G.E.T. Contributes to Community Service/Sustainability Project

The Campus Kitchens Project is a service initiative that provides nutritious meals for low-income seniors and others in need. All CKP locations are based at a high school or college kitchen facility. Each operation is managed by student volunteers, who create menus, cook, and deliver meals.

One of the thirty-one CKP hubs resides at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Last year, CKNU decided to incorporate sustainability in its operations by replacing disposable containers with our Eco-Takeouts™. After a few weeks of logistical planning, the reusable container program has launched successfully. “We started implementing them after Thanksgiving, and they have been working great! The people we have been delivering to have done a great job of returning them, and they clean nicely,” says CKNU Coordinator Danny Burke.

The bottom line: In a 12-month period, using Eco-Takeouts™ will save CKNU an estimated $1,000, and keep 10,000 disposable containers out of landfills.

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Will Carbon Footprints Follow In The Steps of Calorie Counts?

Will carbon footprints follow in the steps of calorie counts

A growing number of communities in the U.S. are requiring restaurants to post caloric counts and other nutritional information on their menu boards. Will U.S. consumers soon see eco-friendly measurements next to their combo meals?

A recent QSR Magazine article (see link at the end) discusses a trend emerging in other parts of the world:  the inclusion of carbon footprint data at the point of purchase.  (Carbon footprint is generally defined as the impact an activity has on the environment, especially climate change.)    It seems that consumers from Australia to Sweden want to literally “go green,” as they eat vegetarian meals that take less energy to produce, vs. food items that require more energy, such as hamburgers.   The carbon footprint calculations also include restaurant operation resources, such as electricity and packaging.

Although, there are some American chains that have begun to promote their sustainability initiatives on their websites, very few feature specifics like carbon footprint statistics, on their menus.

The article concludes that U.S. consumers in certain areas, like California or Oregon,  and of particular brands, like Starbucks might want carbon footprint facts to make food choices.  However, most of the country, at least for now, is more concerned with price, customer service, and food quality.

Could This Be The New Menu Label?

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

Many of us who grew up watching Sesame Street remember Kermit the Frog lamenting this fact in song. Foodservice companies and other businesses today may be singing a similar tune, with the increasing pressure from governments, consumers, and other forces to become “eco-friendly.” However, there are also laws that govern environmental marketing claims, and they are administered by the Federal Trade Commission.

The Southland Better Business Bureau, based in Southern California, recently published some tips that can help companies market their green initiatives truthfully and lawfully.

Here are a few of them:

• Don’t make claims you can’t support with scientific research, certification, or some other form of verification.

• Be sure to investigate thoroughly any third-party organization that offers you a “seal of approval.”

• Consider getting help from a marketing or PR agency that specializes in environmental advertising.

• Look at ways to promote “the green” not only in your products and services, but also in your operations.

The full Southland BBB article can be found here: http://www.la.bbb.org/GIReport.aspx?NewsID=315.

Promoting your business as environmentally-friendly can offer a competitive edge. Doing so in an honest way helps keep you on the right side of the court of law AND public opinion.

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Ball Corporation Includes Eco-Takeouts in Sustainability Program

Ball Corporation is a large packaging and aerospace company headquartered in Broomfield, CO that has launched company-wide sustainability initiatives. Therefore, it wasn’t a stretch for Eco-Takeouts™to become a part of Ball’s foodservice operations, which are managed by Guckenheimer.

In a recent interview, Foodservice Director Tim Leary expressed sincere enthusiasm for Eco-Takeouts™ as a product. He likes their durability, stackability, — and the fact that once they do wear out, he can recycle them. Although he has tried compostables, he found that they break down quickly, sometimes before a meal is completed.

Tim provided additional details — helpful information for other B and I accounts interested in setting up a reusable to-go program:

Accountability System
Ball buys all containers, and there is no cost to employees to use them. The honor system has worked well, and 80% to 90% of the containers are returned to the cafeteria promptly. The rest are left in break rooms for pick-up by cafeteria staff. Tim also provides incentive for non- foodservice employees to return “strays.” It’s not uncommon for a custodian to return ten containers found in odd places. The effort is rewarded with a free cookie or soda.

Ball’s 3-mile corporate campus is made up of seven buildings. So yes, it requires more work from his team to retrieve containers from each location. However, as you will see once you read on, the savings more than offset the additional labor needed to collect containers.

