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Written by Dave Delval   
Rent-A-Green Box Gives New Meaning to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

"I’ve had an inquisitive mind since I was a kid,” Spencer Brown says. “Being an inventor is second nature to me.”

Brown is the founder and president of Rent-a-Green Box (formerly EarthFriendlyMoving), a zero-waste pack and move system developed entirely from recyclable trash mined from local landfills.

Spencer Brown
Spencer Brown of Rent-A-Green Box
Brown’s inspiration to create the company came after his own moving experience. “I was moving a home office from Ladera Ranch to Huntington Beach and was shocked at how much I had to spend on cardboard boxes, tape and other supplies – only to use them once before throwing them out,” he says. “You could call it invention born from necessity – there wasn’t an affordable, environmentally responsible alternative to cardboard boxes, so I set out to create one.”

After doing considerable research on America’s multi-billion-dollar moving and packing industry, Brown visited various landfills. What he found there was startling:

“The sheer volume of trash being generated from moving was staggering,” he says. “People think nothing of tossing out their cardboard boxes after a move. All of these cardboard boxes add up. The result was piles of used cardboard 40 feet high, right alongside untold numbers of plastic bottles, and thousands upon thousands of dirty diapers.”

Motivated to do something about the problem, Brown came up with an idea to recycle the plastic waste into reusable plastic moving containers that could replace landfill-clogging disposable cardboard boxes. The Costa Mesa-based business began operating in June, 2006, with its signature innovation, the “RecoPack,” a series of lightweight, stackable moving containers made from recycled plastic waste products such as bleach, detergent and oil bottles. They’re rented to people who need storage containers to pack for relocating.

Rent-a-Green Box buys these hard-to-recycle waste products from area landfills before sorting, scrubbing, grinding and remolding them into three sizes of RecoPack containers. Another product developed by the company, the “Poopy Pallet” delivery pallet (a replacement for the wooden pallet), is made from over 700 recycled baby diapers. Additional zero-waste packing and moving-related products are also available, including eco-friendly replacements for bubble wrap and Styrofoam packing peanuts.

“What we do is give people who want to move a choice other than using a cardboard box to pack and move their property,” Brown says. “The average U.S. resident moves a total of 16 times in their lifetime, roughly once every five years. We haven’t changed the way property is packed and moved for over 230 years, but we can watch various episodic TV shows on an iPod. So, you can see there’s this huge disconnect. We’ve been consuming and disposing with reckless abandon. We have to address this problem and save and preserve our limited natural resources.”

To back up the latter assertion, Brown called attention to a recent study by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) which indicated that the waste produced in the U.S. has more than doubled over the past 40 years, from 88 million tons in 1960 to 236 million tons in 2003.

Brown estimates that each time a household substitutes 100 reusable RecoPacks for the 100 disposable cardboard boxes normally used during a move, 500 pounds of hard-to-recycle plastic trash (equivalent to 3,500 plastic bottles) is permanently removed from landfills. In addition, 400 pounds of packing/moving-related waste is prevented from entering and expanding landfills. Further savings include the 300 gallons of water that would have been used to make the disposable cardboard boxes, as well as 50 gallons of oil that would have been consumed in their manufacturing, transportation and distribution. And, more than 2,500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions were kept from entering the atmosphere. Lastly, using 100 RecoPacks also prevents three healthy green trees from being destroyed.

For Rent-a-Green Box, the eco-process does not stop with its products. Following the move, the containers are picked up by the company’s fleet of lime green, vegetable oil- and biodiesel-powered trucks.

The self-proclaimed “trash-digging tree-hugger” laments the cutting down of trees that convert carbon dioxide into oxygen to make a box to pack and move only to then toss the box into a landfill. “While recycling an aluminum can, for instance, is obviously a good thing to do, recycling a cardboard box only yields 40% of reusable fibers,” he says. “The remaining 60% (of the box) is either incinerated or dumped into a landfill. We need to rethink how we are going to use our trash as a new untapped resource.”

We Need to Rethink How We Are Going to Use Our Trash As a New Untapped Resource

Brown proudly points out that, to date, Rent-a-Green Box has planted 900 trees in Seal Beach and elsewhere for its inaugural Orange County customers. His ultimate goal is to plant one million trees – with Santa Ana and Long Beach on the list of future tree-planting cities.

“Everything we do,” Brown says, “is based on our company motto: Without trees, we’re like a fish out of water. Most of our clients are not green, per se. They see the system as a way to save time and money and they love the fact that they’re contributing and making an immediate impact on their local environment. I truly believe that if we all pitch in, we can reverse the damage that has been caused and pass a better, healthier eco-system on to future generations.”

Find Spencer Brown and Rent-A-Green Box at

Dave DelVal is a writer and editor with a new appreciation for the need to keep waste out of landfills. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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