lifebox - growing trees from cardboard

This Radically Cool Company Produces Cardboard Boxes that Grow Into Trees

lifebox - growing trees from cardboardFor most of us, online shopping has become the ultimate gift to the modern world. No crowds, no lines, no parking issues, just pure, unadulterated purchasing at the click of a button. Unfortunately, this blessed luxury has a hell of an impact on the environment — the more goods ordered, means the more shipping materials needed to package these goods, means the more crap that goes into landfills.

Luckily, there is a company out there that’s figured out how to make cardboard both a packaging material (which it’s always been) and a designed ecosystem. Yes, you read correctly, an ecosystem. Paul Stamets, fungi aficionado and founder of Life Box, the company that produces these cardboard ecosystems, spent most of his life studying how fungi supports the growth of most plant life. Stamets first learned of this natural phenomenon when he began combining seeds and mycorrhizal spores (a type of fungi spores), and saw how much the mycorrhized plants thrived compared to the same plants without mycorrhizae. His research revealed that the mycorrhizal mycelium actually enhances the root nutrient-absorption zone of plants by hundreds of times.

So what exactly does all that have to do with growing trees from cardboard boxes? Well, cardboard happens to be the perfect growth medium for encouraging communities of fungi and plants to symbiotically grow together. Each box contains some 100 various tree seeds and is dusted with mycorrhizal spores that symbiotically “protect and nurture” the seedlings. After the box serves it’s original purpose, Stamets asks people to refrain from recycling and instead rip the box into large pieces, soak them in water, place the pieces in a plastic bag for 6-12 weeks, plant the cardboard panels, water and watch your Life Box sprout tree seedlings.

The Life Box can be made to virtually any dimension of a regular box. It does not increase the cost of shipping, and the tree mix has been approved by the Departments of Agriculture for planting in every state in the continental United States (not Hawaii), and Canada.

It’s is a perfect example of a product that closes the loop on a cycle that begins and ends with Life.  Once delivered, a regular cardboard box dies at your doorstep, so to speak.  The conventional brown box serves only the purpose of delivering a product.  And then, at best, it is recycled. The Life Box is not just a box ““ it is a teaching tool that unfolds into a continuing, life-long experience.  It empowers individuals with the ability to sequester carbon by planting trees and making a positive difference.  The Life Box has ‘legs’, or more aptly trees, which will remind the receiver for years to come of their own thoughtfulness and that of the company who shipped it. The shared experience of everyone involved builds a community of those trying to help the planet with a long-lasting and sustainable solution to climate change — Paul Stamets

*To read about another radically cool small biz, check out our piece on KonaRed


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