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A Box with a Conscience, Delivered Monthly

Posted Nov 18 2011 5:00pm

Conscious Box Ever passed up a green product at checkout because you had second thoughts about it? One company may have a solution for the perceived risk of buying a relatively new eco-item.

Conscious Box , a four-month-old company in Southern California, delivers a box full of green and eco-friendly products to your door once a month. The service costs $12, plus $7 for shipping, and less if you subscribe for several months.

Seven bucks for shipping seems like a lot, but co-founder Jesse Richardson says he's actually losing money on that since many of his customers live in remote places where Whole Foods might not be next door. He and his team are currently developing green shipping methods. 

As for what goes inside the boxes, the founders screen businesses that aim to be fair-trade, organic, non-GMO, or vegan before agreeing to include their samples, which Richardson and his team get for free from entrepreneurs looking to market their new products.

After receiving a box from Richardson and going through its contents, we at the Green Life decided that while we like the idea and might even be willing to shell out for a second box, we're not sure we're convinced to buy more of the products we got.  

The business plan relies in part on the element of surprise, but we'll clue you in on some items in the upcoming December box:  Chimes 's ginger candies are delicious and made from only a few ingredients, but the individually wrapped treats aren't advertised as being eco-friendly, organic, or non-GMO. We liked the  22 Days Nutrition mocha  vegan protein bar a lot. With its smooth chocolate and strong coffee taste, almost every ingredient is organic. 

Aside from food products, there were beauty and cleaning samples, plus a bottle of supplements. Each product was from a different brand, but categories were repeated (there are two kinds of lotions, for example), which detracted slightly from the novelty of opening a dozen different presents.

This type of marketing strategy is more effective than distributing free samples at fairs, Richardson says, because clients are paying for the box and have a "vested interest in really looking at the product." As a rule, Richardson keeps an eye out for small companies with good ideas but not enough attention. "We've been entrenched in this for a long time, so it's quite easy to spot them right away," he said.

At the same time, he may include products from companies that aren't necessarily green and cited Honest Tea as an example; because it's owned by Coke, it spurred a debate among the founders about whether to include it. In the end, they decided to, since Honest Tea backs good causes and, as a brand, is socially conscious despite its not-so-nice parent company.

On the down side, there's an awful lot of paper waste in the box and the products themselves. Nearly every item is wrapped or double-wrapped, some with attached coupons, ads, and business cards. It's almost enough to make us question how conscious the box really is.   

There aren't many similar services on the market, but Conscious Box's closest competitor is  Blissmo , which delivers individual full-sized green products at a discount. Instead of taking it upon themselves to review products' eco-cred, Blissmo's owners look to third-party certifications to avoid greenwashing. Conscious Box also takes a page from services like Birch Box , which delivers makeup samples (not of the green variety) for $10 per month. 

--Avni Nijhawan 

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