Living in an Oklahoma town with no recycling, Katie Rogers-Hubbard had an epiphany about five years ago.
“If I can’t recycle, I guess the only answer is I don’t buy things that need to be recycled,” she said.
That was the start of what is now her Savannah-based company, Lite Foot, that makes the same goods she’s come to rely on more readily available here. Even though Savannah has curbside recycling, not everything thrown in the yellow-topped bins is actually recycled. Glass is landfilled and some of the plastic is burned for energy. So Rodgers-Hubbard continues to focus on the oft-dismissed first two “Rs” that come before recycling: reduce and reuse.
“Recycling is not the end goal,” she said. “It’s reducing, not buying that plastic.”
In her small storeroom at the Savannah Stables, a west Savannah co-working space favored by artists, she’s stacked the shelves with her inventory. There are household cleaning products with a twist, like dishwashing soap in a bar form. It comes paired with a wooden scrub brush.
“You just rub it on there and it gets super sudsy,” she said, demonstrating the motion with the brush. “You don’t even need the bottle at all and it’ll last a long time. This lasts my husband and I four months.”
There’s also shampoo and conditioner in aluminum bottles or from pumper jugs used to refill reusable containers. Lite Foot also stocks durable versions of some typically single-use items, including reusable silicone food containers and the now familiar reusable aluminum straws. The latter seem to be a gateway product for many people.
At pop ups she’s held around Savannah, including in Starland, shoppers will home in on the reusable aluminum straws, saying they have one.
“I’m like, ‘Great, thank you. You get it. Let’s talk about other things,'” Rodgers-Hubbard said.
Rodgers-Hubbard and her husband moved to Savannah last summer from his previous military post in Germany. With guidance from a mentor provided by Savannah’s SCORE program, she started Lite Foot to fill a need she saw for a one-stop shop for items that aren’t single use or packaged in plastic. She promotes her business on Facebook and Instagram and sells online at litefootcompany.com.
Savannah resident Emilie Wilkinson found Lite Foot on Instagram and has been a devoted customer ever since.
A fan of capsule wardrobes that pare down a person’s clothing choices to a more manageable level of 22 pieces a season, Wilkinson tries to apply the same buy-what-you-need ethic to other purchases, too. She said Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” opened her eyes to plastic pollution in the ocean.
“I try and get most of my household items from (Rodgers-Hubbard) and that way I can reduce using plastic. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle,” she said. “That’s why I shop with her all the time. I got my safety razor from her just so I wouldn’t have to use plastic razors anymore.”
Lite Foot carries about 80 items ranging from pet care to kitchen and bath to menstrual care.
Next week the company will unveil its new “mobile refillery,” a converted van that Rodgers-Hubbard can drive to pop-up markets in the area, giving her a convenient shopping set-up. Its debut will be from 2-6 p.m. June 12 at Two Tides Brewing Company, 12 W. 41st St. in Savannah’s Starland district.
Mary Landers is the environment and health reporter at the Savannah Morning News. Contact her at 912-655-8295. Twitter: @MaryLandersSMN