Lufka: Tampa's first zero-waste store opens in Seminole Heights

An eco-friendly trend in shopping has reached Tampa. The city's first zero-waste store encourages customers to fill their own containers, again and again.

The owners were inspired by Kurdish refugees from Syria who were selling washcloths, handwoven from tree fibers, in Iraq. The washcloths are called lufkas, which inspired the new Seminole Heights store's name.

The shelves inside Lufka are lined with natural and customizable versions of everyday products like body wash, household cleaners, toothpaste, laundry detergent, and even spices. The store has been open for about a month. Owners Parosh and Kelly Hawaii are excited their customers have embraced the reduce, reuse, recycle lifestyle. They're also thankful they can send part of their profits back to the refugees who laid the foundation for their storefront.

“We got the lufka from them and we brought them here. We sold them in the United States,” said Parosh Hawaii, who is Kurdish, himself.

They started small, selling the lufkas at farmers' markets in the Bay Area. Today, they have their own market, complete with their own brand.

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“You can bring your own jar and refill them. Try it first. You like it, you buy more," explained Parosh Hawaii. "It's about you controlling the amount you buy, and you bring your jar back and refill it over and over again.”

The Hawaiis say they also want people to know what they use on their bodies. 

“It's customized only for you. You control, as a customer, you control all the ingredients,” Parosh said.

That’s a plus for Kayla Barthle, who wandered into the shop excited to see Tampa embracing zero waste.

“I think it's scary, too, not knowing what's in the products that we use 100% of the time,” she said. “It's very exciting. It seems simple enough. It's great to be able to reuse something you might already have at home and not have to worry about extra waste at home. How am I going to recycle this? How am I going to get rid of this?”

The owners recognize zero waste is not an easy transition for consumers, but the changes make a big impact on the environment.

"Simple solutions make a huge difference. It's not just about one thing or two things. It's about everything,” said Hawaii. “It’s not to transition, but it's not difficult. It's about having the option and thinking a little bit different from other people.”

The Lufka owners said they also host classes to help their customers and the community learn how to make their own scrubs and other products. They also carry handmade, plastic-free items made by Bay Area artists.

Lufka is located at 4222 N. Florida Ave. in Tampa, Florida.