FreshDirect, New York City’s popular online grocer, has reduced the number of cardboard boxes it uses by 1.5 million over the past year through a combination of software and packing optimizations. Their cardboard footprint went from 3.5 boxes per order to 2.7 boxes per order after they acted on complaints from customers who were receiving orders with a single cheese product in a big box and a half full box of meat. FreshDirect’s 300,000 square-foot headquarters in Long Island City are divided into three packing areas, one unrefrigerated, one for produce and dairy and another for meat and fish. The lack of communication between the branches meant orders would be compiled independently and often put on the delivery truck with more boxes than necessary.
The company underwent a $1 million overhaul of their system to keep customers happy and reduce the load on drivers. FreshDirect continues to improve their system and is looking into the possibility of eliminating cardboard boxes all together. The New York Times spoke with the founder, Jason Ackerman,
The company began using the crossovers quietly in April. Mr. Ackerman said some customers had noticed. And if they are happier, so are the drivers: they have fewer boxes to load.
Next year, the company will stop using cardboard boxes altogether, Mr. Ackerman said. It will pack the orders in paper bags and pack the bags in reusable plastic boxes that will keep the bags from getting crushed on the trucks. At a customer’s apartment, he said, the driver will take the bag out of the plastic box and take the box back to FreshDirect to be cleaned and reused.
Switching from cardboard boxes to paper bags will cut the amount of pulp FreshDirect uses by half, Mr. Ackerman said. “This is being environmentally responsible,” he said.