By Chloe Aiello

The salad chain known for its reusable bowl program is doubling down on its ambitions for a green 2019.

As part of its efforts, Just Salad has appointed Janani Lee as its new chief sustainability officer. She'll lead sustainability initiatives at the salad, sandwich, and smoothie company, which means everything from front-of-house and back-of-house composting projects to ingredient tracking that can help prevent food-borne illnesses.

"2019 is going to be a big sustainability push. We are looking at expanding our reusable bowl program ー we are hoping to save 100,000 pounds of plastic this year ー in addition to starting a compost program, working to expand more compostable utensils and bowls and more compostable programs in our kitchens," Lee told Cheddar Thursday.

Sustainability has been a fixture at Just Salad since day one, according to Lee, who has been with the company ー first as purchasing manager, then as director of supply chain ー for about 10 months.

Co-founder Nick Kenner launched Just Salad's first outpost with exclusively reusable bowls, but quickly realized that model might not be practical for a restaurant with international ambitions. Since the beginning, the bowl program has helped the company save the planet and retain customers simultaneously.

"Since our founding, we have emphasized sustainability, not only for saving plastic, but also for bringing our customers back. We know that when they have a reusable bowl on their desk they are more likely to come in," Lee said.

For the former director of supply chain, trace-ability is another facet of sustainability. During the recent nationwide romaine lettuce recall, Lee said the salad chain "acted out of an abundance of caution and pulled all of the romaine" from shelves. The company could have avoided much of that food waste and still ensured the safety of its customers if the sources of the ingredients were easier to trace.

From the push to ban plastic straws to trending plant-based products, like the Impossible Burger ー sustainability is nothing new in the food business. And as the threat of climate change increases, governmental regulation of the industry might become more of a rule than the exception. With sustainability at its core, Just Salad looks to "be ahead of the curve."

"The more the government does, the more demand there is, the more industry has to comply to it. It's a long time coming, and I think it will help the environment overall to have more regulations," Lee said. "We want to do what we know is right, and then wait for the industry to catch up with us."

For full interview click here.