“Zero Waste” Becomes the Goal For Old Colorado City Business

Conscious Living Serving as Worthy Environmental Model

Gabriel Paulson

The business name on the outside of the store in the heart of Old Colorado City hints at the model used by the business owner: Conscious Living, located in Old Colorado Square,

The unique outlet,  billed as a home goods store, is helping to accelerate a growing local environmental trend.

When she started the business, located at 2616 Colorado Avenue,  and developed the model, owner Lilla McPhearson thought recycling was the way to go. But then she eventually realized that not everything that is tossed into a recycling bin actually gets recycled. She then decided that the whole process has to begin with what people purchase.

 “If you can purchase less and use what you have, it is better than actually recycling in the long run,” she said.

After arriving at that conclusion, she began to research methods to create less waste in the products she uses in her own life, as well as the products she ended up selling in the store. At that time, she had been living in an RV and realized that there were stores selling bulk products and decided that was one way to begin the process of cutting back on plastic and waste.

“To test my idea, I launched an online business selling goods that were reusable,” McPhearson said. She then rented a booth at the Pikes Peak Market, a now-shuttered outdoor market located in downtown Colorado Springs.

“It was the perfect opportunity to get my feet wet and see if my idea would finally pan out,” she said. “People were excited about the idea and that led me to think about expanding to a storefront to bring that premise to more people.”

Her idea spawned the shop that sells bulk, refillable, reusable eco-friendly products, including laundry soap, dish soap, household cleaners, hand soaps, bath products, shower products, hand sanitizers, skin lotions, shampoos and sunscreen.

In addition, the store also sells lotion bars, mouthwash, napkins, sponges, dish cloths, beeswax, vegan wraps, reusable produce bags, assorted cleaning brushes and reusable food containers.

Customers can bring their own empty containers to fill or buy empty ones at the store. Prior to being filled, the containers are weighed and then weighed again after they are filled with the product, which are priced by the ounce.

 “Under this method, you can get as much as you want, or as little as you want,” McPhearson said. “The overall goal is to get customers to be conscious of what they use and what they need.”

A variety of eco-friendly goods offered

She added that the store sells pretty much everything needed for daily living without all the extra waste inherent in buying a new bottle of something every time you need it. Although not always available in the brands preferred by customers.

“The things you find here are all eco-friendly, plant based and free of chemicals and other toxic things,” she said. “There is a lot of stuff here, but there is something for everyone.”

She added that making the transition from typical products to bulk, refillable and reusable can be intimidating at first, but is worth it in the end.

 “It can be overwhelming just looking at all the plastic products in your bathroom and knowing they will all be tossed into a landfill,” McPhearson said. “I tell people to start small with one or two items at a time and then, when they start running out of things, to bring the container to the store to refill it with something we have rather than tossing it and buying a new bottle full of product.”

She said many people refer to the type of store she runs as “zero waste,” which is a popular catchphrase, but in reality, zero waste is never possible. What she does is encourage people to lower their amount of waste by starting small and not get overwhelmed.

“People need to start in one room with one product and move forward from there,” she said. “I have always been passionate about the environment and animals, about living a less-wasteful life and trying to leave a light footprint. It has always been a part of my makeup and I try to be a good steward of the environment.”

She added that the idea of living with less waste will continue to grow in popularity in America in the upcoming decades.

 “It is a bigger deal in Europe right now, where bulk food markets are popular and they are starting to pop up in the United States,” she said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has opened the eyes of many people to environmental concerns. By staying home more, preparing more meals at home and using more cleaning supplies, people have become more aware of how we are living.”

She added that Americans need to learn to become more sustainable if we want to pass a more plastic-free environment on to the next generation.

 “The tagline for the shop is ‘Every choice makes an impact.’ People need to consider their options and make choices where they can,” she said.

It is a business model that has proved to be a success in Colorado Springs and has grown despite the pandemic.

“Fortunately, things have been mostly good for us,” she said. “When businesses closed last April because of the pandemic, we managed to make it through because of curbside pickup and delivery. And we have essential cleaning supplies, soaps and laundry detergent, which helped us make it.”