Health and skincare refillery zero-waste store in KL

While working with Rip Curl, an Australian surfwear brand, Jon Lee has been involved in numerous beach cleanups. Although he has never encountered sea turtles strangled by plastic straws, as is often portrayed in awareness advertisements, he witnessed other scenes he never forgot.

“I saw a dead dolphin washed up on the shore of an Indonesian island that we were cleaning up. [It was] a beach with more garbage than the eye can see; you can’t even imagine how that could happen, and you don’t know if it was even possible to clean, ”he told me when I visited his pop-up refill, Re {me} dy in the Vernakular lifestyle store in Bangsar.

Not so long ago, he also mourned the passing of a friend. Shocked and incredulous, Jon suddenly realized that the unfortunate incident could have happened to him instead.

“It was there that I decided to do a deep soul-searching exercise to find out what was really precious to me; what i would regret the most if i didn’t try to do [in the event] I’ll come by the next day, ”Jon remembers.

While on indefinite sabbatical from his role as Marketing Director at laptop brand ana tomy, Jon started Re {me} dy in January 2021 with investments from a few friends.

Not exactly a zero waste store

Re {me} dy is a sustainable health and skincare concept store that offers local branded products that share the same ideals of becoming environmentally friendly. Customers can refill products from Re {me} dy’s refill by reusing empty bottles. This, in turn, helps reduce the waste that is dumped in landfills.

Jon showing me how the filling of bottles is generally done at the store

Of course, Re {me} d is doing it in a very competitive space, with players like The Hive, Liquid Etc, A Bit Less and NUDE already present in Klang Valley. This is not really a bad thing, because having more options to fight for a good cause is precious in the midst of our dying planet.

And while Re {me} dy’s concept looks like a zero waste (ZW) store on the surface, Jon wouldn’t exactly call it that.

He sees ZW stores as the ones that try to sell everything, but with limited choices for each product. “[For example,] if you want to buy body gel, there are only 2 choices and that’s it. I felt like I had to sacrifice my life just to practice sustainability and I think it’s a little intimidating at times, especially for ordinary people, ”added Jon.

The name Re {me} dy was chosen because the team believes that their products are in fact natural remedies that benefit people and the planet. The {me} represents how they want to create a personalized experience, like creating your own blend for a facial cleanser or customizing a supplement to suit your specific health concerns.

“At Re {me} dy, we only focus on health and beauty products, kind of like an apothecary,” Jon said.

Packaging is still essential with e-commerce

The appeal of Re {me} dy lies in its retail experience where customers can walk in to browse products in huge bottles to fill their own smaller ones. But after finally opening its doors in January 2021, the nation quickly returned to containment.

Jon shared, “E-commerce was not what we imagined for Re {me} dy. We wanted to reduce waste and e-commerce is one of the biggest contributors to packaging waste! ”

When it comes to e-commerce, packaging is just inevitable / Image credit: Re {me} dy

Selling products online means packing the products in boxes and shipping them, thus helping to increase greenhouse gases. In addition, Re {me} dy’s bottles are also made of glass because they are easier to clean and reuse. Thus, protective packaging is necessary.

Brainstorming for an entire month, the team finally landed on the use of recycled bubble wrap; it was the best option they had with the resources they could access.

“While we can’t change the way e-commerce is done right now, we could show people that we can reuse the packaging instead of just throwing it away,” Jon explained.

Hopefully customers who have ordered online make the effort to reload these products in the brand’s physical store once they are sold out. Thus, the supplied glass bottles would have a better chance of being reused.

Housed in a historic building

Inside Re {me} dy Retail Store / Image Credit: Re {me} dy

High density neighborhoods within KL and PJ are often beneficial for ZW stores due to the high income demographics of those who live in the area. However, Re {me} dy’s store is located in Off Kampung Attap, KL, located inside the historic Zhongshan building which has been transformed into a kind of art gallery.

Asked about it, Jon agreed that this was a difficult place to recharge, as it is far from residential areas. But he has a different strategy.

“It’s a cool place that trendsetters love to visit and that’s exactly what we wanted for Re {me} dy, where we want to convert the unconverted,” he said. “Our goal was to inspire people who haven’t purchased a refill product to do so and hope that they will fall in love with it and continue to use it for the rest of their lives. ”

Jon also admitted that the location was not the most strategic for the company, but he thinks being housed inside the Zhongshan Building suits his brand.

“It is a pre-war building with the principle of keeping and using the building for a long time. This is very much in line with our concept of waste reduction, ”he added.

To reach Business durability

Re {me} dy still remains in the red, made worse by confinement and the public still wary of shopping at retail. While e-commerce helped a bit, the brand looked at other options like corporate gifts.

All bottles are labeled with the product they are filled with / Image credit: Re {me} dy

So far, Re {me} dy has managed to collaborate with BMW by being part of the latter’s care offering to its car owners. This was a #KitaJagaKita campaign to help local brands promote locally made products.

Although little revenue was generated for Re {me} dy, the initiative contributed to the exposure of the brand.

In the long term, Jon wants to convert the brand into a social enterprise with volunteers running it as part of a community effort.

“I can’t expect the same commitment to the project as I do, but I hope we can get more help and make it a better reality,” he concluded.

  • You can read more about Re {me} dy here.
  • You can read more about the zero waste stores we wrote here.

Image Credit Featured: Jon Lee, Founder of Re {me} dy


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