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I just signed a petition. Yeah, what does it really do right? Was it just click bait? Was it just harvesting my email address to sell me things? I might never find out however there is a growing precedent of progress and a lot of reasons why this particular issue grabs people.

My letter starts out with the standard default message they provide. And then I just slip into sci-fi brainstorm mode. It’s shared below for anyone to potentially get involved and run with any of these ideas. These are standard off the shelf ideas many many others have had. And by describing them I hope people who haven’t had the chance to think about these things yet can at the very least practice visualizing this future world. And in an ideal situation go through the process of prototyping and refinement that could get us actually there. Doing so is far more difficult than just jotting some ideas down. However we have to start somewhere.

Because the world doesn’t have to be ready for the future. As little as just one person with vision can realize the future. And once existing it actually becomes the present.

MY LETTER:

I urge you to work with Greenpeace to phase out unnecessary single-use plastic packaging and develop reusable options to ensure that plastic from your companies products are never again found in our oceans, waterways, or coasts.

Also…

There could be a container system with scannable QR codes. The containers go to peoples homes and back to the store. Customers automatically refunded for the container as soon as they are scanned back at the store.

And…

You could build loyalty through the program. Provide a bag with two sections because it has a divider. The bag goes on a hook at the house. All of the containers get put back in the bag with their lid on. This prevents bugs or smells. But doesn’t require residential dish washing which saves time and energy. Once back at the store the bag and the containers are industrially cleaned with automated systems tuned to not over use water or electricity which provides some efficiency saving there as well. Once cleaned and sterilized the containers and bags are ready for reuse and the same QR code embedded into the bag and container is wiped from the server and able to now refer to new data.

You could sell frozen dinners in these and other ready made meals from the deli. Cereal. Grains. Dried beans. And even liquids in a different shaped version.

You could have some that get re-processed in the store and some that actually get re-sent back to your suppliers who can transform their packaging departments into standardized machines that just fill these universal containers with whatever their product is. Their servers could talk to yours so the QR codes data is born into your system the moment packaging is complete. This gives even more up to data knowledge on your supply chain and patterns can tip off your servers of any supply delays even before you’re notified by a factory of why those delays are happening. This gives a competitive advantage to avoid being out of something you know your customers will want or need.

Why not recycle? because the first line of defense should be re-using whenever possible. And if it’s not possible then we recycle. But all of this technology exists today so this idea actually is possible.

The QR codes could be just paper printed and inserted into the mold during manufacturing. So they exist trapped in what could likely be a polycarbonate material. This way it’s very durable. That’s what they make bullet proof glass out of. And using Tetramethylcyclobutanediol it can be BPA free.

Also there is usually a rubber liner that gets gross on Tupperware. You could avoid that by having a silicon layer be set in place that the automation system can remove during washing. Think of that as flossing for containers. No dirt or bacteria of any kind would be able to remain. Technologies definitely exist that can provably kill every micro organism. And that’s what we’d need to be doing to insure health and safety.

Yeah, so develop that and you can be the first fully green grocery store. No need for any plastics really. Trader Joes’s already controls the supply chain better than many other stores so you are in a unique position for this.

Also there would be a lot of mystery boxes in the fridge at home and in the isles in the store. So…. what to do about that?

Well the QR code could be front facing. Designed to be scanned by a phone and give all nutrition and ingredients legally required. So in the fridge people would actually know what they have. Even from an app. Especially if the fridge is watching what get’s put into it with a simple $20 dollar camera and iOT chip add on that fridge companies can knock themselves out bragging about. But even with a dumb fridge you’d hopefully remember what you bought but if not the QR code can quickly and easily confirm.

In the store the shelves could have beautiful artwork promoting each product. Much bigger and much more brand able than the tiny packages that branding is currently crammed onto. And then there can be a try that at the click of the button provides one of the universally shaped containers of that product.

So it’s another type of smart store. You consider all of your store shelves to just be basically vending machines. And then you get rid of your cashiers. And you allow people into your store who don’t have an account because they might want to check things out and become customers but not get all signed up just yet. Once they see how modern and amazing the store is they’ll probably want to try it.

To build out the store you can make a modular system that simply needs a new artwork printed every time there is a new product. Or even just a screen to display that imagery. The size for each product could depend on the stocking requires. QR codes like the ones used for payments or an RFID transmitter like many phones now have could offer multiple ways to pay for something. Even a debit card scanner for each machine could work. You might wait one moment for someone to get something but this distributes the line to the entire store so would certainly reduce congestion at peak store hours.

All of your shoppers could opt into a system that helps you predict what they want and better stock. Like your current loyalty system already does. But with the added knowledge of how they moved through the store as well as what information they looked up from the QR codes of the items they considered before they bought. If that user looks up the calories of every product before they buy it or constantly checks added sugar content data then you can start to run machine learning on certain products and be able to model what they’d do before they are even in the store. And the algorithms start to form generic shopper profiles and even the floor plan can be enhanced to either make things closer for those users or spread those things out to give them the chance to discover new things not within their patterns but that you know are also not a major leap for them.

You’d know what mattered to them. And the containers going to their home could become another data point. Other guests in their home scanning the QR code of what is in the fridge to find out what it is could give you a sense of new products being really interesting to people. Food could be spreed peer to peer and even go viral. Social tools for cuisine lovers or health nuts or cost conscious buyers could allow people to get help in optimizing the food they eat.

In that optimization their is value. The better outcomes themselves are a premium service. This premium service can be monetized by charging a premium to pay for all of this new tech or can simply be paid for by the increased loyalty and reduced advertising costs your business would benefit from. This way prices remain also very competitive.

And you can start to imagine a shopping cart virtual bot. The system guesses what would likely go in your shopping cart based on what normally does and based on the frequency and an email could be generated proposing 3 shopping carts for your next week. A user who might have been ordering from home already 1 time per week could now have fresher options and reduce their food storage expense. This reduce a persons need to store lot’s of food. That brings down their rent cost. Assuming a 5 dollar delivery fee a person or hour household might spend $150 a month just on delivery fees. However there refrigerator might only need to be half the size providing energy savings. The kitchen might only need to be half the size or be able to be shared with more people providing housing savings.

And bottom line, everything would taste really good. Because you know what doesn’t taste good? Plastic.

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