We had the good fortune of connecting with Cristin Salaz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cristin, what matters most to you?
The value or principle that means the most to me is simple: “leave the earth a better place for future generations of all species.”
I have been fortunate to experience the beauty of so many parts of our earth. Watching species diminish and disappear from human activity and pollution breaks my heart. As a biologist I’ve seen these changes in migratory bird populations in just a couple of decades. As a diving instructor I’ve seen once healthy reefs turn into desolate graveyards with only skeletons of coral, and no fish. As a caver I’ve seen human greed for building materials destroy precious limestone caves full of ancient formations and archaeological wonders. I want future generations to see the beauty of our earth and not what it’s turning into…humans tend to protect, conserve, and respect jaw-dropping landscapes rather than wastelands, so I want to do my best to keep our earth beautiful.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
WeFill is dedicated to reducing single-use plastic pollution by offering a refilling station for earth-friendly, cruelty-free household and personal care products. There are a lot of zero-waste stores popping up and I’ve noticed that many of them cater to wealthier people, and I’m doing my best to make sure that everyone can afford to do better for our planet’s health. I’m proud to carry 6 Colorado made products, 4 of which are women-owned businesses. It feels good to help our local economy while cutting down on the carbon footprint of shipping.
As a biologist I never had a need or interest in taking business classes. At first I thought this was going to be a big challenge, but my heart and will were in the right place. It seems my passion for reducing single-use plastic consumption was enough to overcome most of the challenges. Luckily for me I’m a MacGyver-like problem solver (oh boy, that reference makes me feel old, haha.) The biggest challenge so far, and will always be, is getting people to care enough to refill over the convenience of grabbing more plastic at the grocery store…this leads to the big lesson then, now, and in the future, which is education! Educating my community has required a lot of time and creativity, yet it’s also such a fulfilling part of my business.
What I want to world to know is that refilling is true zero-waste for the conscientious consumer, and every single refill or package-free purchase makes a difference. I like to think about doing baby steps, as changing our lifestyles completely can feel insurmountable. We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need billions doing it imperfectly.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Great question, a bff from college days, Stacia, just arrived last night! The first thing she’s coming to do today is check out WeFill and see how it all works. When I close the shop we’ll grab some wine and head down to the river with my dog, Jaco. I’m so fortunate to live in Durango because all the fun to be had is just steps and moments away.
Over the weekend we planning on hiking to the peak of Engineer Mountain. I’ve only done it once, with Stacia and my Great Dane, Coy, 25 years ago. Now it’s time to take Jaco to the top.
The leaves are looking quite nice right now, so we’ll definitely take the drive, then the hike, to one of my favorite little caves. This location is top secret and the other cavers would be upset if I disclosed the whereabouts, haha.
If it warms up the Animas River is a great place to paddleboard, tube, or just hang out on the sandy beach. If it was Sopring or early summer we’d definitely be doing the town run through the rapids, it’s just too low for those shenanigans this time of year.
I’m not a great cyclist, but she flew her bike all the way from Fairbanks, so a trip to the Rib Cage at Phil’s World is definitely on the docket. I have to walk the bike here and there, but when we get to the “whoop-di-doos” the woes of the world fall away and our smiles are ear to ear.
We have so many great restaurants here that it’s difficult to choose. The cocktails at El Moro are delicious, the locally-sourced ingredients at Zia Taqueria make the best burritos, tamales, and posole. Before we catch some live music at the Animas City Theatre, which brings in an eclectic range of sell-out artists, grabbing some apps and a delicious, affordable entree is a must. If we go for a fancy meal to treat ourselves it will definitely be Eolus, where the wine selection is wonderful, just like the surf and turf.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Big shoutout to my Mombo, Cathy Neill, as I couldn’t have started and continue to run this business without her! She has been patient, supportive, and an amazing cheerleader when I felt I just wanted to give up. This has been a rewarding endeavor for both of us, and has allowed us to spend so much time together. She notices, even before I do, when I need to go caving or diving, offers to run the shop, and sends me on my way to Mexico to reset…she’s also an excellent travel agent!
My husband, Eugene Salaz, has sure put up with a lot of my stress, and has never faltered in his understanding and patient love for me. He is the best soundboard a woman could ask for and his creative marketing ideas are invaluable.
As for the logistics in starting WeFill, the money came from a small inheritance from my Father, Richard Rapp. I know he wouldn’t have approved of how I spent it on opening a “hippy business,” but I’m quite sure he’d also be proud of my success.