About

Peter is an attorney by day. After law school he worked at a law firm representing large clients in the cable, telecom and energy industries and left to work for the federal government doing policy work. He started Elf Boxes with his dad. He’s worked in construction all his life, but is getting too old to keep doing it, and is not the type of person who can sit around the house and retire. He does custom cabinets now, so he has a warehouse, some reliable assistants, and a truck, and Peter thought this could be a good fit for him and an opportunity for the pair to work together in a family business (Peter and his brother didn’t follow him into the construction business). Peter’s dad does the deliveries and pickups in Florida and Peter handles the website and the marketing. Peter’s girlfriend, who is in internet marketing, helped him out a lot with the marketing and website. He enjoys working on the website and editing the videos. Elf Boxes hasn’t done any paid advertising yet, and has been growing the business slowly by word of mouth, which gives the company a chance to learn and improve the business as it goes. Peter was really impressed with something Tony Hsieh of Zappos said about using the money you would spend on advertising to improve the experience you can give your customer instead, and that would create a much better business. How did you first get involved in the green industry? This is my first involvement in the green industry. I have always loved nature and the outdoors and been environmentally friendly. My girlfriend works at an environmental non-profit and we had discussed starting a green business but all the pieces didn’t fall into place until we were looking for something my dad could do outside of the construction industry. He loved the idea because he grew up in the countryside in his native Paraguay and has always been into things like making furniture from reclaimed wood, before it was popular. He’s moved many times and hates cardboard so he loved the idea from the start and the feedback we get about the service really keeps us both going. What interests you most about being green? It’s a chance to move away from the damaging effects of consumerism that we’ve ignored for decades. Consumers have been mass-marketed things they didn’t want or need and it created a society full of disposable polluting items in the stream of commerce that was unsustainable. People are starting to vote with their wallets and companies are adjusting their practices to this new reality. What is your biggest “green” pet peeve? Wasteful energy consumption. I saw a report that an enormously disproportionate amount of power consumption in a home is from the cable box. I mean, these cable boxes are sucking up more energy than your refrigerator — and you don’t even use them most of the time. Customers don’t have a choice to select a different cable box. These small invisible things add up to a lot of energy wasted and pollution created. What green trend is most exciting to you or your industry? The disruptive innovation. Outsiders are making huge changes to an industry that hasn’t innovated in a hundred years. Companies like ours have introduced reusable moving boxes, others have outfitted their trucks to run on biodiesel, there are soy packing peanuts instead of Styrofoam, and wrapping paper made from sustainable sources. I even saw a moving service in Portland that moves people’s stuff with bicycles. People are experimenting in ways to make moving greener. Some ideas work, and others don’t but we’re making progress.

Episodes