By Linda Baker
Scott Fitzsimons and Genevieve Rades at A Little Bit of Smoke food cart at SW Ninth and Alder. The cart participates in the GO Box program.
// Photo by Alexandra Shyshkina
It takes a village to raise a business. That’s the attitude adopted by GO Box, a startup that aims to reduce waste generated by disposable food cart containers. The company, which launched this past summer, relies on a volunteer network of local shops and restaurants to help distribute its reusable food cart containers.
“It’s a business based heavily on partnerships,” says GO Box founder Laura Weiss, a former Oregon Environmental Council staffer. After paying cart vendors a one-time $8.50 fee for a container, customers drop off the used GO Box at one of three local businesses: the Westside Athletic Club, Woonwinkel and Pedal Bike Tours. Riding her cargo bike, Weiss then transports the dirty containers to the Bijou Café and The Original, two restaurants that wash the containers free of charge.
At the drop sites, customers receive a token to be exchanged for another clean container.
What’s the payoff for the participating businesses? “The idea of new customers coming into the store, who may not have otherwise, is enticing,” says Woonwinkel co-owner Erica Essink.
“The concept is really impressive,” says Bijou Café owner Kathleen Hagberg. “And we know what it’s like to start a business.”
As of mid October, Weiss had signed up 250 subscribers, as well as 22 cart vendors who pay up to $40 a month for the containers. Employers such as Ecos Consulting and Mercy Corps also pay up to $100 a month for an onsite drop box. Such community involvement is the key to waste reduction, Weiss says. Fortunately for GO Box, “We have a very progressive business community.”