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Eco Times: Think About The Box

Let’s face it, we love online retail. We love the convenience and speed. We love the readily available discounts. We love the thrill of receiving a box on our doorstep. All of which explains why online consumerism is thriving.  Nonetheless, it’s easier than ever to shop throughout our already busy day: scroll, click, checkout, ship and repeat.  Though these expedients may be practical, their environmental consequence may be overlooked. These boxes, fillers included, have created tons of packaging waste. How much trash exactly do cardboard boxes make?


  • In the United States, 100 billion corrugated boxes are used each year.
  • An average American household can throw away as much as 13,000 separate pieces of cardboard every year.
  • In the U.S. alone 850 million tons of paper and cardboard are thrown away annually, equating to the deforestation of 100 billion trees.

While we don’t typically think of stats like that, it is pretty eye-opening when it’s laid out. However, there are some things we can do to help reduce this type of waste.  We can:

  • Buy less.
  • Shop local as a first option.
  • Shop from companies that use recycled, repurposed or compostable packaging.
  • Request items be shipped together.
  • Recycle boxes.

The Benefits of Recycling Boxes (

  • Recycling cardboard takes 75% of the energy needed to make new cardboard.
  • Recycling cardboard produces 50% less sulfur dioxide than making cardboard from raw materials.
  • Recycling one ton of cardboard will save 46 gallons of oil, 4000kW of electricity, 6.6 million Btu’s of energy, 9 cubic yards of landfill space, 17 trees and 7000 gallons of water.
  • Another exciting option I have recently learned about is the Give Back Box.  You can actually give back the boxes you have for a second life. Not only do they offer that service, but they also encourage you to fill boxes with items you don’t use anymore to be reused.  You get to declutter your home, give another life to your goods and packaging while feeling good about it too! It’s pretty simple; all you need to do is fill the box with items you don’t use anymore, print the label, order pickup through their site or drop it off at UPS or The USPS.

Moreover, the world is waking up to the long-lasting impact that packaging is having on our environment. It’s comforting to know that big retailers such as Amazon have introduced a circular economy initiative to lower their carbon footprint. Amazon has invested 10 million in the Closed Loop Fund (a project to ensure that used items get back into the manufacturing process.) They have also joined the Recycling Partnership and have created Amazon Second Chance which provides information on how to trade in, recycle, or repair Amazon devices and products. This definitely is a step in the right direction, and the even better news is that many retailers are beginning to follow suit, too, as spreading green awareness has become the norm.

I do want to make a noteworthy point that it’s not about that handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, it’ s about millions of people doing it imperfectly and mindfully. Making good choices, such as recycling packages or repurposing them, has a positive environmental impact; all we need to do is think outside the box… or at least think about the box.

Photo by chuttersnap

Written by Angela Polimeni

Angela Polimeni

Angela Polimeni is a second language acquisition educator in Buffalo, creator of Eco Tee Co and Co-Founder of Shift/Co ™️.

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