Lean, Mean, and Green

Lean, Mean, and Green

I recently had my first ever Boloco experience – and first ever burrito experience for that matter (shocking, I know). But, there’s a rather nice location right on Boston Commons where I had a delicious teriyaki chicken burrito and a cup of water. What surprised me even more than the pleasant, non-fast-food-esq atmosphere was the writing on my cup. Behold:

“This cup grew up in Blair, Nebraska.
It’s made entirely of corn.
It’s 100% compostable.
It will disappear no matter what you do with it.”

Wow! Boloco certainly seems to be paving the way towards greener standards. After looking into it further, I actually discovered that Boloco is certified by the Green Restaurant Association. It seems like they’re taking this initiative pretty seriously.

In a recent conversation with John Pepper, Boloco CEO and Co-Founder, I asked why they decided to start implementing these new products and he said, “Replacing our Styrofoam cups three years ago with those derived from corn was a no-brainer once we understood the impact and the costs. They do not save us money, but they were received so positively by so many of our guests that I think it’s more than made up for the additional cost.”

At first, I was surprised a company would undertake a campaign that costs them money, but in this case, it seems well worth it. John noted that it’s about more than just the money and is mostly about doing what they believe is right in the long-run. He continued to note that, “the perfect (and cost-effective) solutions haven’t arrived yet and likely won’t anytime soon… but we need to make changes that we believe improve things versus waiting for that perfect solution.” Well said. I often feel the same way about technology – if I keep waiting for the next, better version of the iPod or something to come out, I’ll never get the chance to own one! Better to take action now and be an early adopter and then improve things down the road.

So far, it seems the public response to such green initiatives has been overly positive, especially with Boloco’s amusing promotions on the cups themselves. However, John commented that, “there have been quite a few skeptics as well, which has actually been very helpful as they’ve questioned what we do and claim. In fact, an eleven-year old boy did a test with our cups and helped us all learn that, while they will disappear, no matter what we do with them, as it says on the cup, varying environments can cause that time frame to change dramatically. Too often (i.e. in landfills) it’s negligibly better than non-compostable items that end up in the same place.”

So, the logical question is why haven’t more companies put greener practices in place. According to John, implementing the right products is only the first step. The harder part is adopting new team member practices and creating new guest habits so that the cups make their way to the correct place. Hopefully people will start spreading the word to create a demand for more environmentally friendly products.

Boloco’s not the only company jumping on the green bandwagon. Many of you have probably seen Sun Chips’ latest commercial showing off their biodegradable chip bags.  They even show you with pictures on the bag how it biodegrades after 13 weeks of being buried in the soil.

When talking with Chris Kuechenmeister, Frito-Lay North America, he said, “Frito-Lay and our R&D team continue to develop and look at a wide range of potential future packaging technologies for our brands with sustainability in mind.” So perhaps we’ll see more compostable products stemming from Frito-Lay and the PepsiCo team in the near future.

Hopefully more companies will get the picture and follow suit. John at Boloco thinks this is inevitable, but will try to stay ahead of the curve, saying, “it’s just more fun and rewarding that way!” Have you seen any other companies implementing sustainability steps towards a greener future?


2 thoughts on “Lean, Mean, and Green

  1. It will be interesting to see how green initiatives play out. I wonder if the cost of those corn cups might be prohibitively high if subsidies for corn grown in the US were ever to disappear.

    I thought you might like this link — it seems at least tangentially related to the issue you adress about the dynamic between consumers and socially-responsible corporate initiatives. Let me know what you think!

  2. Thanks Dave – I’ll be sure to check it out. You raise a good point, but I’m confident that if corn were ever lacking in abundance, we would come up with a new, better solution! Some are probably already in the works as we speak 🙂

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