Keys to Success
Here’s why Tim believes the reusable container program has been successful:

• Top-down support. Ball executives eat in the same cafeteria with other employees. They use Eco-Takeouts™ and return them to the cafeteria, just like everyone else.

• Company-wide commitment to sustainability.

• A DVD produced by corporate communications to introduce the program and explain how to participate. Email reminders were also sent during the first few weeks of the program.

• Foodservice management commitment and staff buy-in.

The Bottom Line
• Before Eco-Takeouts™, Tim bought 50,000 Styrofoam™ containers a year.

• Instead, he buys 1,000 or so Eco-Takeouts™ containers every other year. (He does buy a case of disposables once or twice per year for visitors.)

• Estimated savings — $800 per month.

• Other savings: two hours per day in labor (less trash to manage) and one less Dumpster every other week.

G.E.T. applauds Tim Leary and Ball Corporation for making the commitment to maintain a reusable to-go container program. Ball employees also deserve recognition for their part in making it work. Their efforts are paying off in cost savings and environmental benefits!

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Eco-Takeouts™ Rock! Containers Make Debut at Pickathon Music Festival

Happy Valley, Oregon hosted the 2011 Pickathon Music Festival, a 3-day event, featuring a variety of artists – from blues singers to rock bands.  On its sustainability website page, Pickathon billed itself as “the first large outdoor music festival in the United States to eliminate single-use dishware and utensils.”

Pickathon drew 5000 attendees, and about 2500 of them participated in the “Ditch Single Use Dishes” program.   Participants had their choice of Eco-Takeouts™ in various sizes, or bamboo plateware.   GO Box, a business featured in last week’s blog entry, supplied the reusable containers and managed the collection and washing process.

The accountability system should look familiar by now.   Each participant paid $10 to “buy in” and receive a token.    He or she would then take the token to a food vendor and order a meal either in an Eco-Takeouts™ container or on bamboo dinnerware (participant’s choice). Eco-friendly utensils were included in the fee.     The festival had several dish return stations set up to collect used containers/plates and dispense tokens in exchange.   At festival’s end, participants had three options: keep the containers or dishware, return them and receive a $5 refund, or get a token to use at a downtown Portland food cart serviced by GO Box.

As is often the case, planning the implementation took some effort.  “We had to come up with a system that was easy for vendors and festival goers,” said GO Box Founder Laura Weiss. However, working closely with festival planners, Laura and her team came up with a process she described as “seamless.”

Music lovers expressed appreciation for the reusable program in website comments such as, “…I am very proud to see this new way of preventing waste in our landfills,” and “Rock On! This is great move and congrats to those who made it happen.”

From a quantitative point of view, festival organizers have a number of stats that point to success. For example, despite a 20% increase in attendance, the festival produced the same amount of trash as in 2010. Only 40% of the waste went to landfills vs. 50% in 2010.

Want to figure out a way to make Eco-Takeouts™ work at your next event?  Contact us and we can help you!    http://ecotakeouts.com/contact.php

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Eco-Takeouts™ Graduate! Containers Find Work at GO Box in Portland

Eco-Takeouts™ initially launched in the education sector, and they have worked successfully in this environment.   However, there are other applications for them, and this latest implementation shows that they aren’t just cool for school!

As a Sustainability Manager for a large food service company, Laura Weiss saw how many colleges and universities were using Eco-Takeouts™ to reduce landfill waste.  In 2010, she started GO Box, a business that provides Eco-Takeouts™ to food carts in downtown Portland, Oregon.  The containers allow customers to enjoy the convenience offered by the food carts, without having to use disposable to-go boxes.

After a pilot test with a few carts, GO Box “went live” on July 5, 2011, and now has more than 15 participating vendors and 140 subscribers.    Cart owners and customers have responded enthusiastically, and new locations are signing up each week.   The service offers three sizes: EC-09 (9”x9” high-profile, 3-compartment), EC-12 (9” x 9” low-profile/3), and the EC-11, which is 9” x 6.5”.

Process planning was a key component of the GO Box launch, just as it is with any reusable container program.  Yet the accountability system works almost the same as it does in many collegiate, healthcare, and corporate environments.  Subscribers pay an $8.50 initiation fee, which entitles them to a reusable container from any participating food cart.   Upon completing their meals, subscribers can return the container to one of several drop-off locations in downtown Portland in exchange for a token.   That token can in turn be used to receive another container the next time a food cart meal is purchased.

