With the U.S. Congress now looking at ways to boost reusable packaging, this interview with fast-casual restaurant chain Just Salad about its reusable bowl program caught my eye.
Sustainability investment firm Closed Loop Partners interviewed the salad chain about its use of reusable (and sometimes returnable) bowls, and how it calculates the environmental impact they have vs. its single-use packaging options.
Sandra Noonan, its chief sustainability officer, said every packaging option has an environmental impact but the company's looking for the sweet spot of the fewest reuses.
"It takes energy to produce a piece of packaging, whether reusable or disposable," she told CLP. "Reusable packaging needs to be durable and long-lasting. Therefore, the carbon footprint from manufacturing it will be higher than for a flimsier, disposable container. What we're optimizing for is the overall, life cycle footprint of our reusable containers."
She said a life cycle analysis found that their reusable bowls — which this article says are made of plastic — have less global warming impacts compared to their single-use fiber bowls after just two uses.
The CLP article is a detailed look at some of the LCA assumptions they use, and how the company offers incentives like free toppings to get customers — or climatarians, as it calls those who make dining choices specifically with climate in mind — to start having their salad in reusable containers.