A silver lining of the pandemic has been the positive impact on many aspects of the environment.
There have been practical benefits; with car and air travel reduced, for example, air pollution and nitrogen dioxide has been cut. And also a sense of a deeper shift in our ideals and priorities, with folks connecting with what is truly important for the long-term health and well-being of ourselves and the world around us.
However, there are also some elements of our enforced lifestyle changes that are having a less desirable effect on the planet — one being the rise in single-use plastic waste being created by our increased use of food delivery services.
But by tapping into our increased desire to make positive change, the founders of Jybe, the first-ever ratings app to rank the sustainability of our takeout packaging, are helping us find a solution.
The app has created a community for consumers to share information about whether the packaging that their take-out food arrives in is eco-friendly, and then ranks the restaurants so customers can make informed choices next time they order their takeout.
Paul Kradin, Jybe’s Co-Founder and Chief Sustainability Officer, explains, “I think there’s this general sense that people have felt really powerless this past year, like we’re being carried by the current.
“And as we think about resolutions for 2021, people are looking for things they can do to help to make a difference, but maybe not even knowing exactly what kind of difference they want to make.
“Right now, it’s hard for people to do anything that requires a lot of the activities that we normally would have done, like getting into a group and doing something to make change. But this is something that anyone can do. It’s literally one little extra step before you order something, to help make sure that you’re ordering from a restaurant that cares. If everybody were to take advantage of this platform, the power of the marketplace would cause the restaurants take notice and to start to examine their behavior in a way that would really benefit everyone.”
Global plastic waste is fast-approaching 400 million tons each year, and almost half of that is single-use plastic — material that will be used briefly before it is discarded. And around 11 million tons of plastic is dumped in our oceans each year.
Paul and his husband Steve Bauerfeind, a photography executive producer, came up with the idea of targeting change in the food delivery industry after they launched their first green initiative to make photo shoots more sustainable.
They would work with productions to reduce plastic waste and make those shoots carbon neutral, only to get home from a hard day’s work and have their well-earned dinner arrive in the very product they’d been working all day to eradicate.
“We would spend 12 or 14 hours a day on these long productions, come home tired and hungry, order food delivery and then a giant bag of plastic would be dropped on our doormat,” Paul explains.
“We would just look at each other and think, ‘Why did we spend all day trying to make this shoot green and sustainable and then order all this plastic to the the house?’
“And that was the kernel of the idea for Jybe, which was that people who are eco-minded and want to do the right thing didn’t have a source of information about where they should be directing their meal orders. So we could give them a platform so that people could make smarter choices.”
Jybe launched in Los Angeles and San Francisco in September and has already spread to Denver, Boulder, Portland and Austin. The app rely on their customer feedback to report whether restaurants are using sustainable packaging, and also other factors like whether they are providing plastic cutlery without the consumer asking for it. From this information they give restaurants their Turtle Score — ranging from one turtle shell for the least environmentally conscious restaurants to five for the best.
And for those who are not performing well in the sustainability stakes, the Jybe team then offer their support to help them.
Paul says, “There’s a bit of a myth that sustainable materials are somehow more expensive than the petroleum plastic alternative.
“The materials that are the most desirable from a recyclers perspective, are paper, aluminum, and glass.
“We have these brochures that we give people that compares the cost of what they’re currently using versus what we’re recommending they use. And it shows that the price is either pretty close to the same, if not less expensive. So a restaurant could make the switch to something that’s better for the environment and save a few pennies per unit at the same time.”
The timing for this idea seems perfect, with takeaway delivery having seen a huge spike during the pandemic. The top four food delivery apps raked in around $5.5 billion in combined US revenue from April through September this year, more than double the figure for the same period last year.
But, in fact, the health crisis also caused the founders to pause and pivot slightly from their original mission — like so many other businesses during this unprecedented time. And, as we have seen with other innovations born in the pandemic, the new version of their plan is even more thoughtful and kind to the industry and the planet than it would have been otherwise.
Alison Diamond, Co-Founder and CEO, explains: “We spent six months developing our app, and we were ready to hit the ground running in March.
“But then the pandemic hit and we had to hit the brakes a bit, because our main goal was to direct people to restaurants making sustainable packaging choices, but a lot of them don’t. And so it was really hard for us to imagine potentially taking business away from restaurants that weren’t doing it right.
“It’s a hard conversation to have right now with restaurants, because a lot of them are doing right, and that’s great, but the ones that aren’t can be too busy pivoting, they’re struggling, they’re closing.
“So most of my day is spent delivering sustainable to-go materials to these restaurants. We’re working really hard, with kindness, to get in there and help them swap things out. And that has been a lot of fun, but I’d be lying if I said that that was the original plan.”
To download the app and find out more about their mission go to gojybe.com