While collection of the used containers proved to be an initial obstacle, Laura has created solutions that work well and have generated side benefits.   For example, several brick and mortar stores agreed to maintain drop boxes.   The drop boxes bring new visitors through the doors, and some of them have become customers of these businesses. A few of the larger companies maintain drop boxes onsite at their facilities, which allow employees to return dirty containers without having to leave their buildings.  Onsite collection offers convenience for employees, and ties in to corporate sustainability initiatives.    GO Box employees empty collection boxes each day and take the containers to a commercial dishwashing facility.  Clean containers are delivered to food carts the next day and the cycle continues.

G.E.T. congratulates Laura Weiss for combining her passion for sustainability with a marketplace need to develop a viable business model.

Check back next week to read about how Laura applied her model to another venue – the Pickathon Music Festival!

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Going Green and Saving Green: University of South Florida Celebrates One-Year All Ecos Anniversary

The results are in: at University of South Florida in Tampa, Eco-Takeouts™ are not only good for the environment, but also for the bottom line.

As a part of its school-wide effort focused on creating a “cleaner, greener USF,” Dr. Christian Wells, Director of the Office of Sustainability, began looking for ways to reduce waste in the area of foodservice. Working with Jenna Burns, Marketing Manager, USF Dining Services/Aramark, Dr. Wells succeeding in eliminating all Styrofoam™ takeout containers in 2010. The exclusive use of
Eco-Takeouts™ is just one of several foodservice sustainability initiatives, and also complements the reusable mug program. Students enthusiastically embrace the Eco-Takeouts™ containers, and don’t mind paying the $4.00 deposit as a part of their meal plan fees.

USF has found that the Styrofoam™ ban helps the earth AND the budget. Here are just a few facts:

• Before the ban, USF used and discarded 8,000 disposable containers a week or 250,000 containers a year.

• These quantities represent 30% of all garbage generated by USF.

• By buying Eco-Takeouts™, USF Dining Services is saving at least $6000 per year.

The NBC and ABC affiliates in Tampa covered the one-year anniversary of all Eco-Takeouts™ usage in recent news broadcasts. To see video of these reports, click on these links:

Looking at USF’s No Styrofoam Policy

USF is taking green to a whole new level

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Innovation and Personal Commitment Make Eco-Takeouts™ Work at University of Virginia

In previous blog posts (and in one-on-one conversations), we have talked about accountability on the front end of a reusable container program. However, it is just as important to plan for program close-out at the end of the semester.

In a recent blog post, Kendall Singleton, Sustainability Coordinator for UVA Dining Services, provides instructions to students on how to end their participation prior to summer break.

UVA uses the key tag (token) system as the basis for container accountability. At semester’s end, the blog post advises students on how to return rinsed containers and/or key cards, and how to get deposits returned. Specific details about the return process can be found here:


Kendall assessed the Eco-Takeouts™ program with these words: “Our reusable to-go system has worked pretty well so far and I don’t foresee us making any drastic changes to the program in the next year or so. The large majority of the feedback [from program participants] I have received is positive, with students expressing their appreciation for the program.” While Kendall acknowledges that a “good number” of students return neither the key card nor the containers at year-end, many of them are underclassmen and will likely continue their participation in the next year.

Innovation and personal involvement help Eco-Takeouts™ programs work, and UVA’s plan is no exception. In 2010, UVA Dining Services donated Eco-Takeouts™ to a campus sorority house for use in its catering operation. By using Eco-Takeouts™, the sorority house reduced its use of Styrofoam™ for packaging meals served to sorority sisters after regular dining hours. Kendall personally delivered the boxes, and talked to the sorority sisters about the reusable container program’s importance within the overall dining sustainability initiative. She is now working with the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life to explore the possibility of expanding the program to other houses in the Greek community.

For more information about UVA’s reusable container program, visit
Cheers to UVA for using Eco-Takeouts™ as a part of its environmental footprint reduction plan!

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Accountability and Education – Keys to Eco-Takeouts™ Success at University of Vermont

University of Vermont, in partnership with Sodexo, recently expanded its Eco-Ware dining sustainability program to include G.ET.’s Eco-Takeouts™. Starting with an initial purchase of reusable takeout containers to support 250 participants, the program is designed to service as many as 300 customers. Each student is charged $7.50 to join the program. This fee covers the cost of the containers, the exchange token, and dishwashing costs. “We knew that the program would have the greatest chance for success if it was financially self-sufficient,” said Tom Oliver, Retail Operations Director for University Dining Services.

