Packaging and shipping products consumes vast amounts of paper — so in a bid to cut down the use of packaging and reduce its carbon footprint, online auction giant eBay just launched a reusable shipping container. The box itself is made out of 100% FSC-certified material, features water-based inks and requires minimal tape to close. eBay has said that the box could be so successful that “if every box gets reused at least five times, we could protect nearly 4,000 trees, save 2.4 million gallons of water and conserve enough energy to power 49 homes for a year.”

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The new container was the grand prize winner at eBay’s annual Innovation Expo, which celebrated creative ideas from eBay employees. The box can be used over and over again to send products around the country (or world) and back again until it eventually disintegrates, and it could potentially be the first item in a new ‘green shipping range’.

The boxes are set to be shipped out in October, with eBay sending out 100,000 units in a ‘pilot project’ to any user that requests them. Those that receive the boxes will be able to log on to a special website to report on the status of their boxes (and track them as they move from place to place). After a few months, eBay will evaluate the program to determine out how to proceed.

It is not the first ‘green’ development that eBay has launched – the auction giant also adopted a Bloom Energy fuel cell earlier this year and opened a green data center.

So there you have it — if you run your own company or are a frequent eBay seller, here’s your opportunity to cut down the carbon footprint your packages produce as they travel around the country. It’s a great idea and is bound to significantly reduce the amount of cardboard boxes produced per year — we’d love to see other major distributors provide similar initiatives.

+ The eBay Box website

+ eBay Green Team