July 20, 2009

A Better Pizza Box?

Recently a reader sent me a link to the company ECO Incorporated and their Green Box concept for a new greener pizza box and asked my design opinion. The Green Box is a regular looking pizza box in which the lid breaks into four serving plates and the remaining section folds into a smaller half box for easy storage of leftover pizza in any size fridge. It was a good discussion so I decided to post our different sides here and see what additional comments you all might have.

The reader thought this was an amazingly innovative concept for two reasons: 1) easy implementation for any pizza shop because it adds no addition cost to the current box, 2) eliminates the use of "disposable" non-recyclable serving plates and storage containers for leftover pizza. These are both true, but we as designers are not going to help society by designing new products that are only a little better than the previous version. Yes, it eliminates the use of additional "disposable" products, but it is still a box that is bound for the waste stream itself.

I would go back and challenge the designers of the Green Box to look at the whole system the pizza box lives within, and to find a solution that educates the consumer, giving them solutions beyond simply using less "disposable" products. Could a pizza shop invest in reusable pizza containers that 1) promote their company, thus building brand loyalty and awareness, 2) are rented to the end users and exchanged when the pizza guy delivers a hot pizza in a clean container, creating a business model between Gillette's razor blade model and the propane tank exchange model, and 3) encourages the use of reusable containers? Designers must begin thinking about the bigger system a product lives within and less about just their product--this is where new innovative product and business models with emerge.

What are your comments? Do you have additional pizza box solutions?


  1. I think you're on to something with your analysis. This new pizza box concept seems more clever than it is actually green. As you point out, the same amount of packaging ends up in the waste stream. Plus, there's no mention of whether this box will cost more or if it costs more to make (I'm not familiar with the cost of fabricating cardboard boxes, but this box does seem more complicated than your average pizza box). Again, I'm not saying this is bad design necessarily, just not green design.

    Getting the pizza box out of the waste stream is going to require a larger leap, more along the lines that you're alluding to in your analysis. Do we even need a cardboard box? Looking at home delivery, couldn't the delivery guy just bring the pizza in a reusable container and transfer it to a tray supplied by the consumer?

    Interesting post!

  2. My guess is that the average pizza customer is a repeat customer. So, I think that a low-cost reusable delivery container that could be returned could be a workable model. From a marketing perspective, if this were tied into a whole family of responsible pizza consumption features such as grass fed dairy, organic ingredients, wind-powered energy source, bio-diesel delivery vehicles in combination with really good pizza, it wouldn't be hard to convince the customer to pay more for a new eco-pizza delivery system. Once the customer is done with the box, rinse, and return on the next delivery.

  3. DMS Innovation, www.dmsinnovation.com has created a reusable pizza box that they sell to consumers, restaurants and charities for sale to enduser pizza lovers. The reusable boxes come in different sizes, can be reused 500-1000 times, easily washable and are mostly accepted by restaurants. The rental concept mentioned in other posts does not seem to work as the restaurant has a larger investment than traditional cardboard and many restaurant buyers have not recognized the long term value to reuse and marketing, nor consumer demand. Those that have team with their customers to offer the reusable box for sale, then offer a discount for each reuse, some go as far as to offer an exchange program for delivery also.