Hello Sarah! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hiya! I’m an American entrepreneur & photographer based in Wellington, New Zealand. As a kid, I was always fascinated by people, travel, and wanting to do something creative for a job. This led me to a career in advertising, spending my twenties hopping between ad agencies from Seattle to NYC, and eventually New Zealand.
Along the way, I traveled too, and was shocked to see rubbish... everywhere. Working on consumer marketing campaigns for those years, then seeing its effects on the natural world, like plastic wrappers on the remote reefs of Borneo, opened my eyes to the waste crisis and made me want to be part of its solution.
In 2019 I left advertising and jumped into startup life. I co-founded Reusabowl, reusable packaging, and started working as a photographer for impact-driven brands.
I believe we vote with our wallets for the world we want to see, and care deeply about supporting businesses who are driving positive social & environmental change.
What is Reusabowl about? Or why does Reusabowl exist?
Reusabowl exists to eliminate waste from single use packaging. It’s a reusable container and reuse network for takeaway food. Borrow a bowl from one eatery with your meal, and then return it to any other participating shop. It’s convenience without the cost on the environment.
We piloted in Wellington in 2020, and launched in 2021. We now have a growing network of restaurants stocking Reusabowl, with plans to expand across NZ and look international.
What is Reusabowl’s mission?
Reusabowl’s mission is to replace single-use worldwide with reusable solutions. We want to contribute to a circular future where consumers demand better of companies, and businesses take responsibility for what happens at the end of their products’ lifecycles.
Since we’re talking about bowls here … If you could have a quick salad bowl on-the-go with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
Anthony Bourdain, no question. Although I’d swap the salad for a bowl of bun cha noodles at those little outdoor tables in Vietnam. To me, Bourdain represents a way of seeing the world through people’s commonalities and shared experience. He also inspired me to travel in the first place - which is the spark where Reusabowl was born - and didn’t care if he failed or f*cked it all up. That’s a lesson every entrepreneur needs to learn.
What are some of the challenges of running a sustainability focused business like Reusabowl?
Behaviour change. How do you beat something as easy as throwing a piece of rubbish in the bin? Single use items were designed for convenience, so to challenge them, our product experience needs to be better - that means easy and solving a real customer need, ‘scratching an itch’. Through our research we figured out that ‘itch’ wasn’t only waste but also how poorly designed takeaway containers are - no one likes their pad thai leaking into their lap - so we focused on the design of the container and eating experience.
What was the challenge or difficulty that you learned the most important lesson from?
Probably to give it a go, despite the uncertainty, and work full-time on the business for at least the first year.
I kept working other jobs at the beginning and should have made it the main hussle, no more side hustles. This taught me the importance of focusing your energy to do one thing well.
Another one is how to ask better questions when you first meet someone to understand their context and background so you can ask for feedback that matches their area of expertise - a win win for both people in the conversation!
In your opinion, what’s the tastiest thing one can eat in a Reusabowl today?
Steve and Tina, owners and chefs at Taste of Home, were our first customers and have helped us build the business from the beginning with their enthusiasm and willingness to try something new. Their food is amazing and it’s also nice to know my money is going to some amazing humans doing what they love.
What makes Reusabowl stand out from its competitors if there are any?
Our reusable container is made from rice husk, a byproduct of the rice industry, which can be composted once it’s reached the end of its usable life. Our team worked hard to find a material that aligned with our values and avoided plastic. It’s designed to feel like you’re eating from a dish at home but with the convenience of takeaway - and the sealable lid helps save leftovers and avoid food waste.
In your opinion, is a hot dog a sandwich?
That’s a hard NO from me. As an American, where hot dogs are a national cuisine, I think they sit in their own category alongside the hamburger. Consider this - if Subway started offering hot dogs wouldn’t that feel weird?!
Therefore, not a sandwich.
What’s the next big thing for you and/or Reusabowl?
We’re helping organisations empower their staff to eat waste-free by offering Reusabowl Bowl Libraries. It’s a way to stock Reusabowl in their workspace so staff can easily grab a bowl to bring with them on their way out to lunch.
We’ve seen a major shift by doing this - it’s amazing to see how this simple habit is becoming part of organisational culture, creating community around these lunchtime outings, and the waste reduction impact is a massive opportunity.
Sights like a group of coworkers mobbing down the street with the bright orange lids make me hopeful that together all our little choices add up to make a big difference.
Reusabowl has some exciting developments in the pipeline to make going waste-free in the workplace even easier and more convenient…. so watch this space!
You can visit Reusabowl's website here:
Sarah Booher is also a photographer for people making positive change in Aotearoa. You can check out Sarah's portfolio website here :