Dr. Bronner's

My Top Ten Reasons I Love the New Dr. Bronner’s Refill Carton

Lisa Bronner pouring Castile Soap from Dr. Bronner's Refill Carton into a bottle - New Carton Refill

There’s a new carton in town, and I’m excited about it. Dr. Bronner’s flagship Liquid Pure-Castile Soap now comes in a new paper-based 32 oz. Refill Carton!

Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t launch new products all that often, comparatively, because we are very careful to bring only the best to market. Best for our suppliers, best for our customers, best for our world. Last week, the Refill Carton began its rolling launch, first on the Dr. Bronner’s webstore and soon to retailers nationwide. (For my international friends, you’re on our radar.)

Since the carton’s design has a great deal of retro charm with its throwback milk carton vibe, let me employ a retro construct and give you a Top 10 List (à la David Letterman, in reverse countdown order) for why I think this carton is top notch.

Reason 10: It’s gorgeous! Can I just say it? The rest of my reasons here are perhaps more substantive, but I want to start with my first reaction to seeing the carton. It is completely new but maintains the unmistakable Dr. Bronner style. And when you line up multiple cartons side by side?? A beautiful rainbow made of all eight Castile Soap Scents!

Line up of Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Soap Carton Refill Packaging - Refill Carton

Reason 9: It’s super convenient for all your GIY recipes. This carton fits in the hand and pours beautifully with no glug-glugs, whether you’re refilling your shower bottle or making a recipe. Pair this in your cabinet with my Pure-Castile Cheat Sheet to have all the dilutions handy. This leaves you free to be creative with all your dispensers to match your house, your style, your mood.

Reason 8: This carton continues the commitment to transparency Dr. Bronner’s has maintained in its practices and progress. We have always shared our journey with our customers, what we’re doing, what we’re improving, what we’re still trying to figure out. This Refill Carton is our next step forward.

Reason 7: I learned something new. I always appreciate learning something new, especially about things I interact with daily. While this wasn’t a new construct to others, in the conversations around this carton I first learned the terminology of linear vs. circular packaging. Linear packaging is used once. It goes from manufacturer to consumer to disposal in a more-or-less straight line. Even if that disposal is recycling, the package has come to the end of its use, and it takes resources to convert that material into a new usable form. On the other hand, circular packaging is kept in use, repeatedly refilled, reused, or repurposed without needing to undergo any transformation. Circular is the gold standard because it conserves resources and has little environmental impact. This carton is a linear package because the circular infrastructure to refill is still developing in our communities. In many areas it is not yet available. However, read on for how we learned this carton would be the least environmentally impactful option.

Reason 6: This carton addresses the reality of consumer behavior and manufacturing practices, which is that less than 30% of recyclable plastic actually gets recycled by consumers, and less that 2% of recyclable plastic actually gets turned into a new plastic product. Most linear packaging ends up in landfills, which is why a material with the shortest life cycle is a step forward. That being said, our hope is that everyone recycles this carton and finds stores that refill bottles with no new use of packaging (circular), but if people can’t or won’t, this carton presents a better (read, smaller) environmental impact than other materials. 

Reason 5: The Refill Carton was the result of research, not assumptions. There are many trends about what packaging materials are best for the environment. However, we were not guided by those assumptions. We wanted to see the true impact of materials. The findings of this research is shown here in this Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) where you can see the environmental impact of single-use packaging options. An LCA is an analysis of the potential environmental impacts of products or services during their entire life cycle, including production, distribution, use, and end-of-life phases.

The results were conclusive though surprising. Glass scored the worst with aluminum not far behind. The paper carton, made with FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) and containing 82% less plastic than our plastic bottles, was the clear best option. Our course was set.

