Give Back Box® was founded in 2012 by Monika Wiela, who at the time was running an online shoe store. The idea was inspired by a homeless man she encountered in Chicago, who was holding up a sign saying he needed a pair of shoes. Wiela returned later that day with shoes for him, but he was gone. She spent that night thinking about what she could do with all the empty boxes in her warehouse and also help people like that man, and a new social enterprise was born. As Wiela researched further, she learned that, an estimated 11 million tons of clothing, footwear, towels, bedding, drapery, and other textiles end up in U.S. landfills every year. In addition, online shopping is now the preferred method for much of the buying public. Corrugated boxes are the dominant packaging method for e-commerce. With this knowledge, Wiela’s mission crystalized. If online retailers would use Give Back Box, shipping boxes and other items could be used a second time prior to being recycled. The impact would be remarkable.
Wiela’s first step to bring her dream to reality was to find a nonprofit with a national footprint that could accept donations on a grand scale. The organization would have to be able to not only accept used clothing but other items that people wanted to donate. The nonprofit enterprise also needed to have a program to recycle the boxes that it would receive, further limiting landfill waste.
The first major retailer to join Give Back Box was Newegg.com. The retailer placed Give Back Box fliers in all the boxes shipped to its customers. The flier recommended that customers re-use the boxes their purchases came in and fill them with clothes, accessories and household items, then ship them to local charities using pre-paid shipping labels. The local charities developed a system to track the packages, so when they received the boxes and scanned them in, tax receipts were generated for appropriate donors.
Give Back Box® has also teamed up with some of the biggest retailers in the U.S., including Overstock, Amazon, Loft, REI, Levi’s, Asics, Ann Taylor, Uncommongoods, Nordstrom, Viva Terra, Ecru, Bonobos, Scrubs & Beyond, eBags, Lou & Grey and many others.
The Give Back Box platform is open for any retailer who joins as a partner. It is open for donors as well, with the option to chose charity. The charities stocks their shelves with the donations, and the revenues help fund its mission of helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work. The charities also recycle every box that arrives at their facilities.
Give Back Box has truly created a new method of waste diversion for retailers because, in addition to creating a secondary use for the shipping box and guaranteeing that it will be recycled, it helps clear closets, create jobs and offer more companies and their customers an opportunity to recycle.