| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Brian Fox recently moved from one house to another in Irvine, California, and joined a growing number of consumers going "green" in the relocation process.
But what Fox, 35, has to say about using reusable plastic boxes instead of the old standard corrugated cardboard boxes has less to do with the environment and more about saving money and convenience.
"I have always bought boxes, bought tape, made the boxes, moved, then had to tear down the boxes and dispose or recycle them," he said.
Then a friend told him about a company that delivers reusable plastic bins and collects them when you are done.
"Being that they are tough plastic nothing broke (during) this move and they were really easy to pack, which saved room in the U-Haul I rented."
He figures he saved about $100 overall and "as far as negatives, I don't see any."
Fox got his containers from RentaGreenBox.com, a company largely serving Southern California, but is branching out around the country. Because it is such an emerging product, the American Moving & Storage Association does not have statistics on the growth of reusable box rental companies or other green efforts. But what is apparent is that similar operations are springing up nationwide, including BungoBox, FrogBox and Bin-It, causing national companies to take notice.
Peter Arpin, executive vice president of Arpin Group, a national mover that has embraced green practices, says he is intrigued by the idea of the reusable boxes. "They'd certainly be a lot more long-lasting," he says. "They would be much easier for us, and the customer on packing them."
Until that interest translates to boxes in warehouses, these reusable bins will likely only be good for local moves until there is enough inventory and management on a national level, Arpin says.
But the marketplace seems to have more potential than just customers interested in ecological solutions. RentaGreenBox founder Spencer Brown, who started the company in 2005, originally figured 20 percent of his business was from consumers signing up because they care about the environment. An analysis revealed the figure was closer to 3 percent. "We realized the consumer wanted convenience, price and value," he says.
THE EASY PART
The convenience comes from customers having a ready-made product delivered and then having the product picked up.
Chris Seman, who heads Cincinnati-based Caring Transitions, which plans moves and helps seniors downsize, says he finds that reusable containers save time and are easier to pack. Plus, the containers can stack higher than cardboard and have built-in handles for easy carrying.
THE PRICE PART
RentaGreenBox charges $99 for 25 of its "Recopacks," enough for a small apartment, and a has a variety of other rates up to $269 for 100 containers. Customers have use of the containers for two weeks.
By comparison, U-Haul offers an "apartment kit" of cardboard boxes and supplies for $86; a kit sufficient for one or two bedrooms for $179; and another for someone with three or four bedrooms for $342. Plus there may be a trash removal fee and factoring in the time it takes to assemble and break down the cardboard.
Small businesses, too, find value in the rented plastic container aspect of green moving. Surterre Properties in Newport Beach, California, is in the midst of replacing the carpeting in its 20,000-square-foot office space and is doing it as green as possible - using recycled carpet squares and packing up office materials in reusable containers.
Surterre co-founder Paula Ansara-Wilhelm estimates using the rented boxes saved $100 to $200 over the cost of cardboard and supplies - not including the staff time saved from not having to build the boxes. The bins also allowed the office materials to be stacked higher so that less space was needed for them.
"No tape. No building boxes. No crushed boxes and no broken items," she says. "No mess. No waste. No Trash."
OTHER GREEN OPTIONS
Beyond the reusable box, Seman says, there are other ways for consumers to contain costs while being a bit friendlier to the environment. He and others suggest paring down what is being moved - making the load lighter and using fewer packing materials. Also, many moving companies will have boxes collected from a prior move and offer them for free to customers.
Movers can also scour online ads for folks looking to unload boxes from their own moves. Also, keep your eyes open for stores that would happily let you collect boxes after they have unpacked inventory rather than spend the time to break them down and pay to have them removed. They won't be plastic, but they will still be green.
(The author is a Reuters contributor)
(Follow us @ReutersMoney or here. Editing by Beth Pinsker Gladstone and Maureen Bavdek)