LCA graphic of packaging material options for soap

Reason 4: The carton defies the trends. Perhaps this is the rebel in me, but I appreciate that the Refill Carton represents Dr. Bronner’s continued willingness to defy trends in order to achieve real progress. The packaging trends for aluminum, glass, bioplastics, compostable plastics did not prove to be best. Despite their popularity on the market for their claims to solve the plastic problem, they don’t. Or at least in the case of bio- and compostable plastics, they don’t yet. Dr. Bronner’s is not going to put forward a pseudo-solution merely to check a box that says we’re doing our part. Instead, we are going to move forward with solutions that actually combat the problem, even if our path requires debunking a lot of assumptions.

Reason 3: The Refill Carton gives us the opportunity to educate. This is my particular hilltop. Embarking on an educational campaign means that we believe people are hungry for real information and are willing to learn. We are eager to have all the conversations needed in order to educate. We’ve done this before, back when we added the best-for-skin hemp seed oil to the soaps in 2001, a move which involved a plethora of consumer, media, and even policy conversations about whether hemp seed oil is psychoactive. (It’s not. I think we all know that now.) We did this with our All-One Toothpaste, knowing that we would need to camp awhile on the lesson that reduced foaming (due to no synthetic detergents) does not mean reduced effectiveness, and that bubbles don’t equal cleaning power. Now, we will do this again, as we communicate the rationale behind our new package.

Reason 2: This Refill Carton is only PART of Dr. Bronner’s strategy to combat the problems of plastic. The company is not bringing this carton to market as our only effort to corral plastic. This is not our checkmark that says, “Yep, we’re doing our part.” Rather, this carton is part of a comprehensive approach that also involves supporting and creating refill stations, establishing plastic offsetting and insetting programs, and advocating (both with our influence and with our financial resources) for policy changes around the regulation of manufacturing and processing of plastic.

And the #1 reason I love our new Refill Carton… Dilute! Dilute! OK! (As my grandfather would say.) The carton emphasizes the concentration and extreme versatility of the Pure-Castile Soaps, which has always been our core message around this iconic product. If you put this paper carton in the shower, it will disintegrate. It is paper. The very substance of the carton is a reminder that you are not supposed to keep it in this container but rather you are to dilute the soap into other containers and that there are many uses you can dilute it for: the foaming pump beside your sink, the bottle in your shower, your All-Purpose Spray, your Plant Spray, and to add to all your GIY recipes* for mopping and laundry and carpet cleaning and GIY Sugar Scrub and GIY Soft Scrub and housecleaning wipes…

*GIY = Green-It-Yourself

Where to next

This is a journey and we’re not done. We have many more steps to take to bring solutions. You have a part to play, as well. Consumer demand is a powerful force for change. Request that your local store bring in these cartons. Request that your local store have refill and bulk size options. From each mountaintop, we see the next. We continue the journey towards ever more sustainable and low-impact manufacturing. There is more to be done.

Further reading

Download Now!

Castile Soap Cheat Sheet

Dilute! Dilute! OK! But how much? Print this guide!


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RK says:

It’s great that a paper refill carton is finally available. I assumed it would be priced a little lower since it’s a refill and theoretically less expensive to produce but is it the same price as the plastic bottles. The issue with this is the consumer’s main motivation to purchase is for environmental reasons, assuming they recycle, and since there is a little amount of effort required to use the new carton, the consumer may opt to stay with plastic. Unfortunately, there are other castile soap bottle options at a significantly lower price point, giving the consumer even more reasons to change brands. I say this as a lifelong Dr. Bronner devotee who has considered lower cost options.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi RK – Thank you very much for your feedback and for your long support. On the production side, the refill carton is not less expensive to produce as we still are sourcing packaging, and the contents, of course, are the same, which is why the prices are the same on our webstore. And while our price to retailers is constant, they may choose to sell them at different price points. The thought about other Castile soaps on the market is a different issue. One of the features of Dr. Bronner’s is its extreme concentration. If you leave it uncapped for a day, it already starts to solidify because of the evaporation. Often the less expensive competitors are selling a more watered down product with much less soap content. I tested this myself with one store brand, setting out equal volumes (1 Tbsp.) of soap to evaporate the water. When both products were dry, there was less than half the soap content remaining in the store brand than there was in Dr. Bronner’s. You can try this yourself and see. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

