September 23, 2009, 12:00 AM

Outdoor enthusiasts are happy to buy new gear in old boxes, Columbia learns

Outdoor apparel manufacturer Columbia Sportswear Company has been offering web shoppers the option to receive purchases in previously used boxes—and more than 60% of customers are selecting that option.

The outdoorsy types who buy fishing vests, hiking boots and down parkas from Columbia Sportswear Company figure to be sympathetic to the notion of saving trees by using less paper and cardboard. Columbia is playing to that sentiment by offering online shoppers the option of receiving purchases in previously used boxes-and more than 60% of customers are selecting that option.

The recycled carton choice was introduced as part of the redesign of Columbia.com unveiled in August. During the checkout process, the site presents consumers with an option headlined “A Box Life,” which says: Want to help reduce the environmental impact of your order? Choose to have your items shipped in a reused box!

Customers can also track the prior travels of their box at a site Columbia has created called aboxlife.com. A customer enters a code from the label on her box and can see where the box has been, and upload pictures and stories about the box’s life at the moment.

"As a leading outdoor company, it is important for us to provide consumers with options that reduce packaging waste and to make business decisions that will reduce our overall environmental impact," says Paul Zaengle, senior director of e-commerce for Columbia. "We have been very encouraged by the positive response to our reused box initiative and are thrilled to be able to provide our customers more responsible packaging solutions when they shop online at Columbia.com."

Columbia says it obtains the used boxes from shipments it receives, customer returns and boxes that have been used in shipments between Columbia distribution centers. The company has no data about cost savings, and may not in the future, a spokeswoman says. “We believe the gain is a happy customer and less of an impact on the natural resources used to create new boxes,” she says.

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