Usually you take your new PC out of the cardboard box in which it was shipped. But a company called Recompute is building systems that stay in the cardboard box. That's because they are eschewing the usual plastic and aluminum computer cases and using cardboard as the chassis material.
Looking for a greener alternative to the eco-friendly solutions mainstream PC manufacturers have been touting, Recompute started as a student project that grew into a full-fledged online store. The case is composed of cardboard strips that adhere together with a non-toxic white glue and are then treated with a non-toxic flame retardant. The company claims that cardboard's ignition point is 800 degrees Fahrenheit, so you shouldn't worry about your PC spontaneously combusting, especially since the construction of the case is honeycomb-like to help defuse heat, and the motherboard and power supply are kept in separate chambers to minimize overheating.
Still -- and as you may guess -- these are not going to be mega-powerful systems with multiple graphics cards. Recompute's three pre-built systems all rely on integrated graphics, and the DIY kit option recommends you build with a low-profile graphics card. For $499.95 you can get an AMD Athlon X2 2.2GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 250GB hard drive, and Linux pre-installed; for $300 more, you get Windows 7 Home Premium plus a 2.8GHz dual-core Athlon X2 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive.
At $999.95, the most expensive configuration bumps the hard drive up to 500GB and ups the processor to a 2.8GHz Athlon II quad-core. You can also order without an OS installed, and there are other upgrade options (like an Radeon HD 5450 graphics card) but you can't get an internal optical drive. You can also get the DIY kit for $199.99, with you supplying most of the parts, including the motherboard (microATX form factor), 2.5-inch hard drive, and CPU with factory cooling.
Engadget has had a chance to test out a Recompute unit, and testifies that it does boot, though it did find a couple of flaws with the build. Most notably, the adhesive sounded like it was loosening from the power supply when the plug was inserted into it. That may be the price you pay for saving for the environment, but props to Recompute for trying something radically different. However, I'm not sure the world's ready for a cardboard monitor stand, mouse and keyboard just yet.