C/O Rosanna Ciulla

How the Glass Jar Refillery is giving used containers and bottles a new life to foster sustainability

By: Emma Shemko, contributor

In elementary school, most of us were taught the three Rs of solid waste management: reduce, reuse and recycle. However, this list is missing a crucial fourth R: refill.  

What does it mean to 'refill'? In terms of waste management, refilling is the act of replenishing old bottles of common household and hygiene products rather than purchasing new ones. Refilling your old containers and bottles helps to keep single-use plastics out of landfills and to prevent our oceans from being further polluted.   

Refilling your old containers and bottles helps to keep single-use plastics out of landfills and to prevent our oceans from being further polluted.   

Rosanna Ciulla is the owner of The Glass Jar Refillery, located at 544 Concession Street. Inspired by the Bulk Barn model, she wanted to expand the concept to include everyday household and personal care products as well. Now, Ciulla's products include laundry detergent, dental floss and hair and beard oil among many others.  

Ciulla partnered with several ethical businesses to ensure everyone can find the perfect product in her store. Most of the companies she has partnered with are also local or at least based in Ontario, such as The Bare Home, Earthology and Pink Posh Fox. These companies and The Glass Jar Refillery share common values and a common mission in helping to create cleaner environments at the local community level.  

C/O Rosanna Ciulla

However, the COVID-19 pandemic brough many challenges for Ciulla and her business. She was forced to change the location of her store, delay her grand opening and limit in-store hours and ultimately had to start as an online store. Ciulla was disappointed to miss out on in person interactions with her customers as she loves interacting with and learning from them, believing  these interactions are an important part of creating a physical space where people can become more environmentally mindful.  

There is so much pressure to be the perfect waste-free consumer, but a finite number of resources are available to help us do so.  

The Glass Jar Refillery strives to make this shift easy and accessible, offering consumers more choices and options. With 24/7 online shopping, local delivery, access to in-store refillery services and a 10% discount for students, The Glass Jar is readily available to support the Hamilton community.  

Switching to sustainable and plastic-free alternatives can be daunting at first glance, but it's not as challenging as it seems. There are three main steps which fall under what Ciulla calls environmental mindfulness that can help simply this transition.  

"We have to be cautious and we have to be aware of how precarious our situation is. We take [living on this Earth] for granted. And our actions speak louder than words. We need to be very careful. When they say, "practice mindfulness," I think mindfulness can also be applied to Mother Earth," explained Ciulla.  

"We have to be cautious and we have to be aware of how precarious our situation is. We take [living on this Earth] for granted. And our actions speak louder than words. We need to be very careful. When they say, "practice mindfulness," I think mindfulness can also be applied to Mother Earth."

Rosanna Ciulla, Owner of The Glass Jar Refillery

For Ciulla, how we decide to interact with Mother Earth is a form of environmental activism and this type of activism begins with our habits as consumers.  

The first step is to create a collection of items that can be used to refill your essential products. Pickle jars, shampoo or conditioner bottles and empty candles are perfect refilling options.  

The second step is to observe how you live: what products are you continuously buying? What areas of your home use the most plastic? Is it your kitchen? Maybe it's your bathroom?  

The third and final step is to remind yourself that you don't have to make these switches all at once. Start by refilling your dish soap one month and see how it goes. Then try switching to refillable laundry detergent the next month and so on.  

The beauty of Ciulla's store is that you can purchase as much or as little product as needed.  

"If you want to try a new product that you're unsure of, just try three quarters or a quarter of your bottle and then come back and say, "Hey, I want to fill up the rest of it"," explained Ciulla. 

C/O Rosanna Ciulla

Ciulla is looking forward to what the future holds for her store and is hopeful that she will soon have more days throughout the week where customers can shop in-store. She has many plans ahead, including creating a starter kit for students because she knows how busy our schedules can get and wants to help us become conscious and environmentally mindful consumers.  

“I'm just excited about what the glass jar is and will become. I think it's just starting to flourish. I'm excited to see where it goes next and I've got some exciting plans for it," said Ciulla. 

