KnoxFill – An Alum Story

By Michaela Barnett, Alum 2017-2018, Founder of KnoxFill

In early 2017, I was feeling adrift. After quitting a job in the service industry, I craved purpose and connection. Readers of this blog won’t be surprised at what happened next to fill those two yearnings – I found an AmeriCorps posting on a jobseeker’s website. 

Michaela picking up trash during her year serving with AmeriCorps

It turns out, I had stumbled upon CAC AmeriCorps just in time. They only had three positions left, and it looked like those remaining spots would be filled quickly. When I got the call that I had matched with UT Recycling, I was delighted – it was the perfect fit for a person completely obsessed with waste. (To paint a picture: as a child, I frequently rifled through roadside debris looking for “something good” with my equally trash-obsessed mother. As a teenager, I was so distraught at the lack of recycling in my high school that I started a program. Same thing in college, but that time I started a composting program. It really has been a lifelong preoccupation). 

Once you’re in AmeriCorps, you start to see evidence of it everywhere – I met former service members at grocery stores, on hikes, and working on meaningful projects throughout the city. During my service year, I’m sure plenty of people told me that AmeriCorps could be life-altering. I’m less sure that I believed them. But now I’m one of those former service members working on a new, local business with roots that trace back to my year as an AmeriCorps Vista member. 

Michaela prepping to launch KnoxFill

When I ended my service year, my experience working at UT Recycling helped me land a spot in a PhD program at the University of Virginia, where I research waste, recycling, and consumption. My AmeriCorps service has been invaluable for my doctoral research, giving me lived experience that informs the questions I ask and how I go about answering them. The application fee waivers, available at many schools for AmeriCorps members, helped defray costs while I was looking at programs, and the education award has been a handy supplement to my graduate student stipend. 

Now, I’m back in Knoxville finishing my doctoral work from a distance while I work on KnoxFill, a zero waste, mobile refillery. My time at UT Recycling and my subsequent graduate studies helped me see that recycling was just a part of the solution to our waste problem. We need to radically reimagine how we produce and consume goods, not just how we dispose of them. That’s why I created KnoxFill. KnoxFill provides household and personal care items (like shampoo, soaps, cleaners, and much more) in refillable, reusable containers. Like the milkman, we bring full containers to your house and pick up the empties to clean and reuse. 

The CAC AmeriCorps community is special. When they found out I was starting this venture, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support that came my way. I’m so glad to be a part of this community, and to give back in my own small way I’m offering a discount code for AmeriCorps members and alum for our launch. KnoxFill launches March 27th, and our first deliveries go out the following week. 

Enter discount code GetThingsDone2021 at checkout for 15% off your total order. 

This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.