's green idea is brown

Easy-to-open cardboard boxes to replace multiple boxes and clear plastic nightmares for toys and electronics.

Classic brown cardboard will replace elaborate plastic packaging for some items.

Sometimes the greenest technology improvement is going back to the old low-tech option. announced Monday it's working with retailers to cut back on the packaging you'll need to open to get to your goods.

The Seattle-based company plans to start shipping items in plain brown cardboard boxes, instead of putting a pre-boxed or plastically sealed item inside another Amazon box. The cardboard box will have Amazon, and in some cases the retailer's name, on the front.

Memory cards, for example, are often sold in disproportionately large clear plastic packaging to prevent shoplifting at physical stores. Transcend's memory cards when bought via Amazon will be shipped in a recycled cardboard envelope. Children's toys, such as a Fisher-Price pirate ship set, will be shipped in a plain brown box with cardboard padding and a plastic bag holding the toy people and whatnot.

So, in addition to being less annoying to open, the new packaging will also be more environmentally friendly, according to Amazon.

Amusingly, Amazon refers to the change as its "Frustration-Free Packaging Initiative." (How many companies acknowledge that they may have been frustrating you in the past?)

Consumers can plan to see the change immediately in the U.S., while international shoppers will have to stick it out with the "frustrating packaging" until early 2009.

But not everything you order will be easy to open. Amazon is starting with only 19 products from Microsoft, Fisher-Price, Mattel, and Transcend.

No doubt, the packaging change is also a way for the companies involved to save on materials and shipping costs.

Fisher-Price's Imaginext Adventures Pirate Ship will come like this. is getting rid of its box-inside-a-box shipping method for some items.
Tech Culture
About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet,, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.


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