Beauty gets a bad rap for being less than environmentally friendly.
While intricate packaging is half the fun, your beauty products probably produce a ton of unnecessary garbage. It almost always comes in plastic — and not recyclable plastic but rather a blend of ones that your local recycling center probably won’t take. And even if it’s glass, you can’t recycle that pump top.
Thankfully, some people in the beauty industry, such as Lindsey Vollrath, want to provide more sustainable options. Vollrath owns the Releafery, 960 Prescott Ave., Scranton, a beauty and wellness shop that sells all handmade, sustainable products, including plant-based skin care, refillable jars, and recycled and biodegradable packaging.
That’s right — Everything down to the wrapping something comes in was repurposed, can be recycled or will naturally decompose.
“It’s a zero-waste shop,” Vollrath said. “You might not realize it, but think about how every person in the world makes that much waste. It adds up.”
Vollrath said not many people may know what “sustainable” means. She defined it as keeping as much waste out of landfills as possible and to “reduce, reuse, recycle as much as you possibly can.”
Its mission of sustainability is even apparent in the shop’s name. Almost everything in the shop was at one time a plant, Vollrath said. She likes that the name is a play on “relief” and that it evokes the feeling she wants customers to have when using any of her products.
At the Releafery, customers can find products such as soaps, sugar scrubs, lotions, bath salts, lip balms, CBD bath bombs, massage oils and more. She offers a selection of home and kitchen items, too. All come in tin, glass or paper that’s 100% sustainable and recyclable. She also has spots for artists to sell their environmentally conscious products. If any plastic is used, it’s seldom and is part of a package or container that can be re-used.
Vollrath, who hails from outside Pittsburgh but moved to the area about 12 years ago, has always been conscious of sustainability. But she got into living a greener lifestyle when she began a recycling program in her autistic support classroom at the Monticello School in Scranton School District.
“Once you start thinking about it and how it builds up, it’s hard to forget it,” Vollrath said. “We can’t rely on bigger companies to make these changes. We have to do what we can, and every little bit helps.”
She then took a soap-making class seven years ago and started to create products for her friends and family. Last December, she opened the Releafery in the Petersburg section of Scranton after falling in love with the space. She only was open a few months before she closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. It reopened in June.
“It was rockiest start ever, but I’m grateful to be here,” she said.
In addition to the handmade soaps and lip balms, Vollrath also creates lotions (which are re-fillable) in delicious scents such as patchouli, orange, lavender, mint, lemon, rose, lemongrass and cedarwood; and scratch-made sugar scrubs in lavender rosemary, coffee mint, blood orange cedarwood and patchouli mint. Shoppers also can find gifts such as candles that come inside a coconut shell, wallets and cosmetic bags, change purses (made from leaves) and crystal gemstone roll-ons filled with body oil for a specific chakra.
Vollrath invites the community in as safely as she can with small-group soap-making workshops, and she even hosted a Petersburg Corners holiday shopping event with other neighboring businesses.
She has more dreams for the shop, including merging her day job in education and her love for sustainability through some sort of program or organization. Above all, she wants to help raise awareness about sustainability.
“It’s about being mindful and making conscious choices,” Vollrath said. “Start by making one small change and see where it goes from there. … I just hope I can do what I can to make it a little easier.”
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT