Big Boxes, Wasted Space


IMG_0501I roll my eyes in frustration when yet another online order arrives rattling in an oversized box.  Why waste the cardboard and yards and yards of packing material  to ship empty space when a small box or envelope would do.  I have trouble understanding the business sense in this. Isn’t it both economic and ecological to use smaller amounts of resources in shipping?

IMG_3493This summer I took a group of young people in a job training program on a field trip to a local company with a national mail-order business.  We got to walk through and try our hands at the whole process of filling an order, from “picking” the items from shelves and putting them in baskets on a conveyor belt, to packing them, adding postage, and stacking the boxes for shipment.  At the packing station, I asked why a large box was being used to send a small item, instead of an envelope or smaller box.  Our guide pointed out that 1.) an envelope could be punctured, and that would ruin the item for the customer;  that 2.) the amount of cardboard needed for a small box is proportionately not that much less than for a large one, (think geometrically – surface area vs. volume – do the math!);  and that 3.) the larger box had come into the facility with products in it and was now being reused.  It was more ecological to recycle it this way than spend money and resources on a smaller, new box.  This gave me pause and reminded me that rather than jump to conclusions, we should stop to consider other perspectives before passing judgment.  My judgment changed for this company, but are the majority of other companies as eco-conscious as this one?  And, is there a cost to the wasted space taken in shipping half empty boxes?

On the home front, much as we try to re-use the boxes that come into our house for storage, mailing, and wrapping gifts, at some point there are too many, so off they go to the recycling compactor at the town dump.  I have my doubts about how effective and efficient that is, but what other choices are there?  Can I find a small business that wants my boxes?  Hey – there’s an idea for eco-entrepreneur!

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1 Response to Big Boxes, Wasted Space

  1. bethanyk says:

    My daughter ordered mascara. They sent it in a box big enough for my entire body. It is hard for me to break down the boxes too! Creates so much waste. We recycle them but for awhile when I was able I used them to put down under mulch. Kept the weeds from growing up through my garden and eventually it just dissolved! Now my husband uses them inthe burn pile of the limbs that fall to get the fire starting. At least that way I know they aren’t taking up space in an land fill

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