eBay Launches a New Portal for Conservation Minded Shoppers


Image credit: eBay

"Going green" may be turning into a tired refrain for those that have been working hard to decrease their environmental footprint for years. To corporate America, however, the phrase has just as much vibrancy as ever. At the end of February, Walmart announced a plan to cut the greenhouse gas emissions from the lifecycle of its products by 20 million metric tons by 2015. Now, eBay has launched a new portal to help shoppers make eco-minded decisions.

To promote the flashy new site, eBay is offering to protect one acre of rainforest for the first 250,000 people that pledge to reuse through their online auctions. As impressive as this offer is, the interesting part of eBay's new initiative is that they are offering a completely new framework for shoppers.Buying pre-owned items, of course, fits nicely with what eBay has always done. As Casey Harrell, an analyst for Greenpeace, told the New York Times, wrapping something a company is already doing in "nice green marketing" is nothing new. The greenwash sniff test for corporate commitment, then, must evaluate whether new initiatives are measurable or exceptionally practical.

Though eBay's offer to protect 250,000 acres of rainforest is measurable—and commendable—the real addition the company is making with this latest effort is in providing and publicizing a platform for responsible consumerism.

The new framework encourages shoppers to think about items according to three criteria. First, it suggests shoppers look for items that are pre-owned or refurbished. Amy Skoczlas Cole, director of eBay's green team explained that:

Most people think you have to make a product in a certain way with a certain set of ingredients for it to be green...what we're saying is you don't have to make this new product at all.

Of course, seeking out items that were made in sustainable way—or from eco-friendly materials—doesn't hurt. eBay's second suggestion is that shoppers seek out such items.

Finally, eBay recommends shoppers look for items that will actually save them energy or reduce their use of some other resource.

The new portal attempts to make this process easy, if not natural. In addition to featured items and product spotlights, it offers photo examples that help shoppers envision where these items can fit into their homes.

For long-time upcyclers and professional vintage vultures, eBay's new portal is worth a look—even if it doesn't pull you away from your established shopping routines. The real hope, however, is that it will show the thousands of other eBay users who are already bidding on pre-owned items how easy it is to reduce their impact on the planet—simply by continuing what they have already been doing.

Read more about conscious shopping:
If Consumerism is Destroying the Planet How Can I Opt Out?
Conspicuous Consumption, Conscious Consumption, and the Fulfillment Curve
Conscious Capitalism: Resolving the Conflict Between Consumerism and Progressive Innovation (Video)
Read more about corporate initiatives:
The TH Interview: Andy Ruben & Matt Kissler of Wal-Mart
Walmart Announces They Will Cut 20 Million Tons of Greenhouse Gases From Supply Chain by 2015
Walmart's SVP of Sustainability Fills in a Few More Details on Their 20 Million Ton GHG Reduction Plan
WalMart: 20 Million Tons of Carbon Emissions Down, Many Human Rights To Go...

Tags: Consumerism | Shopping