Portrait of Alison Diamond, CEO

On Restaurant Sustainability: A Letter From Alison Diamond, Chief Executive Officer

In so many ways, JYBE is responding to the statement, “I wish I’d known.”

We created JYBE for all the people who’ve wished they’d known before ordering their meal that a restaurant would send their food in a mountain of plastic containers.

We created JYBE for people like me who were totally unaware their recycling habits were wrong, and their consumption of convenience products was adding to the calamity of single-use plastic waste.

We created JYBE for everyone who has woken up to the reality of the damage we’ve unconsciously contributed to, and are willing to use their spending power to spur cultural change and embolden people to expect better behavior from restaurants.

JYBE’s path has been more of an odyssey than a journey. Conceived in 2018 among a group of friends during “normal” times, our mission was clear: give eco-conscious consumers the information they need to make informed, eco-conscious choices, and to incentivize restaurants to switch to Earth-friendly takeout materials. We believe in the power of the marketplace and want to encourage restaurant owners and chefs to step up to the 21st century challenge of making food delivery sustainable.

Our original plan to launch in 2020 was complicated by the Coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shocks to our lives and livelihoods. We initially felt it was best to postpone the launch. But something happened during home isolation we didn’t immediately anticipate – a boom in meal deliveries. A massive, multi-billion-dollar boom. And as restaurants rushed to convert their businesses from in-house to delivery, many simply used inexpensive and available plastic materials to do so.

Our eyes rolled back into our heads.

Then we decided we had to move forward. We are a self-funded start-up and the prospect of finishing our web app, and hiring social media strategists and PR consultants while hunkering down at home was daunting. But we believed our mission was more relevant than ever, so we moved ahead.

One of our colleagues who joined the team mid-pandemic has since had her own awakening about her casual use of non-sustainable materials ‒ and energetically shared it with her wife. We’ve noticed how much spouses love having their recycling habits corrected!

I was especially touched when, on a team call, she revealed how much her home practices had changed since working with JYBE, and how one of her fundamental beliefs had also shifted. She said that she once believed that what bound all of us together was our common humanity but, she’d come to realize, our strongest connection was really our common Earth.

Common bonds often have symbols that provide us with a recognizable reminder of our shared beliefs. For JYBE we knew we wanted to celebrate the sea turtle who, in so many ways, represents the importance of our mission.

The world had a collective wake-up call in 2015 when heart-breaking video circulated of a sea turtle with a plastic straw so deeply embedded in its nose that it had to be surgically removed. The suffering of that turtle was a single, visible instance that made our abuse of the oceans feel very personal. Humanity throws away nearly 10 billion plastic straws a year, and a staggering number of them end up in our oceans. We use them for 20-30 minutes, and then they spend the next several centuries tormenting or poisoning marine life.

Human removing plastic from a turtle's nostril
Photo from video by marine conservation biologist Christine Figgener, PhD.

Research in 2018 revealed that 100% of the sea turtles examined in that study had plastic waste in their stomachs. Other species of fish, marine mammals and sea birds have the same problem. Stomachs fill with plastic waste they confuse for real food, preventing actual food from being digested and leading to starvation. Not all fish die from plastic poisoning. A lot of them live long enough to be caught in fishing nets, whereupon they’re served to us on a plate. The average person is now consuming about 5 grams of micro-plastic per week in their diet – about the same quantity used to make a credit card.

Plastic never goes away; it just gets smaller and smaller. Of the 9.1 billion tons of plastic that we’ve bought and tossed out since it was invented, 8.3 billion tons are still out there. The only way to truly get rid of plastic is to not make it in the first place.

For us, the sea turtle became a powerful symbol of the importance of eliminating single-use plastic from our consumer behavior. So much so that we wanted our name to be Turtle. The problem was that nearly every variation of the word was taken. Every spelling had been trademarked ‒ and in multiple languages. JYBE comes from the sailing term jibe, which means to change direction with the wind at your back. Changing direction is our entire focus, and it’s our hope that the world is awakening to the hazards of single-use plastic enough that the wind, if not a wave or two, will be at our backs.

In homage to our first choice we did badge our blog as TRTL ‒ we like to imagine that long-lived sea turtles would offer sage advice, so it fits.

I should mention my own motivation for throwing myself into this venture – the first startup I’ve ever worked for, and the first time I’ve forayed into sustainability. Her name is Norah, and she was born in 2017. My husband and I work hard every day to give her a loving home and the opportunities that will enrich her future. But if we can’t bequeath her a healthy and life-sustaining planet, then how can we as parents be satisfied with our efforts? So that’s why I JYBE.

Baby Norah looking out the window
Photo by Heather Kincaid

I want my daughter, and all the sons and daughters out there, to know an Earth like the one I grew up on. One with healthy oceans and ecosystems that teem with diverse life. One that nurtures all its inhabitants and provides the bounties of clean food and water and air we all need to thrive. And wanting these things does not entail major lifestyle compromises, it just requires smarter choices in the products we accept from our favorite restaurants and stores.

When we stop accepting single-use plastic, they’ll stop using it.

That’s JYBE’s goal. Let’s use the power of information and transparency to show everyone what to expect in their delivery bag. If two similar restaurants you’re deciding between have different JYBE ratings, we hope you’ll pick the one that’s committed to using Earth-friendly packaging. After a while, we’ll have enough data to go to that other owner and show them how many more people are choosing their highly rated competitor. That might make them switch.

As an individual consumer you have a lot of power. Your choices – both what you want, and what you’ll accept – are exceedingly important to the purveyors who sell to you. Use your spending to demand change. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the Coronavirus quarantines, it’s that our individual actions have a big impact on everyone’s health.

Persuasion and education will bring more people to our side. Eventually, if all goes as planned, we won’t need JYBE anymore because to-go packaging will always be made from sustainable materials.

That’s our dream, anyway. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear why you JYBE.

Alison Diamond

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