Did you know that the food carts in downtown Portland use roughly 60,000 disposable containers every month? Nearly all end up in the landfill. Even the compostable ones.
GO Box founder Laura Weiss loves the convenience and variety of food carts but has felt guilty about each disposable single-serving container she uses. GO Box is Lauraâ€™s way of helping other eco-minded Portlanders reduce their lunchtime footprint.
Customers sign up at a participating food vendor for $18 a year and immediately receive their first GO Box. Once they finish eating, they drop off their box to be cleaned at one of five downtown drop sites. In exchange, they get a token that can be swapped for another reusable container.
When Weiss launched GO Box, five food cart owners participated in the venture. Now there are about 1,600 individual subscribers and 20 corporations that pay monthly fees to have GO Box drop sites in their offices. In addition, more than 75 food vendors and cafes use GO Boxes.
Weiss estimates that GO Box use has kept 25,000 disposable containers out of landfills. The city of Portland honored Weissâ€™ GO Boxes last year with an award for sustainable business practices.
Starting GO Box has been a learning process, Weiss says. Because she had no business model to follow, sheâ€™s been testing the waters with changes and ideas.
Weiss plans to expand and has been contacted by businesses in other cities, including Seattle, San Francisco, New York City and Vancouver, B.C. She is pursuing a licensing model, which will allow people in other cities to launch GO Box through a license agreement with her.
â€œThis model can work in any big, dense city,â€ Weiss says. â€œThe denser the better.â€
She also is in the process of creating a smartphone app that would eliminate the need for tokens by tracking the containers electronically.