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Bike-powered GO Box has kept 100,000 food containers out of the trash

Posted by on September 12th, 2016 at 2:29 pm

GO Box Founder Laura Weiss at work. (Photo: GO Box Facebook)

GO Box Founder Laura Weiss at work.
(Photo: GO Box Facebook)

The dark side of Portland’s legendary food cart ecosystem are the thousands of plastic, paper, and styrofoam food containers that are tossed into the trash every day. Laura Weiss, founder of GO Box, is doing her part to make that ecosystem a bit healthier.

This week her business will mark a major milestone: The elimination of 100,000 disposable food containers.

Weiss has been pedaling her bike with a trailer full of re-usable containers since 2011 and will also celebrate her fifth year in business this Wednesday.

GO Box has over 2,500 subscribers and boasts partnerships with 75 food vendors and 35 corporate customers.

The way it works is simple. Once people sign up for GO Box, they use the mobile app to get their food in a GO Box from a participating vendor — and then return it to a drop site when finished.

The entire business is run entirely by bicycle. Weiss and her crew pull two custom-made, company trailers that are out in the field five days a week.

Bicycle delivery

A GO Box delivery person using one of their new custom cargo trailers.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

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GO Box also recently became certified as a B Corporation, which Weiss says is, “an acknowledgment of the company’s commitment to social and environmental ethics, transparency and accountability.”

While GO Box is going strong, there’s still a lot of room to grow. Weiss estimates the downtown food carts serve about 5,000 meals per day. That’s a lot of single-serving containers — and lot of potential for something more environmentally friendly.

Weiss has help doing deliveries, but she still handles every other aspect of the business. We caught up with her during a recent delivery to the food carts on SW 10th. “I do sales and marketing and accounting, I do delivery, I manage people, I do logistics and operations,” she said, “It doesn’t ever get boring. Despite that fact that we’re still small, we have a lot of customers who love what we’re doing and really appreciate the service and feel better about getting their food to go and not creating a bunch of trash.”

Learn more at goboxpdx.com or on the company’s Facebook page. You can also meet Weiss in person at a celebration party planned for this Wednesday (9/14) from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm in the U.S. Bancorp Tower (Big Pink) plaza. There will be a prize giveaway, free cookies and discounts on new subscriptions.

Here’s a video about the service that was just released last week:

Browse more stories like this in our Bikes at Work archives.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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9 Comments
  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty September 12, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    When I used to more frequently frequent the carts than I do now, I had a reusable container I would take with me. I used to see others do that as well, but haven’t for a while.

    This service seems more convenient.

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      John Lascurettes September 12, 2016 at 5:57 pm

      I’m not 100% on this, but the reason why this isn’t more commonplace from my understanding is that it’s against health code for the cart to take your personal container and bring it back into the food prep area. At least that was what I was told in the days before GoBox.

      I love GoBox and have been a member since day one (actually before day one when they debuted it at a Pickathon). I only wish more carts used them.

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        Heidi September 13, 2016 at 12:36 pm

        I have asked my local food service people about this, and the reasoning is that the server’s serving utensil might touch your personal container and thereby transmit something to another person (unless washed of course).

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    Caitlin D September 12, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    This is a great idea! I read about it when they launched, but I didn’t realize they were bike-powered too. Doubly awesome!

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    Spiffy September 13, 2016 at 11:41 am

    glad that there are enough eco-friendly carts out there buying into this…

    my carts serve in recyclable containers… Sawasdee Thai uses plastic, and Fuego Burritos uses aluminum foil…

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    Anna G September 13, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    nice idea but you can only use it with a smartphone.

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      John Lascurettes September 13, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      While it would be nice for them to provide a non-tech-based solution I don’t think it’s practical for them. In fact, it was chit based for several years (you gave the vendor a chit, they gave you the go box; you returned the go box, you were given a chit). There was no app. The problem with the chit system is it was 100% reliant on an honor system of the subscriber re-upping their membership because there was no way for the food vendor, or box drop off location to know that your membership was out of date.

      The smartphone app was piloted for a year alongside the old chit system before they retired that.

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        John Lascurettes September 13, 2016 at 4:09 pm

        Forgot to add: with the application, if you don’t renew your membership annual, they can cut off your ability to order a GoBox to go from a vendor.

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    Dave September 14, 2016 at 8:07 am

    I love GoBox and have the pleasure of calling Laura a friend. Great work and another successful bike business on Portland’s belt.

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