How many trees make up cardboard boxes ?


1 min read

Having spent much time working in the corporate environment and much of it in the open space cubicle floor plan of modern offices, I know that change is constant. Often this is a change in marketing or leadership, sometimes it’s a change in corporate values. There is also the dreaded centralize / decentralize swing. Although not always comfortable, there is usually some rational that creates the need. With change there is often the need to physically move staff either to a new location or within the same work environment.

Many companies have embraced environmentally sustainable practices and measure their performance in this regard. Although seemingly innocuous, the physical movement of people, desks, files, computers and other items can and should be part of the overall sustainability program. Moreover, there is a real economic benefit of sustainability to the bottom line.

Experts suggest some planning should be involved in your next office move that include the following:

  • Assess what equipment you really need. No need to move material you don’t need.
  • If you can, pick a location with access to public transport.
  • Reusable moving boxes will dramatically lower your environmental impact
  • Recycle unwanted office furniture
  • If you use a moving company or a facility management company ensure their green credentials
  • Finally – clean green. Use environmentally sustainable products and cleaning methods. 

Cost is often another consideration. Cardboard boxes can be expensive, in addition to, difficult to store, easily damaged and then there is the disposal issue. Not to mention the tape and tape guns (which always go missing). Reusable boxes offer a sustainable option that is easy to manage, easy to store and transport and reduce risk of damage to the content inside the box. As well, the rental costs are very reasonable.

There are also the measurable environmental impacts to be considered. According the EPA, 17 trees equals 1 ton of corrugated cardboard. There are a few different types of cardboard that have different weights, this calculation is for the relatively standard 32 ECT (too much technical jargon). The most common box made (and the most “average” in size) is a standard 12″ x 12″ x 12″ box. That box typically uses just over eight square feet of corrugated cardboard per box (remember, we have to account for flaps on the top and bottom of the box). In other words:

17 trees = 2,577 boxes

1 tree = 151.6 boxes

This leads to an interesting question: how many boxes do we go through a year? US data is readily available and according to a 2010 EPA report, one-third of all trash produced is containers and packaging, and 29 million tons of corrugated cardboard are generated annually.

That’s the equivalent of 493 million trees, or 1.5 trees per person, per year. And that’s just boxes in the US! The good news is that recycling programs are ensuring that most of the corrugated products are recycled and there are environmentally responsible alternatives that are easy to access.