TCNJ Magazine Spring 2024

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39 Class Notes SPRING 2024 Fill'er up Jaime Alford's eco-friendly store offers a new-fashioned way to stock your pantry. BILL CARDONI J aime Alford '99 laments the sight of recycling night in her town of Yardley, Pennsylvania. Streets are lined with bins filled with family-sized plastic containers that Alford connects directly to purchasing habits that create unnecessary waste. "All that plastic we throw in our recycle bins," she says, "some of it doesn't get recycled. That's just the reality." Only 9% of all plastic waste ever created has been recycled. It's because of that understanding, coupled with some life experiences, that Alford and her business partners opened the Yardley Refillery, a new shop in the center of downtown geared toward customers who are dedicated to sustainability and willing to try a new way of shopping focused on low-waste, eco-friendly living. "Everyone's sort of stuck in a shopping rut with Amazon or Target for their daily essentials, but I want to offer another option," Alford says. At the Yardley Refillery, shelves are lined with package- free products such as shampoo bars and toothpaste tablets. There are bins of pantry items like spices, coffee, honey, vinegar, oils, and snacks (the everything bagel cashews are a bestseller, Alford says). Shoppers are invited to purchase as much or as little as they'd like. Fifty-five-gallon drums of laundry detergent and dish soap line the wall in the back of the store, along with a small hardware and garden center complete with countertop composters and birdseed in bulk. The store, Alford says, has come at exactly the right time. "Post-pandemic, people are paying a lot more attention to their eco- footprint," she says. "They're willing to try new products and are more health and wellness conscious." Alford, who earned a BFA in graphic design from TCNJ, says she can connect her passion for sustainability back to her childhood. "When you're a designer, you're taught to connect the dots and really understand your subject before you design for it," she says. The first dots toward her shop emerged when, as a child, she visited a sea turtle nesting preserve while on vacation in Florida. "Sea turtles are a species closely linked to the global plastic problem," she says. "I felt a strong emotional connection to them." She continued connecting the dots as the creative director for global foresight at dsm-firmenich, a fragrance house in Plainsboro, New Jersey. For 22 years with the company, one of Alford's jobs was to identify sustainability trends and conceive ways to make products greener in their formulations and more sustain- able with regard to packaging. "I've been tracking sustainability and the zero-waste movement for two decades," she says. Alford says her store is about progress, not perfection. "Plastic is just so ubiquitous in our lives," she says. "It's not my intention to make people feel bad about using it." Instead, she hopes that people can begin to examine their daily routines and replace even one product with some- thing that is plastic-free. "It's about shifting mindsets," Alford says. — Emily W. Dodd The Yardley Refillery

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