Believe it or not, the common plastic drinking straw has been drawing a lot of media and public criticism lately. And Sandra Harris isn’t surprised – the CEO of ECOlunchbox has long understood the issues around the use of plastic and its impact on the environment.
Since founding ECOlunchbox as a triple-bottom-line social enterprise in 2009, Harris has evangelized against the use of plastic in places such as school cafeterias, business lunch rooms and huge enterprises such as Ikea or SeaWorld.
Part of the solution is to offer alternatives, Harris believes. That is why she provides a way for individuals and companies to break their plastic dependency and find healthier alternatives. To date, ECOlunchbox has sold more than 400,000 ECOlunchboxes and related products.
“I love our planet. I hike, kayak and love to be outdoors,” Harris said. “It concerned me that we were seeing an accumulation of this nonbiodegradable material piling up in our landfills and often washing out into our oceans. I thought: Wouldn’t it be great if I could serve my kids’ lunches – they were in early elementary at that time – in a plastic-free alternative and our family could reduce our dependence on plastic for these reasons?”
Harris says that by using her products each year, the ECOlunchbox community has averted the use and disposal of tens of millions of pieces of trash (mostly plastic). That will help keep the planet healthier and provide a way to avoid things like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other polluting places that are filled with plastic that hasn’t been recycled.
Harris, a mom and former investigative journalist, offers the following tips on how companies can help their employees, vendors and customers reduce plastic waste:
“We can be much more powerful as business leaders if we can tap into our own personal passions,” Harris said. “You have to be savvy, smart and strategic, but you also have passion around what you’re doing. It can be your secret sauce. It can help you differentiate your offerings from all the other people who are trying to do something similar.”