Brian Macdonald is an SDSU alum who started the first zero waste takeout company in San Diego! Using his business skills and passion for sustainability, Brian founded M’Porte. M’Porte uses endlessly reusable stainless steel containers and partners with restaurants so that customers can get takeout completely zero-waste by using and returning the M’Porte container. Read this spotlight to learn about his journey at SDSU, the development of M’Porte, and his advice for current students.
Tell us about your time at SDSU. What were you involved in and what were some highlights from your time there?
I transferred from Arizona State University and started at SDSU as a third-year economics major. I had a great time and met a bunch of great people. One of my biggest highlights was joining the Zahn Innovation Center, which is now called the ZIP Launchpad, and starting a company called LiveDive. LiveDive was a google glass like device with a Heads Up Display that we were going to make for scuba divers. We connected with awesome mentors through the Zahn Innovation Center. It was great experience that got me accustomed to the business world. I learned how to take criticism and I learned that it’s okay to fail. It’s exciting that you are able to try a lot of different things in life. There will be a lot that you don’t know, but you can figure it out along the way.
How did M’Porte start? What was your inspiration for the company and how did you make it happen?
I was a few years out of college, and I noticed all of the trash that was produced from going to restaurants. There is so much packaging with many different compositions that all get thrown in the same trash bin. It was an eye-opening realization to have, and I wanted to do something about it. I spent a few months in 2019 doing the market research and then launched the business in December of 2019. Piece of advice: $800 is the very minimum you will pay in taxes every year in the state of California so if you’re ever going to register a business, do it two weeks before the end of the calendar year so that you don’t have to pay that $800 when you register. We worked with the Del Mar Village Association and they helped us launch our first pilot. There are about 15 restaurants in the Del Mar Village Association and most of them still partner with us today.
As one of the first companies of its kind, how have people reacted to this new, more sustainable process? What have been the challenges, heartwarming moments, etc.?
We started in December 2019 and a few months later, the pandemic hit. That was extremely challenging and like everyone else, we had to adapt. In addition to the pandemic, another challenge is that people like the status quo. Getting people to change their habits is a struggle, but ultimately this reusable container system helps people make better decisions for the planet. I’ve seen people out in public using the program and that is heartwarming. I’ve had people tell me success stories about using their container to get zero waste takeout at the restaurants we partner with as well as other restaurants.
Could you tell us about the positive environmental impact of M’Porte so far?
I can say with confidence that we have reduced thousands of single-use to-go containers. If you think about the entire life of a single-use product, we are not only reducing the waste, but also reducing the materials needed to make the product. In the case of plastic, less oil is drilled, and in the case of paper, less trees are cut down. We haven’t had tracking technology incorporated into the container system yet, so it’s difficult to have exact data on the environmental benefits. Going forward, we are working to implement this type of technology.
What is your favorite part of this job?
My favorite part of my job is learning from the other business owners, directors, and organizations. For example, I was on a call this morning with somebody from Resolve, an NGO that launched a partnership for reusable packaging. I learned so much from this lady who I was suggested to reach out to and there’s no way I would have had that opportunity to talk with her if it wasn’t for this job. M’Porte has opened so many doors to learning new things and meeting new people.
What advice do you have for students interested in starting their own business and/or following their passion for sustainability?
You’re always going to start smaller than you think. Starting small is actually the best because anything worthwhile is going to take a long time to do. It’s not going to come as fast as you hoped it would. Do your research, take your time, pick something niche, and work hard at it. Following your passions is going to make life a whole lot better.