Rent-A-Green Box: The Next Phase in Green Lifestyles
Those of us attempting to live the green lifestyle may not have given much thought to moving—especially when crushed with the schedule of getting everything packed in time and ready for the truck, then loading the truck and unloading in the new location. But one such move by one individual eight years ago prompted the first completely eco-friendly moving company—which today has its products and services spread throughout the nation.
“I had to pack and move my business,” Spencer Brown, founder of Rent-A-Green Box, told Organic Connections. “I ended up spending eight hundred dollars, which was expensive, and building boxes, which was really time consuming. Also, when I built a box I didn’t do a very good job and a lot of things broke in transit.
“Three days later I had to throw the boxes away and thought I should probably recycle them. So I went to a few recycling centers and they all challenged the recycling. They said, ‘Oh, it’s not the right box’; ‘It’s too much tape’; ‘We can’t give you enough money for them.’ Finally I ended up going to a landfill and spending just under two hundred dollars to dispose of them.”
It was then Brown had his inspiration. “While at the landfill I saw bleach bottles,” he continued. “I thought, ‘Let’s just take this plastic and make a recycled plastic moving box that is rentable, reusable and zero waste.’”
Building a Company
Rather than trying to find someone else who was already building such boxes, Brown began with the idea of building everything himself from scratch. “I had the concept and I took it to market by myself, with no bank, no financing, no investors,” he recalled. “I blueprinted out the business in nine months with my first product, RecoPack, which stands for Recycled Ecological Packing Solution. So the first nine months were just really building the box. We talked to consumers and they said they wanted three sizes, so that’s what we did.”
Expanding from the box rentals, the product line continued. Brown and his team came up with eco-friendly pallets for the RecoPacks, and then fulfilled another requirement. “Customers said, ‘Oh, it would be good to have a dolly,” Brown recounted. “We found that most dollies were steel based, made in China and imported and sold, and were just very low quality. We decided to use scrap aluminum, and we crafted a dolly that’s now seven years old. It’s specifically designed for the residential mover.”
They were by no means finished. “Over the last seven years we’ve developed more than forty zero-waste packing/moving products,” Brown said. “In addition to boxes, dollies and pallets, we make packing paper, gloves and mattress bags. We even utilize recycled old hospital and hotel draperies that have been sun damaged; instead of throwing them away, we get them and make a whole line of soft goods like duffle bags and pillow packs so you can pack and move your soft goods without boxing them.”
All the way along the line, Brown has listened to customers and provided what they asked for. “Usually the benefits customers are looking for are ‘cheaper, faster and easier,’” he said. “We’ve got all of those. We’re half the cost of cardboard; we’re at least 50 percent faster and easier, because you’re not building anything and breaking it down; and all the boxes are cleaned and sanitized before and after each move. All you have to do is load your contents, close the lids and roll them out.”
Built to Last
Brown’s products are not just eco-friendly—they are built for the long haul. “We realized that if we rented products to the consumer, higher-quality products would actually last longer, give us a better return on our investment and would generate zero waste,” he related. “We set out to make the most eco-friendly product possible in manufacturing and then make it so good that we didn’t have to rethink it for a long time; so we can actually maximize our energy return on investment in raw material usage.
“We have boxes that we have rented for seven years now, and those boxes are well into five, six hundred uses and they’re still rentable. We have dollies that we made seven years ago that we still rent today which are just as good as when they were built.”
Sustainable Business Model
Brown decided early on that he would need to make his service available far beyond his home location in Huntington Beach, California. And so he has. “We provide a dealership model,” Brown explained. “We have people who buy our product and launch a website; then they can rent boxes and run the same concept in their market without franchising fees.
“It’s an excellent small part-time business and it’s a great full-time business—a sustainable localized business. A guy in Colorado could sign up and have five hundred boxes in his garage, and he rents them out to customers and makes money on the side. He can do it as a part-time, two-day-a-week business, or he can go to a couple of thousand boxes and run it as a full-time job and make a decent living. That money is then in the local community; so we’re helping generate local revenue—and without trashing the planet.”
In addition to the dealership model, Brown provides for other businesses to incorporate his technology. “We also have dozens of micro-dealers who don’t have our website as marketing but they have the products in-house,” he said. “Those are moving companies, home-decoration companies, companies that do fire, water and roof damage repairs on the fly, and other service specialty companies.”
Growing for the Future
Along the way Rent-A-Green Box has earned recognition for their eco-friendly model. They have received the Small Business Award from the state of California as well as the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), given for their new market technology and recycling.
With eight years behind them, along with their success and recognition, there is obviously no looking back. Their Eco Mattress Bag is now being picked up by major retailers throughout the country. They’ve just released a new packing and moving glove. New dealers are sprouting up every day, and there is much more in the works.
Brown sees it all as a unified whole. “We’re addressing a very basic business, which is moving,” he concluded. “We’ve done it for so long, and we have so many eco-friendly products and solutions, that all of our products fit as a unified system. The one thing that excites me every day is that we designed, built and brought to market everything that we have, and we continue to find innovative ways to recycle post-consumer and post-industrial, while keeping costs down for customers. Where else can you move a family of four—pack, move and unpack in seven days—for two hundred dollars, with no waste? It just makes sense.”
For more information, please visit www.rentagreenbox.com.