The way I see it, reusable containers have the tremendous potential for helping companies develop a two-way relationship with customers.
Like Ronnybrook Farm, where I get milk. I buy from them because they're local and because they use returnable bottles. A quart of milk from them is $3.25 including a $1 deposit. You go back to return the bottle, you buy more milk.
Plus, buying their product makes you feel good and virtuous. They help you not to waste and throwaway. The value add to their product is feeling good about yourself.
This may seem trivial, until you realize that containers form some 40% New York City's residential waste stream. Think not only of the landfill space and the leached toxins, but the material and energy resources used for a product going straight to the landfill.
Throwaway containers are the devil.
So anyway, my friend John is in Missoula, Montana where there is a huge whole food retailer called the Good Food Store:
The Good Food Store is a non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting a healthy community. We provide a wide selection of organic food and natural products, conduct our business in an ethical and respectful manner and donate to organizations in need.
Look at the photos below (click on them to enlarge), courtesy of John, which show the Good Food Store's approach to container reuse.
First, they collect your used jars:
Then, they clean and sterilize the jars:
Then, they offer the empty jars to customers so that they can use them to buy their bulk wet food from fruit preserves to salad dressings (note the empty jars on the shelf on the left):
Cool, right? Not only does an old jar not enter the waste stream but a new one does not need to be manufactured. Now, tell the truth--and business people take note--don't you wish there was something like this in your community?
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.