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!

About Wilma

As G.E.T.'s Sustainable Products Manager, I have more than 15 years of experience managing quick serve and casual dining restaurant foodservice promotions. And what do I know about sustainability? Well, I read eco research, study best practices, and follow Mom’s example by reusing grocery bags and recycling cans. Like many of you, I am looking for ways to apply environmental research and eco-friendly best practices in our schools, companies, and communities. I'll share what I learn, and pass along some tips-- mine and others-- you can apply to your own "green" goals.
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