Home and body goods store, a ‘refillery and zero waste shop,’ opens in Ferndale

Tessa Benzinger likens her own business model to that of the classic American milkman, utilizing reusable bottles rather than disposable plastic ones. Instead of selling milk, however, Benzinger deals largely in home and body products.

The sign in the window describes Walking Lightly as a Refillery & Zero Waste Shop, not as a home and body goods store. It’s an important distinction; Walking Lightly, although it is no doubt proud of the products that it carries, is as much about the ways in which those products are delivered as it is about the products themselves.

“I’ve always been really mindful of recycling. I was proud about it. And then I learned how recycling isn’t always what it’s advertised as,” Benzinger says. Numerous reports over the past several years have claimed that only a small fraction of recyclables actually end up being recycled. The rest end up in landfills, even when first submitted as recycling.

“This idea of ‘zero-waste’ originated with corporations. It’s supposed to be their responsibility and not passed on to the consumer. But as consumers, we have power where we spend our money.”

The home products that Walking Lightly sells, including everything from hair conditioner to dish soap and beyond, come in reusable bottles and containers. Once a customer finishes their product, they simply bring the empty vessel back to the store. They then refill the container on site.

Customers can also have their own bottles and containers filled with product.

Additional items, like soaps, deodorants, and more, often come without the extra waste of packaging. Cleaning utensils like scrubs and brushes are made with sustainable fibers.

“I want this to be as easy and waste-free as possible,” Benzinger says.

The idea for Walking Lightly grew out of Benzinger’s own personal wants and needs. She looked to the U.K. and states like California, Oregon, and Washington for inspiration in her burgeoning business model.

She started the business as a delivery service, much like the aforementioned milkmen of yore. Benzinger then started doing pop-ups at places like Drifter Coffee in Ferndale; the enthusiastic response she received inspired her to get her own storefront on Ferndale’s stretch of Hilton Road.

Walking Lightly opened in April — on Earth Day, fittingly. Benzinger still offers delivery services in addition to shopping at her retail location, too.

“I encourage people to reach out and ask questions. I’m still learning, too,” Benzinger says.

“I want this to grow and work. And the only way this works is if it works for the community.”

Walking Lightly is located at 1031 Hilton Rd. in Ferndale.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.