The Creation of Give Back Box
Give Back Box® was founded in 2012 by Monika Wiela, who at the time was running an online shoe store. The idea was inspired by a homeless man she encountered in Chicago, who was holding up a sign saying he needed a pair of shoes. Wiela returned later that day with shoes for him, but he was gone. She spent that night thinking about what she could do with all the empty boxes in her warehouse and also help people like that man, and a new social enterprise was born. As Wiela researched further, she learned that, an estimated 11 million tons of clothing, footwear, towels, bedding, drapery, and other textiles end up in U.S. landfills every year. In addition, online shopping is now the preferred method for much of the buying public. In addition, online shopping is now the preferred method for much of the buying public. Corrugated boxes are the dominant packaging method for e-commerce. With this knowledge, Wiela’s mission crystalized. If online retailers would use Give Back Box, shipping boxes and other items could be used a second time prior to being recycled. The impact would be remarkable.
Wiela’s first step to bring her dream to reality was to find a nonprofit with a national footprint that could accept donations on a grand scale. The organization would have to be able to not only accept used clothing but other items that people wanted to donate. The nonprofit enterprise also needed to have a program to recycle the boxes that it would receive, further limiting landfill waste.
After several years of research and extensive conversations with a host of nonprofits in the U.S., it was clear that Goodwill Industries International, with its more than 3,200 retail locations, was the perfect vehicle for the goals and objectives of Give Back Box. Goodwill uses the revenue from the sale of donations to provide employment placement, job training and community-based services such as career counseling, education and mentoring. Last year, more than 2 million people worked to build their career and financial assets by engaging with Goodwill team members (Goodwill is involved in one out of every 200 hires in the United States).
The Give Back Box solution complemented Goodwill’s donation growth goals, as it looked to capitalize on the increasing popularity of online shopping, turning the e-commerce platform into a convenient e-donation platform. After testing the concept, Wiela signed on with Goodwill in 2015.
The first major retailer to join with Goodwill to use Give Back Box was Newegg.com. The retailer placed Give Back Box fliers in all the boxes shipped to its customers. The flier recommended that customers re-use the boxes their purchases came in and fill them with clothes, accessories and household items, then ship them to Goodwill for free using pre-paid shipping labels. Give Back Box developed a system to track the packages, so when Goodwill received the boxes and scanned them in, tax receipts were generated for appropriate donors.
Give Back Box® has also teamed up with some of the biggest retailers in the U.S., including Overstock, Amazon, Loft, REI, Levi’s, Asics, Ann Taylor, Uncommongoods, Bon-Ton, Viva Terra, Ecru, Bonobos, Scrubs & Beyond, eBags, Lou & Grey and Cherry Mad.
The Give Back Box platform is free for any retailer who joins as a partner. It is free for donors as well, with the shipping cost covered by Goodwill. Goodwill stocks its shelves with the donations, and the revenues help fund its mission of helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work. Goodwill also recycles every box that arrives at its facilities.
Give Back Box has truly created a new method of waste diversion for retailers because, in addition to creating a secondary use for the shipping box and guaranteeing that it will be recycled, it helps clear closets, create jobs and offer more companies and their customers an opportunity to recycle.