When it came time to move tons of clothes for the annual Clothes Exchange, Alana Lowery knew she didn’t want to throw away, store, or recycle stacks of cardboard boxes after just one use. So she turned to Greenbox, a new Vermont company that provides sturdy plastic reusable moving boxes for residential and business moves. “These are truly the best boxes and the only way to move these days,” she said.
Anybody that has ever moved a home or business knows that the $16 billion U.S. moving industry is based almost exclusively on the use of corrugated cardboard boxes. About 78% of used cardboard is recycled in the U.S. every year, but that’s only part of the story. Oil and water can easily contaminate cardboard, rendering it virtually unusable or non-recyclable. Cardboard that is not recycled makes up more than 40% of the composition of landfills.
“And between 15 and 40% of every box you set out for recycling ends up in a landfill anyway because not all the fibers can be re-used and those end up in landfill as cardboard sludge,” said Greenbox founder Ian DeGalan. “Recycling is not a free pass. There is a huge amount of resources involved in producing a new box from recycled materials.”
DeGalan left a job practicing environmental law to be his own boss, basing his plan off similar concepts in California. His brand-new enterprise rents boxes and sells other green moving supplies. Each box is good for about 400 moves, DeGalan estimates, after which it is recycled.
Greenbox currently serves Northwestern VT, with a focus on Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, and Washington Counties. The company delivers boxes to its customers a week before their move. His customers pack and move the boxes, and a week later, Greenbox picks up the empties
In addition to the environmental benefits of his service, DeGalan estimates that his customers will spend about 50% less renting his boxes than finding and buying cardboard and related supplies. “There’s no question that this is cheaper when you factor in the time spent driving around to get cardboard, taping up and breaking down cardboard boxes, and the up front cost of the cardboard itself.”
Greenbox also has a social mission, donating its services to the Clothes Exchange and other non-profits. Lowery calls Greenbox a “great company to work with.”
With his company’s recent growth, DeGalan hopes to expand his service to all of Vermont and beyond. He concedes that moving will likely never be fully “green,” because of the fossil fuels powering large moving trucks. “I don’t pretend I’m going to be saving the world or anything like that,” DeGalan said. “But I like to think that I’m making life a little better for people while having positive impact on the planet.”
GET Aug2011 page 39