One of the most exciting departments at Seward Co-op is the Deli, especially for the constantly rotating hot bar and the colorful and fresh salad bar. New and featured recipes are always great news, but what about a new way to take your food with you while reducing waste? We’re happy to introduce reusable hot bar containers, which you can try at your next visit to Seward Co-op.
How’d We Get to Reusable Containers?
For Heather Eddy, Merchandising Manager at Seward Co-op, the primary goal for take away containers has always been to find the most ecological option. Many shoppers are familiar with our compostable hot bar containers, but they’re only good for one use. There had to be a sustainable path that didn’t involve high spending on single-use packaging. Of course, the most sustainable packaging is the kind that can withstand multiple uses. So what met these needs? New reusable green plastic containers bearing the Seward Co-op logo, which you can find at the hot and salad bar.
Heather and her team wrestled with the idea of choosing plastic for the reusable containers. They considered stainless steel, but it was very expensive and energy intensive to create. Glass was also not practical, nor especially energy minimizing when it comes to recycling. What was needed was a light, durable container that could be used up to hundreds of times and recycled when it had exhausted its use. This is what led Heather’s team to choose plastic. Since their launch in October 2022, the containers have been used more than 430 times, and counting. That’s hundreds of compostable containers that have been saved, with each reusable container good for hundreds more uses (there have been no reports thus far of any damaged containers). Even if the 200 or so available containers could only be used 100 times each, that’s 20,000 compostable containers saved, and that’s before considering all of the energy that goes into creating and transporting them. After 30 or fewer uses each, the Co-op recovers its cost for the reusable containers, freeing up more department budget for food, which, over time, helps keep the cost of the hot bar steady.
How it Works
Some might ask why they can’t opt for the same solutions we use in bulk and bring their own containers, but this poses other issues. Currently, it’s not possible to allow this with the rules and regulations regarding food service in Minneapolis, and we can’t guarantee sanitation. With the reusable containers, however, we can! Here’s how it works: Fill a reusable container with your favorite hot and salad bar items and bring it to the register, where you’ll pay a five-dollar deposit, plus the cost of food. When you’re finished with it, return the washed container to Customer Service for a wooden token that can be exchanged at the cash register for a five-dollar credit that can go towards another container deposit or your next shopping trip. We’ll then thoroughly sanitize the returned container for future use. It’s that easy!
Commit to Waste Reduction, Try a Reusable Container Today
“Simple solutions” are rarely what they seem, Heather explained, but the reusable containers are, in fact, a simple answer to reducing waste. A single green container, used hundreds of times over its lifespan, saves the resources that go into making and transporting hundreds of compostable containers. With each new use of the reusable containers, the amount of resources expended drops over the long-term, reducing the total amount of resource extraction over time. Plus, they’re light, rigid for easy transport, lock with a clasp to prevent spilling, have built-in dividers for different foods, and are microwaveable. Should the containers take off, Heather says, it’s possible there could be an expansion of the idea to include more salad-friendly shapes, along with containers for soup. As the only grocery in the area currently offering this kind of program, Seward Co-op is excited to act as a leader in waste reduction and environmental sustainability. Try the reusable containers on your next trip to the Franklin or the Friendship stores, and join the hundreds of others who have helped conserve resources and reduce waste.