FulFILL Aims to Reduce Waste and Promote Sustainability

3/10/16 Brittany Szczepanik and Kristin Steiner for a venture start called fulFill.

Brittany Szczepanik, School of Natural Resources and Environment/Rackham Graduate School MS/MEng
Kristin Steiner, Ross School of Business/School of Natural Resources and Environment, Erb Institute

On average, each American generates 4.4 pounds of daily waste, and a large portion comes from packaging materials like soap containers and shampoo bottles. “As a country, we desperately need to rethink the way we consume products, and that begins with reusing our resources,” say graduate students Kristin Steiner and Brittany Szczepanik. “Our vision, years from now, is to see a complete shift in how American consumers purchase their products. This nation can make the necessary shift in behavior and it starts with reusing our resources.”

Recognizing this need, in 2015 the women teamed up to start fulFill, a social enterprise that delivers household products like shampoos, soaps, and lotions to your door in reusable containers. Their model borrows from the milkman service and adds a modern twist: allowing customers to order their products online, leave their empty containers outside their door, and have them refilled. “We’re offering our customers a simple but revolutionary solution to packaging waste that’s sustainable, affordable, and convenient,” says the pair.

“When we throw away a container, we’re not only throwing away the materials, we’re also throwing away our hard-earned cash,” says Erb Institute dual degree student Kristin Steiner. “While recycling is an improvement from trash disposal, the recycling process is still energy, time, and capital intensive. Currently the consumption of household goods is a linear process and we want to close this loop. The clearest way is by refilling our reusable bottles.”

The all-female fulFill team brings together knowledge and experiences from diverse backgrounds.  Kristin was a civil engineer prior to graduate school and Brittany a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) coordinator. The two also brought on Billie Lee, an alumna from the School of Information, for her expertise in web development and Damien Biel, an associate professor at the Ross School of Business, as an advisor.

“The University of Michigan has been a tremendous supply of resources,” note Kristin and Brittany. “We have utilized the Zell Lurie Institute for advice, the [Zell] Entrepreneurship and Law Clinic for legal advice from law students, and the Ross School of Business for an advisor. We also were fortunate to win a Cool Project Award from the Erb Institute and a Dow Interdisciplinary Sustainability Award.”

Their hope is that customers will not only enjoy their products, but feel proud of the service they are providing to both our community, and to our planet.

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