truong, owner

The 5 Rs

For Linh the whole refill concept is inspired by “the desire to reduce the amount of plastic our community produces and consumes.” To that end they focus on the five Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot.

Refusing is where things start. Linh suggests people ask: “Do I really need this product?” If it comes in excessive plastic packaging and/or is made of plastic, she recommends looking for an alternative, as “you're voting with your dollars when you choose greener, more eco-friendly products and that in turn helps them become more mainstream.”

Reducing comes next, which is pretty straightforward. Then comes Reusing. “Obviously you can't avoid plastic entirely so try to reuse what you have. I know someone who's had the same plastic toothbrush for five years. He's waiting for it to 'die' before he buys a wooden one.”

Recycling is ideally the last choice when it comes to plastic. “When you recycle something, that product has to be replaced by something new and recycling is extremely resource and energy heavy. Recycled products are always converted into a downgraded product until they're no longer recyclable.”

As for Rot, Linh and Stewart are champions of composting everything you can, which Vancouver's Green Bin program makes easier.

Plastic's Not Fantastic

The fill-your-own movement has caught on in Vancouver. Not only does The Soap Dispensary have over 3,000 refill accounts, allowing customers to track how much plastic they're diverting, but they also outgrew their original location: in the fall of 2014, they had to move across the street into a space twice the size as their first shop.

Linh defines success in two different ways. The first is growth, not just in terms of sales but also staff members, refill customers, product lines, and, of course, the new store. She also always keeps in mind the whole motivation behind the store. “The growing number of plastic we divert in our community is true success for us!” In their first year they diverted over 3,600 bottles and containers from the landfill, in their second year it was over 8,070, and these numbers are only on the rise. Now that’s fantastic.

Close menu