What if you could choose to get your next takeout meal in a sturdy reusable container instead of a fragile single-use plastic container, reducing waste and helping the environment while you’re at it? That’s the premise behind Portland company GO Box, led by owner and CEO Jocelyn Quarrell. Quarrell has been working to expand the circular economy in a variety of different ways for her entire professional career, beginning with a job at Zipcar helping to shift people away from single-car ownership. After moving to Portland, Quarrell took a position with Alta Bicycle Share (now known as Motivate!) and helped get bikeshare programs started in cities across the US, including Chattanooga, Boston, and New York City. At the beginning of this past summer, she had the opportunity to take over GO Box from the previous owner, and has been working since to expand GO Box’s service within Portland and (soon) beyond.
For Quarrell, working with GO Box has given her an understanding that she can make a positive change in the world by making small changes, and the company’s business model allows consumers to do the same thing. After coming to recognize that what we throw “away” doesn’t just disappear, Quarrell felt obligated to act and be more aware of both her own waste footprint and that of her community. One primary difficulty Quarrell faced in envisioning how to change attitudes towards our waste is a challenge for many causes and issues: “How do we raise awareness without passing judgment, while also building in a sense of accountability that we’re all part of a community?” For Quarrell, one answer lies in a picture of broader change as a “bottom-up, community- driven force”: we have to change ourselves and our habits first and foremost. GO Box’s mission in part is to prompt this change by building a “zero waste community that’s easy to be a part of, fun to be a part of, and low cost”.
So far, the GO Box community has been very supportive and positive as service has expanded to New Seasons Market grocery stores and other new locations, and Quarrell is contacted from people across the world every week who want to expand GO Box to their hometowns as well. Quarrell makes clear that anyone can get involved with GO Box regardless of their familiarity with the idea of zero waste, but encourages people to start conversations with their friends or with the owner of their favorite restaurant about where our trash goes and how we could do better. As Quarrell puts it, “The circular economy is a beautiful thing, but everyone in the circle needs to come together.”