Jessica Mason has always had a deep consciousness and appreciation for the natural environment — a quality that increased when she moved to the Vineyard in 2020. Feeling the impacts of climate change on her new community, she became determined to improve Island sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Two years later, she founded Island Eats MV, a to-go meal container system that lets members check out reusable bowls for takeout orders at participating restaurants. Launched first as a four-month pilot program with five restaurants and 120 members, Island Eats bowls are now found at 12 Island eateries and used by over 200 people.

This Saturday in celebration of Earth Day, Ms. Mason will be introducing a new Island Eats app, which was funded by a $5,000 grant from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The app was adapted from a digital platform created by Usefull, a zero-waste container company in Boston. Members will use it to find restaurants in network, check out and return bowls and track water and carbon dioxide emissions they have saved by reducing waste.

“Reuse is really the gold standard in environmental protection,” said Ms. Mason. “There are reuse systems all over the U.S. and the globe and we didn’t have anything like it here despite living on an Island where our resources are strained.”

Ms. Mason is also the executive director of, a nonprofit that serves beginner entrepreneurs and businesses, and came up with the idea for a reusable takeout system after working with several similar sustainability initiatives.

“I went around and told people about theses systems all over the world in the hopes that someone would start one,” she said. “No one did, and I felt like this was an urgent issue as we face growing threats from climate change... and I decided that I would start the project.”

Island Eats bowls are available at 12 local eateries. — Ray Ewing

Many Island restaurants have already ditched plastic or Styrofoam to-go containers and replaced them with compostable boxes. Despite being labeled as compostable, the boxes are not accepted at the Vineyard’s only commercial composting facility, Island Grown Initiative, because they contain PFAS chemicals, explained Ms. Mason. Most of the boxes end up in the landfill.

It is a similar fate for paper coffee or tea cups, she added, which often have plastic lips also contaminated with PFAS.

Island Eats bowls are sourced from Australia and are made of 75 per cent recycled stainless steel. Once the app is live, members will be able to check the bowls out at a restaurant by scanning a QR code. When customers are finished with their meal, they can return the bowls to any member restaurant. When restaurants are low on bowls, Ms. Mason picks them up for washing and redistributes them.

The app will also allow people to choose from a variety of different membership types, including one that is free for people who can return the bowls within 24 hours. Other paid memberships are seasonal or annual and entitle customers to keep the bowls for up to seven days.

Later this year, Island Eats will offer reusable coffee and tea cups, and in the future Ms. Mason hopes to include even more types of containers. Her biggest dream, she added, is to make eco-friendly options on the Island also the cheapest.

“The burden is currently falling on the consumer to pay for a membership that allows them to participate in the most sustainable option, and I’d love to see our community of stakeholders sharing the cost of making this transition to a more sustainable economy,” she said.

Island Eats has been mainly a solo act, but Ms. Mason recently hired an employee to help with the growing demand and said that the project is mostly made possible thanks to Islandwide support.

“I’m just really grateful to now be a part of a community that uplifts new things and supports sustainability,” she said. A complete list of restaurants participating with Island Eats MV can be found at