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Grove Collaborative reveals how it's making refillable products mainstream: 'We can't be sitting on our high horse of sustainability and not reaching America'

"I love the idea that there'll be some people that don't even realize they're making a sustainability choice."

"I love the idea that there'll be some people that don't even realize they're making a sustainability choice."

Photo Credit: Grove Collaborative

For over a decade, Grove Collaborative has been on a mission to help us ditch plastic in our homes. Now it's sharing a remarkable milestone with The Cool Down — the company has sold over 20 million refillable products, its signature innovation to reduce plastic.

The certified B Corp offers over 200 personal care and household brands on its e-commerce site and sells its plastic-neutral Grove Co. product line through major retailers like Target, Walmart, Kroger, Wegmans, and Hannaford. 

The Cool Down spoke to Lucy Leahy, the General Manager of Grove Co., the company's in-house brand, about how it's reaching mainstream America, how to sell refillable products, and why she's so passionate about laundry.

Photo Credit: Grove Collaborative

🎯 Your company, in one sentence 

"Grove Collaborative is a large e-commerce brand focused on sustainability, on curating and selling good-for-the-planet and good-for-you brands for your house, for you, and for your pets and children."

💡 The problem she's tackling 

"We're trying to eliminate as much plastic in our household items — particularly single-use plastic — as possible. That's our mission — to be able to let her — and it's mostly her — do a small bit to be able to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans and therefore in our bodies, fish, and everywhere." 

🤬 Personal peeve 

"I've always been frustrated with the amount of laundry jugs around the world. So that's been a long-term mission of mine — to be able to find a way to do laundry that doesn't need the large amount of plastic that doesn't get recycled, unfortunately." 

💣 How it's disrupting the industry 

"By reducing the amount of plastic that goods come in and by producing concentrates. We were the first to launch concentrated cleaners [in 2017] to allow you to refill your bottles at home. We've sold over 20 million of those units already, and we've given away five million units as well."

👏 Perfection is the enemy of progress 

"The biggest message we're trying to get across is that you don't have to sacrifice. Sustainability should not be a choice — it's just part of every day. You choose the right brands that smell nice and work well and have the right price for you, and sustainability should just be there. 

It's a step journey. As an industry, we've often done a disservice by trying to guilt consumers about not being perfect. But perfect is not sustainable. We're all busy. We've all got a million things going on. But if you can make this one small change, it's going to make a difference."

♻️ Kill the sustainability tax 

"There's enough 'the-world-is-ending' news out there. A brand's responsibility is to show the path forward and to show steps that are realistic and can happen without there being a 'sustainability tax' [price premium]. We're just hoping to be worthy enough for her to buy and put on her counter, and in doing so, she can also be proud to be part of the community that's changing the planet for the better."

🛑 Biggest challenge 

"Other than getting my teenage boys to do the laundry? (laughs)  

"It's hard to be on the forefront of any sort of technology because it's about scalability, and it's about cost. We could produce the most perfect sustainable product, but it wouldn't sell at Target or Walmart or on Grove Collaborative because it'd be too expensive for us to bring into our homes. We can get film made out of seaweed or whey protein or even potato or fruit peel, but they're not at a scale yet that we could provide the consistency to be able to put on shelves.

"That's my challenge every day — to inspire the team to take the amazing science and then turn it into a product and a brand." 

💚 Meet the consumer where they are 

"There are some people who are currently 'climate aware,' as opposed to being 'climate action-oriented.' 

"Some people are making the step from a virgin plastic synthetic chemicals product.  

"The first step can come in [buying] PCR [post-consumer recycled plastic] or plant-based, or organic, or natural fragrance.  

"Then the second step would be to have that product packaged in aluminum.

"Then, there's a concentrate [refill]. So our efforts are really being able to help her through that journey and help people to take that first step." 

🪜 The "eco" versus "Target" consumer 

"They're slightly different. Those who come to Grove.com … are very aware, they've done their research, they are able to make different choices about what chemicals they're trying to avoid, what fragrances they're after. Those who are 'deep green' are very much more conscious of things not being too fragrance-heavy. Those at Target are maybe a little bit further behind on that journey. 

"I think we need to capture both [consumer types] to truly make an impact. We can't be sitting on our high horse of amazing sustainability and not reaching America."

♥️ Favorite Grove Co. product  

"We have laundry sheets, which are amazing — the detergent comes in a sheet and you just put the sheet in the machine. We have the wool dryer balls, which happen to be from New Zealand wool, they make a huge difference in drying time, which also saves a lot of energy and dollars."

‼️ What she's excited about 

"We've got this amazing new technology for a bottle wash. When you think about how much time we all spend with our coffee mugs, going to the gym, or our water bottles or our protein powders — a lot of those bottles are not dishwasher-proof. So we've created this amazing plant-based cleaner that you drop into the bottle."

🔮 Crystal ball 

"I love the idea that there'll be some people that don't even realize they're making a sustainability choice — they're just making a great brand choice, and it's a great fragrance choice, and it's a great style choice that fits in with their lifestyle. Who wouldn't want a beautiful home? I want her to be proud of those choices. But she's not going to put it on the shelf if all we're doing is putting green leaves on our products.

"We are literally months and weeks away from a total rebrand where my biggest challenge was making sustainability beautiful." 

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