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GO Box - The service for reusable and returnable take away

We are radically improving the take-out experience - from wasteful disposables to a sustainable reusable system.

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Background

Take-out food containers are cheap and convenient. It has become a habit to order to-go and enjoy coffee as well as food in the park, the office or elsewhere. The food delivery market is booming and so is the to-go packaging waste related to it. In the San Francisco Bay Area of California, 48% of street litter is related to food packaging waste. Another study found that an average American office worker uses two to-go cups per working day. GO Box is here to address this issue.

GO Box is an innovative service providing reusable takeout containers and cups to food vendors and their customers. With conveniently located drop sites and a mobile app, GO Box is a fast and easy alternative for busy people who love the convenience of takeout but hate the waste.


Our Differentiation

We tackle the 3 R’s with ease.

Reduce - single use packaging

Reuse - our containers instead of disposing them

Recycle - once they’ve reached the end of their 300+ usage life.

Not just reusable products but a system that goes with it. Our App assures that item loss is low and now people don’t have to remember to bring their own containers and wash them.


Our Reusable Containers

  • Can be used 300+ times then recycled
  • BPA Free
  • Industrial dishwasher safe
  • Sturdy material that is more leak/spill resistant than its single use counterparts


The Reuse Problem

The consumer challenge with reuse is twofold. It is easy to forget to bring your own container, and vendors are prohibited from serving food in customers’ personal containers due to health code. Even people who are conscious of the environmental impact of their eating habits are forced to use single-use disposables due to the lack of alternatives. This is where GO Box comes in as the perfect solution for a sustainable to-go experience.


Our Solution

GO Box is the first and only reusable takeout container service offering customers a way to get their meal in an environmentally friendly, reusable alternative to the single-use disposable container. With a mission of "doing away with throw away," GO Box makes sustainable eating fast, easy, and convenient for people who eat on the go.

Our Vendors

We have more than 100 partner vendors in Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area. They offer Go Box to their customers because we make it easy for them to reduce waste and attract eco minded customers. Some vendors even offer incentives or discount the food when served in a GO Box because it saves them money on single use disposables. Thanks to vendors like Rotisserie Deli that provides 10% discount on GO Box meals in Downtown Oakland and City Hall Cafe in Palo Alto we can keep things easy and convenient for our members.

Vendor Density: In general, the more vendors the better because that makes it easier for consumers to learn about GO Box, have access to reusable boxes and experience the benefits. We have found that in downtown areas, at least 5-10 vendors are needed to get traction.

Price point for vendors: Currently there is no cost for the vendors in the Bay Area since we are still young and its more important to have vendors join easily. In Portland, the vendors pay a fee of 20ct per reusable Box. Even with this small fee, the vendors save with every reusable container compared to the disposable counterpart which costs anywhere between 25ct - $1.



Our Members

People can sign up for GO Box for $24 per year for unlimited use. They are then able to get their meal in a reusable, durable takeout container and return it to a nearby drop site when they’re finished. At the drop site, customers use our mobile app to scan in their GO Box. 

Now they are ready for their next GO Box experience.

Currently, users can only take one box out at a time. The reason is to keep loss rates low. You would be surprised that even one box can go missing, or people forget to return their box in time. We have received individual requests to take out several boxes at a time for a team meeting or other events. Our system allows us to extend the number of possible boxes and we do it on a case by case basis for responsible individuals. In general, this hasn't been a big issue so far. Rather do users appreciate the control mechanism so that they keep track of their reusable boxes.

Our Mobile App

We have researched the reusable landscape extensively. What we have found is that items easily go missing if there is no accountability system like tokens, deposit or a mobile App which we consider the most convenient solution overall. As mentioned above, our App allows only one item to be used at a time to ensure it is returned. That is why we have only lost a couple of boxes in the past. In the rare case of a lost box, we would charge a small fee equivalent to the value of the box and reset the user account to be able to use the next GO Box.

GO Box works only with our mobile App. While the program has originally started with tokens, there were a few issues related to this analogue system:
1) No way to digitally track the number of boxes used at individual vendors (Imagine you have to call every vendor to ask for the number of boxes used per day) to supply the equivalent number.
2) The boxes could only be returned when a person was physically present to also hand out a token. This takes resources and reduces convenience since the user wants to be able to return the boxes at a time of their choice.
3) Overall data is not available to see the success of the system.

That is why a smartphone and the App are requirements to join GO Box.  


Operations
We organize pickup and delivery of our boxes by partnering with workforce development organizations and local non-profits. That way we create local jobs and provide income for those in need. Our dropsites are usually served weekly. We ask our customers to toss any leftover food before returning the boxes and so far we haven't had any issues with smell so far. Our drop sites are outfitted with a reusable linen that keeps the smell inside. The frequency of pick-up is higher than once a week only when our system shows extensive usage. Because of our mobile App, we are always able to see usage and returns in every drop site. This makes it very convenient for us to organize operations

What We Do

We pick up the used containers, have them washed in a commercial kitchen, and return them clean to vendors. We manage the full cycle of implementing a reusable system from marketing, education, operations and support. 

Sustainability and social responsibility have been central to both our mission and how we do business. We are partnering with non-profits such as Saint Anthony’s Soup Kitchen to wash the containers after-hours when their commercial dishwashing equipment sits idle. To extend our positive impact on the community, we are cooperating with local workforce development organizations like the Palo Alto Downtown Streets Team. By optimizing the use of existing resources within the community, we keep money in the local economy, create new job opportunities and implement a new green service for our cities!

