The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

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Michaela BarnettMichaela Barnett is the founder and owner of KnoxFill. She is seen here outside her South Knoxville home-based business in this submitted photo.

 

KnoxFill offers Knoxville home delivery and pickup of sustainably sourced personal-care products in refillable containers

Michaela Barnett has traveled the world, is an accomplished science writer and editor and is closing in on a doctorate from the University of Virginia.

Now she’s a business owner with a focus on sustainability and waste reduction and that has proven to be her true raison d’etre. She gets out of bed with joyous purpose and determination. And she sings to start her day.

“My husband says it’s like living with this annoying Disney character,” she said with a light laugh.   

“I’ve got so much energy and joy and excitement,” said Barnett, who launched KnoxFill in March after eight months of research and preparation and works out of her home to fill multiple orders each day.

KnoxFill offers sustainably sourced personal-care items, detergents and other everyday household products in reusable glass containers for pickup or delivery. The product line includes shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotions, laundry detergent, and dishwashing and castile soap. Barnett even offers safety razors, bamboo toothbrushes and refillable toothpaste “bites.”

“We are very new, and small and mighty, and growing really fast. The community response has been beautiful, phenomenal. I’m overwhelmed in the best way by it,” Barnett said during an interview at her home and KnoxFill storeroom in a leafy neighborhood off Chapman Highway in South Knoxville.

She and a part-time employee fulfill online orders via deliveries within select zip codes across Knoxville. Customers can also pick up their products from a fragrant cedar chest on Barnett’s porch, or at an expanding list of cooperating businesses, including Jacks, an eclectic coffee shop and plant nursery on North Central Street near Happy Holler in Knoxville.  

Barnett is the daughter of a fossil-fuel executive and initially grew up “super conservative, evangelical, (and) home-schooled on a farm” in Ohio before her family relocated to Houston for her father’s job. Now she’s determined to help wean the world, starting with Knoxville, off the petrochemical plastics and packaging that dominate so many product streams.

“We really need to move upstream in our waste system, instead of just focusing on downstream solutions, like recycling, and composting,” she said.

“We need to make sure the waste never gets created in the first place.”

Published in Earth