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Sandra Noonan spoke with Gloria Dawson for this week's episode of Extra Serving, a podcast by Nation's Restaurant News.

Sandra Noonan, chief sustainability officer at Just Salad, on why recycling and composting just isn't enough

The fast-casual salad chain is thinking beyond the reusable bowl

Listen to this podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify or SoundCloud.

Fast-casual chain Just Salad started with a reusable bowl program when it opened in 2006. It's now expanded to a host of sustainability initiatives, and this year the company released a sustainability report resembling those produced by national brands

New York-based Just Salad only has about 40 units. But the growing chain has an outsized positive impact—about a quarter of Just Salad customers use the company's reusable bowls. 

Sandra Noonan, chief sustainability officer at Just Salad, is realistic about the motivation for consumers. It's good for the environment, and it's a good deal for customers.

A key part of the program is the incentive—"you get a free topping with every use," Noonan said on NRN's Extra Serving Podcast. "I think that the critical piece to this program is combining loyalty with waste reduction."

Beyond an extra topping, there's also the "emotional boost" one gets from using reusables, said Noonan. It's the opposite of the feeling one gets when discarding single-use products.

"There's a negative emotional tax associated with eating and then throwing away. The joy of eating is undermined by the bad feeling you get from throwing away a piece of plastic," said Noonan. 

"Eating and then throwing away should be decoupled, in my opinion," she said. 

Hear more from Noonan on why Just Salad goes beyond recycling and composting and how the brand gets employees and customers excited about sustainability. 


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