Since launching, GO Box Portland and GO Box San Francisco Bay Area have attracted over 3,500 subscribers, who have prevented the use of more than 110,000 disposable containers to date.

Our Corporate Program

The corporate program helps building owners and companies reduce waste in their offices or buildings and makes returns more convenient for our customers. We place a drop site in a multi-tenant building that we service once or twice a week depending on demand. That way, employees in the building can return their GO Box containers without having to walk to a drop site a few blocks away. For the pickup, we charge a monthly fee to the property management firm or the offices in the building. The Corporate Program is the largest revenue stream for GO Box Portland and we would like to expand this to the SF Bay Area too.


Scale

GO Box was born as an idea for downtown areas that can be replicated in multiple cities as a franchise model. Unfortunately, not everybody is willing to change behaviour for the greener because of barriers of convenience, costs or just lack of interest. That being said, we see that about 20-40% of the potential customers eg. all employees working for one of our corporate clients really make the change as long as the system is voluntary. Organic growth can only get reuse so far. We anticipate regulations to evolve around disposable items that will hopefully move more people into reuse. We also hope for reusable competition to arise to help the economy become more circular. 


Who we are

We are GO Box SF Bay

Paul Liotsakis was inspired to take action and bring GO Box to the Bay Area after years of feeling uncomfortable with waste generated from otherwise delicious take-out meals. Paul’s background includes leadership roles in renewable energy, urban gardening and the organic food industry. Paul holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio School of Management.


Gesina Beckert earned a BA in International Business and started her career as a product manager for solar energy products at Bosch. When she was transferred from her home country Germany to Silicon Valley to drive a project around energy efficiency, she was struck by the amount of takeout waste in the US. That is why she joined GO Box mission to revolutionize the wasteful packaging of take-out.


Vanessa Pan has experience in business development, sales operations and hospitality from her years of working in the service, global education and tech industry. She specializes in communication and is passionate about making waves and bringing on positive change.


And here is the founder of GO Box Portland Laura Weiss.

Laura has followed her passion for environmental sustainability for her 30 years of professional experience. Before creating and founding GO Box, she was the first Regional Sustainability Manager for ARAMARK’s Higher Education line of business. 

She earned an MBA in Sustainable Business from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. She also holds a Master of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Bachelor of Science from Rutgers University, Cook College.




Idea Title

Ditch Disposables? Join GO Box and Do Away with Throw Away TM

Company / Organization Name

GO Box SF Bay

Website

https://www.goboxsfbay.com

Where are you / your team located?

San Francisco Bay Area, CA USA

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

We redesign the system of to go waste by preventing single use disposables with an App based service. Our customers use the service because of its convenience and innovation for reuse. Currently, we offer a service with reusable cups, lids and containers for any kind of take-out food. In the future, we would like to extend our portfolio to utensils, ice cream containers, juice and smoothie cups. We’d also like to partner with large chains like Starbucks and Whole Foods.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Our idea applies to Use Case 3: Coffee shops and restaurants no longer need to use disposable to-go cups (like Anne’s). They can benefit from our platform and even build stronger customer relationships through our App. They also save money for every reusable container used. With GO Box, busy professionals (like Lucas) can use sustainable to-go products without the inconvenience of bringing and washing their own.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

We are currently operating in the SF Bay Area: Palo Alto, Oakland and one neighborhood in SF. We are licensing the model from GO Box Portland. In the future, we envision growing our product line and services and extending to more city downtowns.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

We’ll be introduced to new marketplaces through strategic partnerships with cities and through sales and marketing efforts that attract corporations, property management firms, cities, schools and food delivery companies. Our obstacles include slow adoption from vendors and users, marketing visibility, public campaigns and cost of operations. We plan to overcome these by creating greater value through better marketing, technology and incentives for both vendors and users.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Full-scale roll-out: You have developed a pilot, tested, and analyzed the impact of that pilot as it pertains to the problem scope. You are ready to expand the pilot significantly and begin to scale.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

If we made it as a Top Idea we would: - Launch in downtown San Francisco, grow to 1,000 users and 20 corporate partners within a year - Improve the user App experience with additional features - Leverage connections through accelerator to scale further and refine business model considering regulations with expert advice - Enhance marketing, research and development by engaging in incentive tests with users and vendors

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Laura Weiss founded GO Box Portland in 2011 because she was tired of all the to-go waste piling up in downtown Portland. Portland has a thriving food cart culture where reusables are not an option. Paul Liotsakis then licensed GO Box to take it to the SF Bay Area. I, Gesina joined GO Box in 2017 to run operations and grow GO Box further.

Tell us about your work experience

Inspired by sharing economy startups that disrupted other established business models, I started imagining the world without the to-go waste. I believe good tech can make this work!

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

GO Box SF Bay is a Sole Proprietorship

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Team

Hi Gesina 

As Refinement Phase quickly comes to a close in less than 8 hours, I want to remind you that the following must be submitted by tonight, August 31st at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

1. Please submit the Refinement Questions Form online that was sent again via email yesterday evening! This is mandatory for Top Ideas consideration, so this should be your first priority in the final stretch.

2. A secondary priority, which is optional, is to update your Refinement Phase post. I see you've already significantly updated your concept on the platform.. But please share any additional information, photos, and documentation of your progress throughout this Phase!

Looking forward to reviewing and celebrating the amazing work you've achieved this Refinement Phase!

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