Bury Cardboard Boxes to Grow Trees


"This is what can happen when you order 8 plates, 4 large, 4 small." Photos by Rev Dan Cat

Recycling that does double duty. Ship a package and the recipient could plant 100 native trees from seeds embedded in The Life Box for a little woods of Hemlock, Sycamores and Birch trees. Created by mycologist Paul Stamets (one of Treehugger's Top 5 TEDsters), the boxes are infused with seeds and spores. Instead of breaking down cardboard boxes to be recycled for reclaimed paper waste, just rip them apart, plant in soil, and water. Then follow the tree as it grows. Here's how: Post the GPS coordinates or location address and follow the tree's life-cycle on an interactive website will allow people to track their trees online. "I want my grandson's grandkids to walk through a forest that came from Life Boxes," says the inventor Stamets.


Corrugated cardboard perfect for seed planting. Photo via Flickr by Jason Cartwright

Part of "Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign", the non-invasive species of seeds, native to North America, in the cardboard boxes include Tsuga mertensiana (Mountain Hemlock), Thuja occidentalis (an evergreen shrub), Plantanus occidentalis (Sycamore, American plane, Buttonwood), Liquidambar styraciflua (American Sweetgum, Redgum -- native to warm temperate areas like Tennessee, and Betula papyrifera (Paper or Canoe Birch).

It was one of the big hits of the Sustainable Brands Conference, said Jana Branch of Articulo Consulting, who attended the recent event in Monterey, California. Every director of sustainability was present, from Wal-Mart and Hewlitt-Packard, Ford, Gap, eBay and Coca-Cola, as well as the EPA, Nature's Path and companies you'd expect to share the latest innovative green ideas.

The Life Box

The Life Box won a Green Packy Award for sustainable packaging. A detailed planting guide is available with the boxes online with tips on flourishing trees. Of course, whoever you mail stuff to may not have room for 100 trees in their yard, but they can be given away and replanted, not unlike seeded greeting cards. The boxes are available to consumers for $33 to $58 for various sizes in sets of 10, but the real opportunity is for companies that regularly ship products to get aboard a reforestation program. Partnerships with wholesalers and retailers are in process. Plant-a-pizza box? Hello, Amazon?


Multi-purpose nutrient-rich mushrooms. Photo by Srini G via Flickr
Mushroom guru Stamets sees fungi as a solution for regreening the planet. Fungal spores in the boxes encourage healthy tree growth. Besides cleaning oil spills, mushrooms are a natural fertilizer, clean and re-vitalize soil. Networks of mycorrhizal filaments envelop root structures, greatly enhancing plants' nutrient-gathering ability. His Fungi Perfecti company sells grow-your-own shiitakes and other edible mushroom kits to grow on tree stumps, as well as MycoGrow products for landscapers and forestry management.

Stamets' TED presentation showed how mushrooms can help save the planet by cleaning polluted soil and making non-toxic insecticides. He's also discovered a rare endangered fungi species and is working with the government's BioShield program to preserve it for the unique anti-viral properties. The first version of The Life Box grows trees. Upcoming varieties in development could plant flowers and gardens from hot beverage cup sleeves. Mushrooms perhaps?

More on recycling cardboard boxes:
Sheet Mulching and More: How to Compost Your Move
Green Your Move: Get Recycled Boxes Sent Right to Your Door
5 Reuses for: Cardboard Boxes

Tags: Green Packaging | Recycled Consumer Goods