Heiyu says:

I have probably be born to be naturally (instinctively?) a more ‘green’ or environmentally concerned human than many of those decorating themselves with the ‘green new deal social justice New World Order agenda ribbons’ (which often are made of plastics). Seriously, I am often dealing with people who insist on ‘green’ products and behaviors (esp. for others, while they enjoy the convenience of the throw away, must have it all and now society) while ignoring the lack of basis for many of their ‘green choices’.

E.g., windmill blades = non-recycleable. Around here, we have 3 windmills but I have never seen all three turning, often only one, at most 2 of them. These huge ugly mills have displaced several home owners due to the generated noise and other negative effects (the town had to buy out the home owners’ properties). Who knows what happened/happens to the environment, plants/birds around there? We have more power outages here, than I have ever experienced before I moved here and the main energy supply mainly comes from
somewhere else.

Or solar panels = so hard to recycle that they are essentially non-recyclable after failing after 10 years or so. The panels appear to be mainly shipped out to poorer countries for ‘recycling’/disposing.

Or electric cars with their many issues like almost non-recyclable and unrecycled batteries, which are so heavy that they damage the streets more than the usual car battery; their build requires tons of elements which are ruining the land and often the lives of the people incl children employed cheaply to harvest these elements.
These cars also essentially irradiate the passengers with EMFs which have long been known to cause the red blood cells to coagulate which causes some of the many negative ‘side effects’ of these frequencies (I have experienced them and they are partially freakish and extremely disabling).
Electric cars also ‘require’ the extension of 5G (and up) which will essentially harm if not destroy the natural world but offer total control over humanity to those seeking to control the world. These electric cars can be remotely controlled, so, if you are a ‘bad’ citizen, the car can be turned off without your knowledge, maybe for the heck of it while you’re driving.

It makes me cringe when I’m thinking of the already in some country existing, but also in the US, Europe, Australia etc emerging ‘social credit rating’ and or ‘carbon tax’. Many ‘environmentally responsible people’ embrace such systems ‘to save the world’ while flying and driving about as it pleases them, buying whatever they want whenever they want to, accumulating stuff, cars, boats, etc. if they are the lucky ones who have the funds to do so. If you are poor, you often barely can afford to buy food, so they ‘can sell their carbon credits’ to the rich, who feel good to ‘help out’ the less fortunate, how ‘wonderful’. In my eyes, this isn’t social justice at all, also not a way ‘to save the planet.’ The self-declared mostly unelected decisionmakers are talking about the need to reduce CO2 emissions while they know that their data are flawed. In addition, if CO2 levels are getting too low, plants stop photosynthesis (also happens if you dim the sun with geoengineering). No plants, no O2, no food…

Since we are talking about ‘environmental’ plastics, we never ever should forget where the majority of it comes from:
‘Climate geoengineering’ actually rains tons of microplastics down on all of us, contaminating our air, soil, water, food, us and all other living beings reached by the geoengineering chemicals. But of course this is still ‘conspiracy theory’, despite the evidence, air/soil/water/snow analysis data, and hundreds (or more) of patents. One thing is sure, if we don’t address this source of plastic, we indeed will be doomed. Because even if most of us would avoid avoidable plastics, the tiny fragments would still be raining down on us and integrate into and harm living cells. As long as the majority doesn’t know, because ‘we don’t talk about ‘conspiracy theories’ this dominant source of, due to its minute size, physiologically relevant plastic will be playing havoc with the health of the environment and ours as well of course.

Jeanne says:

Thank you for all of this info….
Helped deciding uses…
Love your products!!!

Lisa Bronner says:

I’m so glad it’s all helpful, Jeanne!

