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Beyond the straw ban: Seattle pizza parlor offers reusable pizza box

Aaron and Wren Crosleycone, owners of World Pizza, display the new reusable, dishwasher safe pizza box. (Rachel Belle, KIRO Radio)

Seattle’s World Pizza has a lot of regulars who pop into the International District vegetarian pizza parlor. Many grab a to-go slice — or two — at lunchtime. The pizza is packed up in a cardboard box that may only be used for several minutes before it’s thrown away, still perfectly clean.

Several years ago, a customer started bringing in his own glass container for takeout pizza and owner Aaron Crosleycone got an idea: What if there was a reusable pizza box that customers could buy and bring in with them each time they visit?

“There really isn’t one on the market,” Crosleycone said. “So a few years after that I was telling a customer about it, this guy named Michael Steiner, and he just seemed really interested. Maybe it was a year after that, he came back with a prototype that kind of resembled the cardboard boxes we use.”

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Crosleycone and Steiner went back and forth on the design, and eventually settled on a 10-inch square box that’s dishwasher safe and bares the World Pizza logo.

“We sell them kind of at cost, but we give away a free slice to try and encourage our regular customers to switch over to the reusable pizza box,” Crosleycone said.

He has sold nearly 50 reusable boxes in the first month, for $5 a pop.

“We’re basically getting our cost back on the box and maybe losing a little bit of money in the slice we’re giving away,” Crosleycone said. “But we think down the road it’s going to save quite a bit of the cardboard boxes we go through. Also it makes people happy that they’re reusing something. It encourages them to come back to the restaurant. They see our name on [the box] rather than seeing funny looking Italian guys on it with sausages hanging. I don’t know who made that design, but it’s all over the world!”

Reusable pizza box and being prepared to-go

Inspired by their Chinatown neighbors, World Pizza has always offered chopsticks instead of plastic forks. The City of Seattle recently banned plastic straws and utensils in favor of compostable ones and last week Kroger grocery stores announced they are eliminating plastic bags entirely. But there are still more easy ways to eliminate waste from your daily life.

Bothell’s Siobhan McComb challenges herself to get as close to zero waste as possible.

“I have a to-go set that I take into restaurants; metal containers and glass jars,” McComb said. “So I don’t end up with polystyrene and plastic containers. I’ve had people, when I’ve ordered to-go and I’ve showed up with my containers, say, ‘You can’t do that.’ So I say, ‘I’ll have it for here!’ And I pay for it first, because then I own the food, and I put it in my containers.”

According to King County Public Health, that exactly how you should do it. As long as a home container doesn’t go back into the kitchen, it’s perfectly legal. Which does present problems for zero wasters at grocery stores. I once went to a grocery chain’s fish counter with my own container and asked the fishmonger to place my salmon filets inside, instead of wrapping it in plastic. He said he couldn’t do it. The county says having a container go behind the glass case at a deli or meat counter can create contamination risks.

But there are a handful of co-ops that let you bring in jars to buy groceries in bulk.

“There are places where I do my peanut butter, I fill up maple syrup, I do my oil, my vinegar, soy sauce, vanilla, herbs, I do teas,” McComb said. “And then I just go to checkout and they take off the weight of the jar.”

For bulk cleaning products, bring your empty bottles to Recology stores in the Puget Sound region and fill up with dish soap and cleaning spray for just $1.99.

To cut down on waste, McComb says she’s has had to cut back on some things she loves.

“I love potato chips, I miss potato chips!” she said, adding that the bag it comes in is not recyclable. “I go to parties where people have potato chips and I’m like the Cookie Monster.”

Second hand culture

McComb also buys all of her clothes and furniture second hand.

“There’s a stigma about reusing things and buying things second hand. That you do it because you’re poor, not for other reasons.”

The reason we waste so much is because it’s convenient. And for a lot of people it’s not worth giving up those conveniences because they don’t think their sacrifices will make a difference. A lot of people don’t think it’s worth it to give up convenience for the environment. What’s the point if one person stops using plastic?

“My rebuttal is leading by example. People will see it. Being in line at the grocery store they’ll see your cloth bags. They’ll see that you’re using this old, ratty coffee bag that you’ve used ten times to fill coffee. People start asking you questions.”

World Pizza would be thrilled if other pizza parlors started selling the reusable boxes. You can reach out to them here to get details.

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