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The Green Life: Reinventing the Cardboard Box

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September 25, 2009

Reinventing the Cardboard Box

Reusing cardboard boxesThe verdict is out, and reusing cardboard boxes is a hit. While this is not the most earth-shattering discovery, it's good that companies are finally waking up and attempting to reduce packaging waste with innovative recycling methods.

After starting its service more than a month ago, the Portland, Oregon-based outdoor-apparel-and-footwear company Columbia Sportswear announced the success of its online reusable-box campaign. Online shoppers can now choose to receive their order in a previously used cardboard box. On the company's new community website, called A Box Life, consumers can follow a box's history by typing in its tracking code and number. The interactive site allows users to post photos and stories so people can see the journey of one box.

Icebreaker, a Wellington, New Zealand, outdoor-apparel company, has come out with an interesting and environmentally friendly marketing gimmick for its new kids' clothing line; the boxes have been designed for kids to invoke some creative ingenuity. Children can re-create the boxes into finger puppets, a  jewelry box, a pencil case, and more (see photo, above).

No doubt these are notable improvements, but questions remain. Once kids outgrow their finger puppets, are they passed on or thrown away? Columbia.com also ships the other 40 percent of its orders in plastic bags containing 25 percent post-industrial recycled content. Maybe a site about eliminating of plastic bags can be the next step.

--Michael Mullaley

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