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September 14, 2021 | Tom Ballard

KnoxFill deploying reusable containers to household and personal care goods

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Michaela Barnett is another one of those individuals who is helping enhance Knoxville’s reputation as a Maker City thanks to KnoxFill, her less than six-month old start-up that is described as a “zero waste, mobile refillery” for household and personal care goods.

Those products available on the company’s website are divided into what Barnett describes as collections – bathroom, body, cleaning products, dental care, kitchen goods, hair care, kitchen goods, laundry, shaving, zero waste goods, and even zero waste starter kits.

Michaela Barnett

The Ohio native and self-described waste researcher will be one of the attendees at this week’s annual “The Maker City Summit” that features weeknight “Deep Dive” workshops focused on specific topics ahead of Sunday’s finale.

Like other makers that we have met, Barnett is driven by a passion, in her case for the environment and sustainability, that she says started with an interest in recycling in high school. Then, at Furman University, she turned her attention to composting while also earning two undergraduate degrees Summa Cum Laude – one in Spanish Language and Literature and the other in Sustainability Science.

“We think about recycling or composting,” Barnett says. “The best place to make a difference in terms of waste is at the source. I focused downstream at first before shifting to upstream. The timeframe of change takes time; I wanted to fix problems faster.”

Today, she has finished her course work in the Convergent Behavioral Science Initiative at the University of Virginia and is working on her doctoral dissertation. That’s in addition to serving as Editor of Behavioral Scientist, a non-profit digital magazine that offers readers original, thought-provoking reports from the front lines of behavioral science, and launching her own start-up.

You get the picture; Barnett has a passion for motivating positive behavior in terms of the environment and sustainability, and she believes she is already making an impact.

“We’ve already transitioned more than 500 households to plastic-free products,” Barnett says about KnoxFill that was started March 27. The company’s business model evokes images of the milkman from earlier days who delivered products to a customer’s home in reusable milk bottles.

As described in this YouTube video, the ordering process is straightforward – place the order, provide any special instructions, and determine the best way to have it delivered or available for pick-up. KnoxFill delivers on selected days to most zip codes in Knoxville and also has locations where customers can pick-up their orders.

Barnett says she has offered a few in-person popup stores and has plans to open a storefront next year.

KnoxFill Shop is modelled in some respects after similar businesses like Refillery LA and Tacoma Soap Refillery.

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