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Rethinking the Box

Corrugated cardboard is Nike's single-largest material purchase. The shoebox and its shipping carton account for half of Nike packaging. So to reduce packaging waste, Nike took a fresh look at the shoebox.

We applied innovative design to the challenge and came up with various alternatives to the traditional shoe box in order to reduce materials used, thereby reducing weight and cost in shipping.

But examining this solution through a wider lens, we realized many ultimately had a negative overall impact. Consumers anywhere in the world can recycle corrugated shoeboxes. In most markets, however, most of the materials in the innovative designs would not be recyclable. Rather than settle for the win in reduction only, we realized the loop was not closed. Without a universal means of recycling, this was a net addition to waste, not a reduction.

So we went back to the drawing board, with the box's full lifecycle in perspective. We started again, focusing on ways to reduce weight and materials. Through innovative reengineering, we developed a shoe box that is anticipated to use 30 percent less material than a 1995 vintage box, our first 100-percent recycled-content box.

Nike will begin using these shoe boxes in 2011, saving the equivalent of 200,000 trees annually.

The reengineered shoe box is fully recycled and recyclable, lighter weight and stronger. The weight reductions translate to reductions in greenhouse gas and overall embedded energy.

Nike launched the box on Earth Day 2009 with the introduction of Steve Nash's Nike Zoom MVP Trash Talk. The box held a classic hoop shoe designed for performance and using scrap materials.

We have also applied this innovative thinking to shipping cartons. The new lightweight shoe boxes will be shipped in cartons that are nearly 20 percent lighter than their predecessors.

We anticipate the new footwear and shipping boxes will be released throughout Nike brand by FY11 and will translate to an annual savings of nearly 12,000 metric tons of cardboard or the equivalent of 200,000 trees annually.

We are exploring other reductions: changing shoe box sizes to better fit the shoes they hold, reducing wrapping tissue and reducing other packaging such as polybags used for samples.

The pouch concept may be viable in the future, so we are keeping the idea on hold. Someday, as material availability and recycling systems improve, the shoebox may be a thing of the past.

We continue to look for solutions that can be applied across our products and can be tested and prove results. We also aim to find solutions that deliver clear cost savings.