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Bring Your Own LB offers sustainable products using your own container

Julie Darrell was always in the hotel interior design business but decided to leave her long-time job in 2017 after seeing how much product the company wasted.

When she had a deal set up with a large hotel chain, she recalls that they changed their mind last minute even though she already ordered furniture and construction crews had started updating the rooms.

All plans were scrapped, and everything had to be repurchased.

“It was a very wasteful industry with hotels changing everything every couple of years and just throwing out tons of carpet, “Darrell said.

The industry’s wastefulness inspired her to branch out and make her own sustainable company, assuming other people wanted the same thing–reusable containers.

BYO Long Beach hopes to leave a lasting impact on the community and planet by providing locally sourced goods with the opportunity to provide your own canister.

Photo credit: Nikki Nelsen

Selling everything from face wash, shaped soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, floor cleaners and various teas, customers are greeted by large growlers and labeled jars, each with a spigot or a pump.

Guests then select the product they want and bring their own sealable container or use one of the BYO’s and the amount is rationed out and weighed by employees.

Photo credit: Nikki Nelsen

While offering homemade and sustainable products, BYO also offers guests an affordable option to get various household items.

BYO Long Beach started as a zero waste class and then turned into a pop-up on the street of Atlantic Avenue where Rooted, Darrel’s Bixby Knolls location, now stands. Darrell also brought her reusable products to various farmer markets in Long Beach.

Photo credit: Nikki Nelsen

What fueled her to keep going was the positive feedback from the community, leading her to open her first store on Marina Drive, pairing with the Algalita Marine Research and Education Foundation.

Darrell said pivoting to BYO gives her more time to be home with her two children that she homeschools and allows her to manage her everyday life.

She also feels her business gives her new opportunities to bond and get involved with the community. Darrel now has a sustainable presence in Long Beach.

“I’ve gotten to know a lot more people in the community, and I’ve attended a lot of city council meetings and gotten to see how much of an impact we can have on an individual level by showing up,” Darrell said.

The success from her first shop led her to open two more shops, one in Downtown Long Beach, and Rooted, in Bixby Knolls.

While each store offers similar entities and reusable product lines, Rooted is different. Pairing with two companies that are also focused on giving back.

Photo credit: Nikki Nelsen

Plants By Yours Truly sells succulents, houseplants, pots and other gardening accessories, and Rivers+End sells lollipops, cute pottery and some gift items, such as greeting cards and jewelry.

While having several returning customers at all three locations, Darrell is also attracting new customers looking to lessen their ecological footprint.

Several Long Beach State students are also using the offerings at Bring Your Own.

“I think everyone should explore their stores and see what kind of lifestyle changes they could make,” Emma Wooden, a fourth-year Liberal Studies (education) Major, said. “It seems intimidating at first, but the staff is so helpful, and everyone has the same goal, to help out the environment where we can.”

While business was booming in early 2020, the pandemic stopped Darrell in her tracks. It forced Darrel to change her business model and safety protocols. She had to refuse reusable containers and prevent customers from doing their own refills.

“We do refills for customers, unless it’s somebody that we’ve known for a long time and they know what they’re doing, and we’ll let them pump their own things,” Darrell said. “But when it comes to teas or anything, we do it ourselves, just for extra safety.

Photo credit: Nikki Nelsen

Customers can now bring their own containers, but customers still rely on her for containers, although employees are still required to ration out and weigh the products.

While Darrell was able to get by with online orders and front door service, Kelly DeSimone, an employee at the Algalita location, was slated to start in March 2020, but her start date was delayed for three months.

DeSimone feels she can be an advocate for those who have suffered ovarian cysts, such as her. She cites BYO’s products have helped her live a healthier life and encouraged her to eliminate purchasing products and clothing that contain plastic.

“I have friends who have experienced this too. So to be able to share that knowledge with them, [because] a lot of people don’t really know,” DeSimone said.

While stabilizing and getting used to new faces again, Darrell has begun to open her doors to customers. Her Algalita location allows a max capacity of two people, and Rooted which just had it’s soft opening, has a larger capacity.

Her downtown location is only open by appointments and will be open for customer shopping soon.

BYO also partners with the city and has helped advocate for the single-use plastic ban and assist in educating the community about sustainable alternatives. Darrell is also an avid social media user, reaching new and returning customers and lending support to encourage Long Beach residents to use less waste.

Photo credit: Nikki Nelsen

Darrell hopes to expand BYO to more locations throughout Long Beach. She also hopes other communities start offering sustainable options that highlight reusable containers such as hers elsewhere.

“This concept could be in every community, maybe not by me, but by someone else,” Darrell said. “I’d love to expand to more areas of Long Beach and make it accessible and affordable.”

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