Fast-casual chain Just Salad aims to send zero waste to landfills by 2022, according to the company’s first-ever sustainability report, which was released this week.
The report both recaps some of Just Salad’s efforts around sustainability and outlines the chain’s goals for 2020, many of which are about getting rid of single-use plastics and curbing and/or diverting food waste in its operations. These environmental commitments come under Just Salad’s Green Standard Initiative, which the chain launched last year and is already executing on in its 47 locations, which span five U.S. states as well as Dubai.
Central to the company’s aim to get rid of single-use plastics is its popular reusable salad bowl, which customers can purchase for $1 (and get a free topping for their salad when they use it). According to the report, Just Salad diverted 75,000 pounds of single-use plastic from landfills in 2019 and plans to up that number to 100,000 pounds by 2022.
The company says it will also implement a bring-your-own-cup program in 2020 that offers customers a $0.10 discount on beverages when they bring their own containers. As well, Just Salad says it is “evaluating all in-store supplies” and testing more sustainable options, including compostable to-go cutlery and cardboard containers for wraps in place of plastic ones.
Curbing food waste is the other big focus of the report. Last year, the company started a composting program at certain locations that separates food waste from other waste in the back of house. The company will continue that practice, which it says can divert an estimated 22,000 pounds of organic waste from landfills across its NYC stores alone. The program is currently active at Just Salad stores in NYC, Philadelphia, and Chicago. The company will include this food waste separation process in the front of house for certain locations in 2020.
Many restaurant chains are now outlining major sustainability initiatives to address massive issues in the food industry around waste, whether it’s leftover food or single-use packaging that does not biodegrade. Major chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks have detailed programs in place to introduce reusable packaging, cut carbon emissions through alternative sources of energy, and curb food waste by diverting it from landfills (in some cases even using to to make automobiles).
But it’s not just the multi-national chains doing this work. Blue Bottle Coffee, for example, recently outlined an ambitious plant to make its stores completely zero waste by 2020. Company CEO Bryan Meehan was the first person to point out the initiative was an experiment that “may not work, that may cost us money,” among other things.
He has a point, and it’s one that more companies are starting to acknowledge as the dialogue around sustainable restaurant operations becomes more central, if at the same time more expensive. Just Salad’s founder and CEO Nick Kenner echoed a similar sentiment in the company’s sustainability report when he wrote that achieving sustainability is a challenge that requires logistics, money, and a change in consumer attitudes. “Affordability and sustainability are not at odds with each other,” he said. “While the sustainable path can cost more in the short run, it’s an engine for long-term value creation.”