When you shop online, what do you do with the boxes the stuff comes in? Throw them away? Recycle them? Stack them in the corner, hoping they'll be useful for something else?
Monika Wiela has an idea: Pack the boxes with unwanted stuff and help charity at the same time. Wiela, who lives in Los Angeles, has started GiveBackBox.com, which reimagines cardboard containers as ready-made Goodwill boxes. Just go to the site, print off a shipping label and send the items as normal. It's completely free and there's no weight limit.
GiveBackBox.com works with retailers like Newegg.com and Overstock.com, which put advertising leaflets inside their boxes. Goodwill pays for the shipping as a way of supplementing its donation volume.
"When I started talking to Goodwill, they told me their biggest challenge is a lack of donations. People are busier and busier and they don't have time to drive to the store," Wiela explains. "At the same time, the big online retailers have a sustainability problem. They don't want to see a lot of boxes in landfllls. This is a beautiful solution, because it is win-win for everyone."
Wiela, who is Polish, also runs a shoe site, StyleUpGirl.com. She got the idea for GiveBackBox.com while walking down the street one day and seeing a homeless man asking for footwear. She didn't have any men's sizes, but realized she could suggest follow-on donations to her customers. Soon after putting notes inside her delivery boxes, dozens of people were sending in stuff.
GiveBackBox.com, which is a separate company, is currently working with Goodwill exclusively, but hopes to find more partners (and more retailers). Wiela has arranged more than a thousand donations so far.
"I'm just going to grow this bigger and bigger because the problem is huge and the solution is so simple. I mean, why not do it?" she says.