C/O Youssef Naddam, Unsplash

New psychoeducational groups at the Student Wellness Centre starting this month

Psychoeducational groups are designed to focus on teaching a specific topic with an emphasis on developing healthy coping mechanisms. 

This month, McMaster University’s Student Wellness Centre is launching multiple psychoeducational groups. This includes the Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness group, the Love Better group and the Understanding & Managing Social Anxiety group.

Psychoeducational groups at McMaster have been done in the past by counselors, health promoters or SWC staff. Simone Gomes, a counselor at SWC and facilitator of the Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness group, explained that these groups are developed by these professionals based on their area of expertise and interest. 

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Starting Jan. 12, Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness is a consecutive five-week psychoeducational group that dives into what self-compassion and mindfulness mean and how students can develop these things in their lives. 

It will take place online on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Gomes explained that each of the five weeks highlights a different area within this topic. This includes introducing self-compassion and mindfulness, identifying self-criticism, practicing mindfulness and techniques to integrate that into one’s life. 

Each session will aim to be informative by having students read articles or a particular website for discussion prior to entering the session. Gomes stated that this particular group tends to run once per semester (including spring and summer) and if curious, folks can contact her at gomessf@mcmaster.ca

“With self-compassion, what’s really great is that it helps to acknowledge our experience and to name it — that we are struggling or we’re experiencing difficulty in our lives. But then it also helps us to think about common humanity too and to look at other people struggling as well [and think] maybe I am not alone in this experience,” said Gomes. 

“With self-compassion, what’s really great is that it helps to acknowledge our experience and to name it — that we are struggling or we’re experiencing difficulty in our lives. But then it also helps us to think about common humanity too and to look at other people struggling as well [and think] maybe I am not alone in this experience.”

Simone Gomes, counselor at The SWC and facilitator of Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

Also starting Jan. 12, Love Better is another consecutive five-week psychoeducational group. This group will run online on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

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Liz Nabi, a counselor at the SWC and facilitator for this group, explained that this group aims to educate students about healthy relationships and help them build skills that are crucial in developing these relationships. 

Over the weeks, the group will touch base on qualities of healthy and unhealthy relationships, the effect of past relationships on current relationships, tools to build long-lasting relationships and how to deal with conflict and/or breakups. 

Nabi emphasized that love is not just a feeling but a skill that one can get better at with practice and that sentiment was actually the inspiration behind the group's name. 

“I decided to run a relationship group because this is really a phase of life where dating/intimate relationships start to become a main focus for students. Students often describe wanting to have really positive, healthy relationships yet at times struggle to develop the types of relationships they want. We know that the health of our relationships has a big impact on our overall mental health and well-being,” said Nabi.

"We know that the health of our relationships has a big impact on our overall mental health and well-being."

Liz Nabi, counselor at the SWC and facilitator of Love Better

Nabi shared that Love Better may also be running a second time in March. If students are unable to join the group in January, they can keep an eye out for the second recruitment. 

Those who are interested or have questions can contact Nabi at nabie@mcmaster.ca

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Starting on Jan. 19, Understanding & Managing Social Anxiety is a four week group that uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and narrative skills therapy to explore social anxiety and strategies to cope. 

This program will run Wednesday afternoons from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Within the four weeks, four different topics will be covered. This includes defining social anxiety, models of social anxiety, self-reflection about one's own boundaries and understanding the implications shame has on one’s self. These concepts will be tied together at the end with an activity called Life Map where students will highlight significant people or events that shape their social anxiety. 

If interested, students can contact Morgan Lucas, a facilitator for this group, at lucasm10@mcmaster.ca

The variety of psychoeducational groups provided by the SWC gives students the opportunity to target specific topics they would like to work on. Aside from the groups mentioned in this article, other groups such as Embracing Gender Diversity and Mindfulness approach to Food and Eating are also available starting in January. For a full list of programs offered by the SWC, students can visit https://wellness.mcmaster.ca/programs/

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