Lindsey Hoell is an entrepreneur, activist, alumnus of the SOA Accelerator Program, and founder of Dispatch Goods
“Since the beginning of [the COVID-19] lockdown, there’s been a 250-300% increase in the use of single-use plastics.”
Because people are staying home, food delivery services have been on the rise, and for every meal delivered, there’s a certain amount of delivery packaging thrown away. To combat this, Lindsey’s Dispatch Goods service supplies reusable containers to San Francisco restaurants, collects them from the consumers, and cleans them for recirculation. With demand rising, Lindsey hopes to expand this service all across the Bay Area.
“We chose a steel, glass and silicon package because they have high end-of-life reclamation rates," unlike the disposable plastic containers we’re familiar with, piling up in recycling and trash bins, Lindsey’s solution is practical, affordable, and has weathered the lockdown’s economic storm.
Originally finding footing with the corporate lunch crowd, Dispatch Goods’ reusable containers were being utilized for group lunches by several popular downtown San Francisco eateries. When those offices began to work from home, Lindsey had to adapt. “COVID hit, [the offices shut], and I was like dang, there goes my business.”
With some logistical prowess, Lindsey successfully shifted Dispatch Goods from a group-order, office-delivery model to an individual, home-delivery scheme. Despite having her business model upended, “we’ve resuscitated it from the dead, and we’ve got momentum!”
Takeout containers are one of the most familiar forms of single-use plastic. The modern acceptance of such a wasteful habit is something Lindsey knew she could challenge. By providing restaurants with reusable containers and running her own dishwashing and collections services, Lindsey has made the option to select a sustainable container as easy as selecting a single-use one. As far as the consumer is concerned, all they have to do is leave their steel tin out for collection on a given day.
“Our goal has always been to make this as easy as recycling for [our consumers] - because that’s what people are used to doing. We've long thought that that is a model that needed to exist.”
It’s seamless for the consumers, but the reusable system poses a logistical challenge for those working behind the scenes.
Instead of a trip to the landfill, Lindsey’s tins have to be located, collected, cleaned, and redistributed, all on schedule, and all while seeming effortless to consumers.
“We’re like ducks gliding across water: it looks elegant on the surface, but underneath, our feet are moving like crazy. It’s a lot of moving parts.”
Dispatch Goods is restaurant-focused for now, but large scale adoption is Lindsey’s goal.
“Grocery stores have long felt that they want to offer reusables, but the return component was too expensive for one company to take on. But the unit economics start to work out when a bunch of companies [adopt reusables at once] and we can go collect a bunch of containers at one house…that’s the missing piece that I see in this puzzle.”
While Dispatch Goods begins to take off in the Bay Area, Lindsey looks at the next generations to continue the trend.
Her Vision for the Future:
“When you talk about adoption of these services in households, a lot of it comes from the kids. That’s how we got recycling in my hometown: I learned about the planet and environment, and I came home and told my parents “We’re not recycling! This is horrible!” and I bugged them until we got a recycling bin, and then our neighbors got a recycling bin. That's how I think these things catch fire.”
Demand for Dispatch Goods is rising, and they plan to launch their service on a popular food delivery app this September. Once launched, customers ordering from participating restaurants will have the option to have their meal delivered in a reusable Dispatch Goods container. With so many people working and eating from home, Lindsey is excited to see how the launch goes.
Across the Bay in Alameda, students of the local high school petitioned their administration to sign a climate accord. As a part of their pledge to reduce emissions, students applied for a grant to bring Dispatch Goods to Alameda. “[These students] told their school: ‘you said you’d help us find and implement solutions, and here's a solution we want, so help us do it.’ So I’ve got complete faith in the next generation.”
Because Dispatch Goods has their “hands full” in San Francisco, interested communities must demonstrate a commitment to the service by collecting signatures. Once enough people have signed on, Lindsey and her team begin consulting with local restaurants and planning their move.
The Dispatch Goods solution is simple, pragmatic, and effective. Right now, Lindsey is working hard to make sure that anyone interested in the service can have access to it. As she considers the challenges of providing a similar service to more rural areas, Lindsey remains optimistic, practical, and determined. “If a community shows us that there's an ability for us to have a big impact”, she insists, “then we are going to be there.”
Catch Lindsey at SOA Connects Ocean Solutions Summit: September 3, 2020