Boox, the direct-to-consumer reusable packaging behind Boyish Jeans and clean skin care brand Ren, wants to stand out from the masses.
The company just closed its $9.25 million Series A led by Valor Siren Ventures, bringing total funding to $11.25 million.
While the industry is eager for sustainable solutions, too, e-commerce is still overrun by cardboard boxes and plastic polybags. Boox’s atypical blue hues stand out from the “ocean of brown cardboard and are an immediate visceral signal that your brand is actively engaging in more sustainable practices,” according to Matt Semmelhack, Boox’s cofounder and chief executive officer.
In fact, entire marketplaces are designed around reusables and zero-waste, with Brooklyn-based retailer Package Free Shop recently raising $8 million from eco-apparel brand Naadam and Vanterra Capital Accelerator Fund to scale its business.
“We have a bunch of brand partners that send gifts to influencers in a Boox, and these influencers go on social media and spread the brand message of sustainability to millions of followers. I guarantee none of these influencers would be shouting from the rooftops about a cardboard box that is really just a piece of trash,” said Semmelhack.
Other than the “Hello my name is Boox” sticker that covers the top of the box, material is limited with a QR code used in place of a packing slip and no packing tape necessary because of the folding design. Customers can then return the empty box by simply peeling and placing the included return label, folding it and sending it back with the postal service.
There’s no timeline given as to when boxes must be returned, but later this year Boox is launching a program that incentivizes local returns to nearby public schools with a $1 donation match.
Boox boxes are currently made with 50 percent post-consumer plastic and 50 percent virgin plastic (which the company admits it aims to improve upon) designed to be mono-material, so they can be recycled in the closed-loop return program once they reach end of life — or about 10 uses on average.
While retailers get a new batch at the start, Semmelhack affirmed “the reality is that in transit the package will get a little scuffed, dinged, dirty, etc…They don’t need to leave the fulfillment center in pristine condition, but we strive for that anyway.”
Once Boox boxes are no longer usable they are consolidated for recycling at the company’s headquarters in Petaluma, Calif.
As far as impact goes, Boox commissioned an independent life cycle analysis to measure the overall carbon footprint of the Boox reuse model compared to cardboard boxes and found, on average, a 75 percent reduction in emissions.
Discounting the initial cost trade-off that puts Boox at anywhere from $1.25 to $3.00 per shipment versus the typical $0.10 to $0.25, Semmelhack argued “Boox quickly pays for itself many times over when you consider it is a marketing vehicle and a billboard for sustainability, not just a box.”
Prior to Boox, Semmelhack worked at a plant-based meal delivery company called Thistle where he helped usher in the switch to reusables after customer feedback that decried the single-use packaging waste and the hassle of breaking down boxes.
“My experience at Thistle also taught me that real change must be systemic — if we want to make a dent in climate change, we need to dramatically change the way we think about waste, not just incrementally chip away at it,” he said. “The vision for Boox has grown considerably: we now think of a platform for circular economies, not limited just to boxes and packaging,” potentially evolving Boox into an e-commerce destination.
Dimensions typically run from 6 x 5 x 3” (for small cosmetics products) up to 15 x 12 x 6” (for things like denim, outerwear, shoes) but custom options are on the horizon as the company looks to b-to-b and wholesale markets.
As for how performance is being measured, data on brand loyalty and retention is still largely anecdotal but there has been an influx of companies reaching out with the “conscious desire to reduce their impact,” according to Semmelhack.
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