Spring 2017 – Durham, NC
As part of the Social Innovation Practicum course (I&E 590) at Duke, I completed a semester long consulting project with GreenToGo, a Durham-based nonprofit startup aiming to reduce waste in landfills. GreenToGo, an initiative started by Don’t Waste Durham, strives to create this change by offering a reusable takeout container alternative to the plastic and paper containers currently offered at restaurants and other food service venues.
Along with four other team members, I analyzed GreenToGo’s growth strategy and conducted market research on consumer preferences for reusable takeout containers. Together, we surveyed over 200 consumers and reached out to the 25 initial partnering restaurants to determine each segments’ willingness to pay and purchasing behaviors.
When I enrolled in Social Innovation Practicum, my personal learning objectives were to gain more in-depth knowledge of the food and conservation space and to get involved with the Durham community outside of Duke. Additionally, I had hoped to gain greater presentation, data analysis, interpersonal, and teamwork skills through working with a local startup and a team of diverse students.
In terms of gaining knowledge of the green space, I feel more educated about the waste problem in Durham and challenges that environmental products face in the market. As part of my literature review for the practicum, I studied green purchasing behavior and found that the “attitude- behavior” gap (in which many people say they wish to participate in environmentally-friendly activities but only 10% of those do so) was a huge barrier for green products in moving from the niche market to the mass-market space. I was able to apply these findings to my market research for GreenToGo, and my team used many of these insights in formulating our surveys for consumers and partnering restaurants to test willingness to pay, degree of service convenience required to convert consumers to users, and other factors.
As far as personal objectives go, not only was I constantly interacting with the partner organization GreenToGo and building better communication skills, I was also constantly coordinating with my team to split tasks/duties and improved my teamwork and management skills. I loved how Social Innovation Practicum was structured – pairing case studies and readings in class to a hands-on project in the community was helpful in giving my team background on how social ventures either failed or succeeded, and helped us in avoiding some pitfalls in our project.