New Ann Arbor store prioritizes sustainability, asking customers to "bring your own container"

A business that encourages customers to bring their own containers for their purchases, rather than using shopping bags, will open a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Ann Arbor.

After a year of operating as a successful pop-up venture, BYOC Co. – standing for "bring your own container" – will open at 255 E. Liberty St. in Ann Arbor this April. Shoppers can bring in any clean, dry container, from an old plastic bottle to a Mason jar, to fill with any of the eco-friendly household cleaning and personal care products that the shop carries. Shop staff subtract the weight of the container so that customers only pay for the product they buy. 

"We do encourage customers to come prepared, but we also have a lot of cleaned containers that people have donated and that can be taken right off the shelf," says BYOC Co. founder Emma Hess. 

The idea for BYOC Co. came to the 23-year-old University of Michigan alum and Chelsea native following a period of personal struggle. After Hess graduated last year, she had a challenging time finding work during the pandemic. Eventually, she invested all of her savings in marrying her passion for the environment with the need to make a living.  

"Refill shops have such great impact on the planet and when I started out there was nothing similar within a 60-mile radius of Ann Arbor," Hess says. "I had a niggling sense that a refill shop would be well received."

So far, Hess has been correct. She explains that she's shifting to a storefront because of feedback from a growing number of regular customers who have patronized her various pop-up locations every single month. 

"I'm only 23 and it's super-scary to be financially so in this with all my money, but we've had so many returners and new customers, so I'm also really excited," Hess says.

When the Liberty Street shop opens, BYOC Co. will have about 40 products available, including shampoo bars and conditioners that boast zero packaging. 

"We've developed a bit of cult following of people who just love those," Hess says. 

She says other popular items have included a grapefruit hand soap, lavender laundry detergent, and a shampoo and conditioner scent called Moroccan Oil.

"People will have to come in and see and smell for themselves," Hess says.

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at

Photos courtesy of BYOC Co.