And speaking of tokens, University of Vermont doesn’t use the standard plastic chip – it uses cow tags! As the name implies, these are the actual markers farmers use to identify livestock. While no program participant has specifically commented on the use of this unique solution, it is an example of how creative marketing and communication can add spark to a sustainability program.

By Fall 2011, UVM plans to increase the number of locations offering Eco-Takeouts™ from two locations to six, one of which is the college’s highest volume lunch location. The new semester will also bring a ten cent increase in the discount given at the register for reusable container usage, up from the current five cent discount.

I recently had the chance to ask Sodexo Marketing Assistant Jay Taylor and student David Manago some questions about the University’s reusable container program. Here are their responses:

Q: Your committee reviewed several container options. What made you decide that the Eco-Takeouts™ containers are the best solution?

Jay: We were looking for a container that is sturdy, leak-resistant and easy to clean. Our previous containers were flimsy, very leaky and, for some reason, had many nooks that made the containers difficult to clean and even more difficult to perceive as being clean. Sanitation and food safety are very important to us.

David: The container itself is very appealing to the buyer’s eye. It is sturdy, has helpful sections to divide up foods, clasps together well to ensure a tight close, and has a cool green tint to it. It is large enough for a good sized meal, though convenient enough to carry. Compared to other versions, if my memory serves me, this container seems better made, more apt to holding foods, and overall more visually appealing than its predecessors. [non G.E.T. containers used during pilot programs]

Q: What were some of the challenges and objections in launching the Eco-Takeouts™ program and how did you overcome them?

Jay: Accountability was certainly a significant issue with our pilot programs. Our pilot programs did not incorporate an accountability model, and we only received 35% of the containers back by the end of the program. Participation was also a significant issue. In order to spread awareness, we partnered with UVM’s Eco-Reps (peer educators dedicated to promoting ecological living and sustainability to fellow students) and other student groups to spread the word on a peer-to-peer level. To encourage consistent and repeated use of the program, we offer a 5-cent discount to customers every time they use an Eco-Takeouts™ instead of a single-use container, which is roughly the same amount we save.

Feedback has been very positive. We certainly aren’t hearing any complaints! Publicity has helped spread the word about the program.

David: Peer-to-peer education has really made a difference. Here at UVM, we use our Eco-Reps to share ways we can make significant changes to the amount of degradation we force upon our Earth through simple changes in our lifestyles. Eco-Reps educate their fellow students on the simplicity of the program and the BIG impact it makes with regard to UVM’s consumption and waste.

Q: How do you believe using reusable containers supports the overall goal of sustainability?

Jay: University Dining Services has been composting since before composting was cool, and using recyclable and compostable packaging in every instance that we can. Offering Eco-Takeouts™ is the next stop on our journey towards sustainable dining services, and I think it is a particularly important one. Even if compostable and recyclable packaging is sorted properly, the fact of the matter is that it is still packaging that must be collected and transported. By replacing that single-use packaging with reusable packaging, we aim to significantly reduce our environmental impact AND our solid waste management costs.

David: Reusable containers are an easy way to cut consumption and, therefore, waste on campus. For years I’ve ridiculed the [retail locations] due to the sheer amount of waste generated by them, but now it’s possible for these locations to be just as sustainable as the dining halls. This program helps support UVM’s overall goal of sustainability by giving the campus an option towards decreasing overall consumption and waste in a simple way – changing the way we eat.

For more information on University of Vermont’s Eco-Takeouts™ program and other sustainability initiatives, click on the links below.

Eco-Ware Facebook Page

Article published by UVM Communications:

Article (similar to previous) published by Packaging Digest:

Article in Campus Newspaper:

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Sustainable Packaging Coalition Finds Biodegradables Aren’t So Green

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), an industry working group committed to promoting innovative packaging that is eco-friendly, found that biodegradable waste has an overall negative impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

While there are some landfills that can capture methane gas generated by waste and convert it into energy, the percentage of energy conversion is relatively low.

This recent greenhouse gas study supports the idea that we should reuse and minimize the waste we send to landfills.

To read the complete article on greenbiz.com, click the following link http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2011/03/29/surprise-biodegradable-packaging-still-bad-planet.

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