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Can a Pizza Box Save the Planet?

| Wednesday September 10th, 2008 | 19 Comments

Green Pizza Box

Pizza. From its humble beginnings in Italy, it has become a food enjoyed across the globe. And though the size, shape, and flavor may vary widely, one thing does not. The box. A sturdy utilitarian container, it does a good job keeping the pizza warm, safe, and easy to carry. Billions are used each year. And they’re slacking on the job.

Depending on the pizza, having a plate to set it on is a necessity. want to store what you don’t eat? Good luck, that bulky box often requires you to muscle other things out of the way to make room. What if the box could double as a plate? And triple as a compact post meal storage container? It can, using the same ol’ box, remixed. It’s called the Green Box.

It’s simple really: Take the standard box, perforate the top into quarters, and they can turn into plates. Perforate the edges of the bottom of the box, then once down the middle, and you can fold that into a leftover box that’s half the size of the original. Less than that, actually, since the box is wedge shaped.

So, you’ve made pizza eating easier, and for some, that’s all they need to know. A boon to both pizza shop owners and customers. But the impact beyond that could be huge. How? Think about all the other things that would have been used with a normal box: Plates plus the time/water/detergent used washing them. Disposable plates if you’re out, likely tossed. Paper towels standing in for plates. Plastic wrap or foil used to cover or wrap the leftovers in a smaller package then that mammoth box.

This may not sound like a lot in terms of one meal, but think for a moment how many pizzas are consumed every day, all over the world. 4.8 billion annually in the US alone. Taking out everything but the box out of that equation, and making it out of recycled paper while you’re at it, is a huge score.

And on a broader level, I see this as having the potential to reach a broader population, if the box has green messaging on it, and further suggestions for people to do to lighten their impact on the planet, and let’s face it, look cooler to their friends. For some, this may be their first interaction with a greener product, and for the first time, it has relevance to their lives.

E.C.O. Incorporated, the New York based makers of the Green Box, have made a wise move – They could have gone dark green, making it out of agricultural waste based paper, etc etc, appealing to greenest among us. But that would have likely raised the price, and for most pizza shops, a quantity focused industry, that would be a deal breaker. Instead, they took the industry standard box, modified nothing but how it’s cut, and made it out of recycled paper, an increasingly cost competitive option.

Why wouldn’t a pizza shop do this? They’ll have taken a step to be greener, their customers will have a better experience and they too can do their part, and they have a story to tell friends. Pizza Fusion, are you listening?

Readers: What other simple solutions have you seen out there to reduce waste, or eliminate it altogether? Any innovations in green packaging we should know about?


Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.

Images from: EcoIncorporated.


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  • Tetsuo

    Phenomenally cool…. now, let’s make the box itself out of something useful that either composts or can be used to fertilize the garden – like add seeds to it so you can literally chuck the box into the woods and have it decay then bloom into flowers… yes!

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

    Tetsuo, great suggestions! Any paper can be compostable, but adding seeds to it, now that’s interesting. But the key is making it the same price, so it can be more broadly embraced.

  • Rhett

    Nice!!! I’ll look forward to seeing one of these on my doorstep in the next year or so. It’s a really good idea! I really dig the thought that the pizza boxes themselves could be printed with information regrading the environment, recycling, etc…
    Very cool.

  • Anonymous

    The origins of pizza are not associated with Italy. Pizza was first invented in China.

  • DOT

    Show the box with the stuck sauce all over it and clumps of melted cheese, It would take as many paper towels to clean up as saved. Get a life Mario the box seller calling it green and jacking the price.

  • Anonymous

    Except that… if you eat the pizza directly off the cardboard, it would be too covered with grease to recycle. It would be ecologically better to recycle the pizza box and use a washable plate.

  • Terry Raiches

    DOT – Chill man, I’ll bet most of the time that box is just fine for eating off. If the cardboard is properly designed, it doesn’t have to be recycled, it could be added straight to the compost heap, grease and all!

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

    Ditto Terry’s comments, plus with a thin paper liner, all’s well for recycling the rest, then composting that paper. The box price is the same, DOT. That’s the point here, using what already exists, and improving its utility, while including recycled paper.

  • Monica Simm

    So can someone tell what is this thing about a Pizza Box Book Report? My 3rd grader has to get an UNUSED box to put a book report in/over it. After it’s all said and done the box is no longer recyclable as it’s covered with paints and glue etc. Our school is asking all 200+ 3rd graders to do this!

  • Frank Pepe

    I think this is a great idea. I also found out that eco, Inc. has developed an FDA approved coating that makes their box 100% recyclable!!!!!! This would make 3.2 billion boxes that are now in landfills recycled. I think that’s amazing. GREAT JOB eco, Inc. Keep up the good work!

  • Frank Pepe

    I think this is a great idea. I also found out that eco, Inc. has developed an FDA approved coating that makes their box 100% recyclable!!!!!! This would make 3.2 billion boxes that are now in landfills recycled. I think that’s amazing. GREAT JOB eco, Inc. Keep up the good work!

  • Mike

    What about the new reusable Pizza Pallet that is used instead of cardboard, made of recyclable plastic and can be used over and over again with a simple cleaning, then at the end-of-life can be turned into something else? This can reduce compost waste completely of cardboard pizza boxes.

  • Anonymous

    you stole my idea. I have a patent on this box

  • jude

    hmmm – not likely. e.c.o. Inc. holds their own patent on this design (patent#7051919) plus two pending patents on similar designs.

  • Anonymous

    that’s dumb to make it wedge shaped. pizza is not wedge shaped.

  • Rick

    There is a compostable package made by a company called Flat Pak, to replace the pizza box. It is the same price or less expensive and can be a start to eliminating the 3 plus billion boxes used annually. Does anyone know how many trees that might save??

  • Jim

    The pizza pallet is klunky. You gotta use heating stones for delivery, it’s a hassle. I saw the Flat Pak guys at the last Pizza Expo show in Vegas. They showed me their product and quite frankly, it looks pretty damn good. Best of all, NO CARDBOARD!!!! Cardboard is the real problem. It’s always going up in price. They have some sort of plant fiber tray with a plastic bag. Said it was compostable or biodegradable or both. This green box is a cool idea too, but it has cardboard. I think the Flat Pak guys said they were patented too. They also said the price was CHEAPER than a cardboard box! Don’t know if that’s true, but if it is….

  • Austin

    what a waste of time… and to think i have to research this for a project

  • Adam

    The whole point is to save the earth, if it was left alone the grease would contaminate the base pannel of the box leaving the rest to be recycled, however this design has managed to contaminate all off the box making nothing recyclable. Sort of going backwards really.