When you think of all the myriad items that might have ended up in the trash, had they not found a new home and a second life via eBay, you can't help but think of the auction site as a "green" venue. In fact, the company reports, sales of used purses on eBay over the past three years has had the same effect as planting 2 million trees—now that's a lot of handbags.
But eBay's doing more than providing a venue to sell used products. In January 2005, the company formed the Rethink Initiative to reduce its impact on Mother Nature. And eBay wants its sellers to be environmentally conscious, too.
"eBay Inc. was founded on the belief that people are basically good," says Robert Chatwani, head of eBay Global Citizenship. "Over the years, we experimented with a variety of ways to empower our users to not only be good, but to do good when they use our products and services."
If you're worried that being environmentally friendly will take more time and effort than you can give, consider this: According to The Wall Street Journal, Americans go through 100 billion plastic shopping bags every year and throw away 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups.
But sellers can help reduce waste—particularly e-waste, or the waste that comes from electronics. Below we give you some suggestions to help eBay's environmentally conscious efforts. Remember, we live in a time in which people are willing to pay more for environmentally sound products, so reducing your ecological footprint could earn you a nod of approval from buyers.
Women, in particular, are willing to pay more for goods marketed as environmentally friendly
The 'green' premium
According to news reports, most shoppers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products. About 35 percent of participants in a recent survey by market research firm Compete said they would pay up to 24 percent more for green items. Five percent said they would spend up to 75 percent more.
"2009 will be the year that 'green' becomes profitable, not just trendy. And that will be what truly drives action," notes Elaine Warner, Compete's consumer technologies director. "As our data show, consumers are willing to spend money to get green products, and that could, beyond just increasing revenue and margins, be a catalyst for [manufacturers] to get through this recession as well."
Another study found that women, in particular, are willing to pay more for goods marketed as environmentally friendly. While shoppers are most likely to purchase "green" items at grocery stores, "offering green products and executing related promotions could potentially create an additional positive dimension of brand perception—which ultimately impacts frequency and purchase behavior," reports Miller Zell Inc.
Product Analyst Rebecca Miller knows this and recently joined eBay's Give. Good. Green. campaign. She thinks buyers are attracted to merchants who practice or support environmental sustainability.
"More and more companies are seeing the benefits of being green in the public's eye and in the environment," she notes.
Green is good
Give. Good. Green. is a campaign sponsored by eBay Giving Works, WorldofGood.com, MicroPlace, eBay Green Team and eBay Foundation. Users who participate in eBay's latest eco-friendly initiative are automatically entered to win prizes, which include a custom Tazzari Zero electric car.
And eBay will donate $1 to either Hands On Network, Oxfam America or the Environmental Defense Fund every time someone joins the campaign's community and uploads their photo to its photo wall. Uploading a photo takes just minutes and all you need to do is register with Give. Good. Green. using either your eBay username or Facebook ID. You can even enter a small blurb that pops up when someone hovers their mouse over your image.
"Today, we have a strong portfolio of five powerful programs, each unique in their social mission and purpose but bound by a common trust in the power of every individual to make a difference. It's our hope that the Give. Good. Green. campaign sheds some light on how eBay and our community can promote more sustainable commerce," Chatwani says.
Including your buyers in your environmentally conscious efforts could be good for business
PayPal recycles for cash
eBay's PayPal subsidiary is even offering incentives to reuse goods. PayPal will give you cash for your used electronics that are still in working condition. PayPal accepts desktops, camcorders, digital cameras, cell phones and more. The complete list can be seen here. The way it works is, the company will provide an estimate for your trade-in then you simply ship the item to a specified PayPal warehouse and get paid through PayPal seven days after the item arrives.
Payments will vary according to the condition; items in poor condition might not bring you too much of a return. But a trade-in might still be worthwhile, especially if you don't use the item anymore. You could put the cash you get toward a replacement. Get cash for doing something good for Mother Nature—that doesn't seem like a bad deal at all.
You could even tell buyers about the trade-in program in your eBay listing, eBay notes. This way you'll be including your buyers in your environmentally conscious efforts, and it could be good for business. Don't forget that customers are greener than ever. How many times have you gone to the grocery store with your own grocery bag, or seen others do it?
Donate or sell your old items
According to the Rethink Initiative, more than 75 percent of all computers sold remain unused in people's homes or offices. This is definitely better than throwing unwanted computers into the landfill. But why clutter your space with old electronics if you don't use them?
You could sell these items on eBay, or you could donate them to one of many charities. For example, Goodwill accepts old electronics and either recycles or refurbishes and sells them to raise money for training programs. The Students Recycling Used Technology program gives schools reusable equipment.
Of course, you could also sell your used items and give part of the profits to programs such as Giving Works. Even if you keep all the profits, you'll keep items out of landfills.
Computers and other technology devices contain chemicals, which can seep into the soil, water and air if not disposed of properly. So if you still own that cell phone you had before you upgraded to the latest iPhone or the new Palm Pre, why not put it on eBay? It couldn't hurt. Even if you're new to selling cell phones, eBay's Rethink program will walk you through it.
"By bringing millions of buyers and sellers together, the eBay marketplace enables reuse on a large scale," eBay notes. "Reusing computers and electronics extends their useful life. That maximizes their value before they're finally recycled, and delays their entry into the waste stream while new technologies emerge to recycle more efficiently."