eBay Launches Green Community, Touts Sustainability of Used and Vintage Goods

green team
The eBay Green Team started over a pizza pie. In 2007, 40 eBay employees got together, driven by a common goal – to make environmental and green issues a priority within the company. Fast forward two years and over 1,000 employees across 18 different countries are currently part of the Green Team. And yesterday marked their official foray into the public sphere with the launch of eBayGreenTeam.com, a site dedicated to uniting the community – both employees and customers/vendors – around a common dialogue of behavior change.
“We want to push the envelope,” says Libby Reder, eBay’s Head of Environmental Initiatives, in regards to the mission of the Green Team. To inspire everyone to become “smarter, greener consumers.”
We’ve covered some of eBay’s efforts in social enterprise previously, but as Earth Day rapidly approaches, the company is making a point to highlight many of its green efforts across the board. Not only does it boast a LEED-Gold certified campus at its corporate headquarters in San Jose, CA (which also houses the city’s largest solar installation), the company is also proud to not have a large supply chain nor retail footprint. Rather, eBay views itself as more of a conduit, a connector. Even a changegent, to use a term previously discussed here. A connector of buyers and sellers, eBay has the unique ability to impact both the supply AND demand sides of commerce.

3 Ways to Shop Green by eBay
1. Buy Resource Preserving Products: From brighter bulbs to smarter faucets to things that run on people power, according to the company, products that save resources preserve the greater good.
2. Buy Sustainable Products: Buy products, as eBay says, that were designed to live longer than a day. Products made from organic or otherwise sustainably-produced methods and materials take less from the planet and ensure that we can go on producing for generations to come.
3. Buy Recycled, Repurposed, Reincarnated: Purchasing used, refurbished, or vintage items saves resources from being used in the production of new goods and extend the lives of products, not to mention the carbon footprint inherent in that kind of production. And as the people at eBay say, be it vintage, used, or pre-owned, it’s still new to you

30 Days of Green

As a way to spread the message about the new Green Team initiatives, eBay partnered with the Hearst Group to create a campaign called “30 Days of Green” that will run throughout all of the Hearst Group’s print publications.
eBay%2030%20Days%20Of%20Green.jpg Apperaing in Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, and even Cosmopolitan to name a few, eBay wants to share the information on being a smarter, green consumer to customers in their “natural habitat,” in the words of Reder. Each publication will run editorial/advertorial throughout the entire month of April that speak to their specific demographic (read: Cosmo providing tips on the best natural or organic body oils to give your man), accompanied by some of the green buying options available on eBay’s online marketplace.
Partnerships like these with the Hearst Group as well as with NGOs and non-profits will, in the hopes of eBay and its Green Team, help foster the conversation around the way we think about what we buy.
Is Used Really the Way to Be Green?
In a recent press release, eBay’s president and CEO John Donahoe said, “eBay buyers and sellers trade $2,000 worth of goods every second, a majority of which are used, refurbished, or vintage.” The purchase and sale of these types of products amount to $100 billion of commerce over 10 years on the online marketplace, according to Reder, amounting to a significant portion of the company’s revenue.
However, Michael Brune, the executive director of the Rainforest Action Network is a bit more skeptical about the emphasis on used goods as a characterization of being green. He told the New York Times in an article yesterday: “A lot of the things sold on eBay are new merchandise, and last time I checked the Postal Service still used fossil fuels for all of their planes and their trucks, so it’s not sustainable,” he said, referring to how eBay sellers ship items. “It’s fair to say that buying used goods on eBay is better for the environment, but let’s not get carried away and say this is the greenest thing since recycled paper.”
Recycled paper it is not, but eBay is happy to admit that as well. They never saw the “30 Days of Green” campaign (which incidentally has found criticism for not being on recycled paper) nor its Green Team initiatives as end all, be all. In fact the launch of the Green Team doesn’t even have specific sales or other trackable goals attached to it. Rather, they want to see a community starting to built around it. And eBay has partnered with the US Postal Service to offer Cradle-to-Cradle certified packaging at no extra cost to the consumer as a way to partially offset the unsustainable nature of packaging and delivery of goods.
The Green Team is a start, not necessarily the solution for eBay. An investigation. A way to start conversation.
Readers: What do you think? Should eBay be applauded for its efforts? Or do its critics have merit and is this a matter of corporate greenwashing? Start the conversation…

Ashwin is an Associate Editor of Triple Pundit. He recently returned to the Bay Area after living in Argentina, where he wholeheartedly missed the Pacific Ocean. He is a freelance editor and media and marketing consultant.After a brief stint working in the wine world, when not staring blankly at a computer screen, you'll find him working on Anand Confections or at 826 Valencia, where he has been a long-time volunteer.

6 responses

  1. It’s about time! eBay has been one of the “greenest” companies since their inception and they didn’t even know it till now. Or at least they didn’t talk about it for whatever reason. Glad to see someone got smart.

  2. Nah, it’s great news! Once a company makes a stab at discussing the sustinability of its operations, it can only become more green from there. I bet the Green Team won’t make the same non-recycled paper gaff the next time around!

  3. It’s always good to see big companies doing thier part to educate the public and offer solutions.
    However, making the case that you’ve always been green is very different from pushing the envelope. Great, eBay’s promoting used stuff, but it’s something garage sales have done since their inception, and no sustainable packaging is required for carrying something down the street.
    With that being said, there are great people at eBay doing really great things. I just feel as though they have so much potential to become a leader of this movement. But as an old coach of mine once said, “Having potential means you haven’t done s@#! yet.”
    Reaching your potential requires understanding your brands true purpose and acting out of passion. The end result becomes more than just sustainable initiatives to show off, your brand becomes a sustainable culture that cultivates innovate solutions for years to come.
    At the end of the day I’ve yet to see that sort of passion from the leadership and therefore lack their ability to create that sort of change. Lets hope this is the start of something more.

  4. Great news. The thing that makes eBay different from a garage sale is the near infinite scaleability. You can sell literally anything on eBay and get amazing results. The “Green” caveat, of course, is that things on eBay typically have to be shipped, but I’d be willing to bet that they result, on average, results in a smaller footprint than buying new goods.
    Matt – I think you’re right that at first glance this seems like they’re just jumping on a bandwagon for PR purposes, but given that, whether they understand it or not, it’s really core to their business, I think the customers who hear about this may have an “aha” moment, and once customers start talking, the management may listen more closely!

  5. Nick, I totally agree with you and I’ve been a user of eBay for 10 years. I believe eBay is good for the world, but they can be so much more.
    What I would like to see from big companies like eBay is a man on the moon initiative. Set some big goals that not only require passion but inspire every employee and member of eBay.
    What does eBay’s green moon shot look like? How about making their entire business sustainable by 2015. This includes both campuses, not just the LEED certified PayPal campus, 100% carbon neutral shipping, eliminating all waste on campus with recycling, composting and reuse programs, going 100% organic and offering local food options in their cafeteria, and generating community involvement with initiatives like no listing fees for used products, discounted carbon offset shipping programs and matching donations on all eBay Giving Works sales.
    eBay has the scale, position, cash and personnel to take a shot at the moon. Other brands have already proven consumers will reward you for bold new sustainability initiatives. I feel the question is, do they have the passion and sense of purpose to do it?

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