Global Co Lab Network’s Eco Teen Action Network Plastics Hub covered by Washington Business Journal

By   – Staff Reporter, Washington Business Journal,

A group of Greater Washington high school students from last week lobbied Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), over Zoom of course, to fund a reusable food-container program to serve the general area of HQ2.

The teens — members of green action group Eco-Teen Action Network, which was formed through a partnership of the Smithsonian Conservation Commons and Global Co Lab Network — pitched their idea last week to Brooke Oberwetter, Amazon’s head of community affairs.

The six students — representing high schools in D.C., Fairfax County and Arlington — are hoping to secure money for a pilot program because, they say, it is well aligned with some of the environmental goals advocated by Amazon leaders for its second headquarters, said Kayla Peale, a 16-year-old from Arlington’s Yorktown High School and one of the group’s leaders.

“We were able to meet with her and tell her how Amazon would fit into the picture,” Peale said. “She seemed pretty excited about it. She said she would go back to her team and get back to us in a few weeks.”

The idea is that restaurants in National Landing — the branded name for the amorphous Arlington-Alexandria area that includes HQ2 and Virginia Tech’s $1 billion STEM campus — would replace their foam “clamshells” with fully reusable to-go boxes, according to one proposal submitted by the group. Once patrons are finished with their take out, they deposit the containers in special bins. The boxes would then be taken to a commercial kitchen to be washed and redistributed back to the restaurants.

It’s an idea that has seen some practice in West Coast cities, like Portland and San Francisco, with Go Box. The teens’ proposal suggests licensing Go Box technology and containers and hiring Plastic Tree, a small D.C. waste management company operating in nine District neighborhoods, to clean and distribute the containers.

In their pitch to Amazon, the proposal notes it would cost about $5,000 to license the Go Box app. It suggests paying the workforce that collects the containers $20 an hour — Amazon’s minimum wage is $15 — and paying the pilot manager between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.

The teens and their adult mentors, who were also on the call, see the Amazon campus area as a perfect fit for the bins, since executives have said HQ2’s internal cafeteria would only support about 25% of the company’s local workforce. That means many of its 25,000 anticipated employees would likely venture out into the community for lunch — perhaps bringing to-go containers back to the office.

Oberwetter said Amazon doesn’t discuss private meetings. The project has gotten support from Aurora Highlands Civic Association, and the pitch has gotten an audience with both JBG Smith Properties (NYSE: JBGS) and the Crystal City Business Improvement District.

Amazon’s first two HQ2 towers, at Metropolitan Park, are expected to meet LEED Platinum standards. CEO Jeff Bezos, meanwhile, has committed $10 billion to fight climate change, while Amazon has pledged to be net zero carbon by 2040, a decade ahead of the Paris Climate Accord deadline.