Jerry says:

I appreciate and welcome the new refill carton(s). As a long-time Dr. B fan (Is 50+ years enough?), I’ve tried to bulk fill when available, re-purpose the plastic bottles whenever a use is found (oils, glues, solvents, paints…), or recycled at the local public/county agencies when all else fails.

The main use over my lifetime has been for personal hygiene; I’ve always preferred to ‘exude’ peppermint instead of some random perfume…. *S*

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jerry – No! 50 years is not enough! Here’s to 50 more!

Ted says:

Bravo! Doing the research as you have I am very willing to embody a new way to get Bronner’s soaps to our shower, bath tub and sinks. Refill stations, are they in place or soon will be? I’m afraid I’m going to need repeated instruction on this new system because it sounds more complicated than just consuming the Bronner’s soaps and throwing away bottles into the plastics environmental disaster. Thanks for working toward Mother Nature’s health. We are all her caregivers whether we know it or not.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Ted – Keep those plastic bottles and refill them with this carton, or hopefully at a refill station soon! Currently we have piloted refill stations on the University of California campuses at a local retailer, Jimbo’s. However, there are zero waste stores around the country that have refill set-ups in store. I don’t have a directory of them but perhaps search a map app for “zero waste store near me.”

ira says:

I sure would like to take a deep dive into that lifecycle analysis. Like what are “human impacts” and how does glass score so poorly in that? And “mineral resource use” – isn’t glass made from sand?
On another note, as Exec Dir of Americas’ First Fair Trade Town Committee in Media PA, I am thinking of giving you folks an award for your many years of support and innovation of fair trade, maybe in person at Expo East. Can you forward this to the appropriate party?

Rachael says:

Delighted with this new carton. Please work to offer cartons for ALL your sizes, including gallon. Thank you for continuing to be a wonderful company. I have been a long-time customer and plan to be a customer for the rest of my life.

Lisa Bronner says:

Thanks, Rachael! I will certainly share your recommendation with our team as we decide what we’ll do next!

Bill says:

Well I do like this new container. I haven’t seen it in the stores yet, but next time I need a refill, I’ll buy from the webstore if I don’t find it locally. It’s a great idea and I’m glad you thought of it. Now let’s get some Sal Suds into the new carton. BTW, speaking of finding things in stores. I finally found some of the Chocolate in a store, and it was excellent. I am not a chocolate lover, but I really enjoyed it, and my wife, who is a chocolate lover says it’s wonderful.
I guess we never imagined back in the 60s that some day we’d be eating Dr Bronner’s Magic Chocolate.
All One or None!

Lisa Bronner says:

HI Bill – Thanks so much! I’m glad you’re in sync with you’re doing, and that you found (and enjoyed!) the chocolate. I too don’t think of myself as a chocolate lover, but the Dr. Bronner’s chocolate definitely ruined me for any other brand. Yum! I am tracking all suggestions for all other carton products. Thank you!

Ashley says:

Good to see you replacing plastic. I order your gallon-size liquid soaps and pour into smaller reusable dispensers to reduce my use of plastic. Any chance you’re planning to make a gallon- or half-gallon-size carton instead of just the smallest size?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Ashley – We are focused on the 32 oz. at the moment, but I am keeping track of all suggestions for other sizes and products!

Jack Messenger says:

Incredible to be associated with this family, their commitment, their products! Keep up the good work!

Deborah says:

Dear Lisa,

when will the refill carton be available in Germany????

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Deborah – We don’t have a date for on sale date for Germany as we are still rolling them out domestically. But you are very much on our radar!

Chris says:

This makes me so happy. Right now, I have to drive 1.5 hrs. to a refill place to fill my bottles now I can eliminate that drive. Thanks, Dr. Bronner’s you ROCK.

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

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Print Now!

Castile Soap Cheat Sheet

Dilute! Dilute! OK! But how much? Print this guide!