Dear fashionista: How do I determine the most environmentally friendly packaging in retail and transportation? I run a small clothing brand and try to do the right thing on this planet.
We all know that although packaging can protect clothes and put on new costumes for Christmas, the Christmas morning atmosphere is different, but packaging is terrible for the earth. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in the United States, 380 billion plastic bags and wrapping paper are consumed every year. It is rarely recycled. It’s not much better to cut down a tree to make a disposable box, or use tape, stickers, and glue to make our great-grandchildren unable to survive.
Fortunately, in conversations with multiple brands and packaging experts, it became clear that “sustainable” packaging is becoming easier to find and find, common sense methods and popularizations that can be used by companies of all sizes. The innovation of propaganda is just as effective, and sometimes even more effective. . Everyone has an entry point.
Minimize packaging, but not too much
For brands, it is easy to design the packaging succinctly into well-designed elements, and experts believe that this is the best starting point.
If the brand has the budget to redesign the packaging, Jagtap said that the next step is to reduce the weight and size of the overall packaging (called “lightweight”) and move towards a multi-purpose packaging with multiple uses. .
He suggested: “See if you can design retail packaging that can be used as transport packaging.” More and more sustainability-focused footwear companies, such as Allbirds and Rothy’s, have designed a package for transportation and Retail boxes to avoid problems inside the box.
Finally, keep the packaging neat and beautiful, but avoid increasing the damage rate, because the damage rate is the percentage of the product that is broken or torn during transportation.
Apply “Life Cycle Thinking”
The next step is to determine which material to use in the packaging. Do you choose corrugated boxes from sustainably managed forests or bio-based plastic bags that can be composted in your backyard? There are many options, and none of them are perfect. But experts insist that you don’t need a PhD in materials science to make your packaging green. You just need to be prepared for the trade-offs.
Recently, after comparing the two, online thrift store Thredup sent their kraft paper mail back to recyclable plastic bags for small batch orders.
Each packaging material has its shortcomings and advantages. Use company values to guide difficult decisions. Is reducing overall carbon emissions your goal? Have all single-use plastics been eliminated? Is it ensured that every aspect of the packaging is recycled?
For example, the organic cotton underwear line Knickey strives to reduce the use of plastic as much as possible. Its paper packaging embodies this spirit.
“Our boxes are made of recycled materials, printed with low-impact inks, and sealed with paper tape [or] biodegradable adhesive certified by the Forest Stewardship Council,” CEO and founder Cayla O’Connell Davis passed The email wrote.
The most important thing is “life cycle thinking”, which means thinking about how to reduce the impact of manufacturing packaging materials and designing packages that are renewable, reusable or widely recyclable in roadside plans.
This can include rethinking components, such as hang tags, shoe inserts, and any brand information or return instructions that accompany the packaging, to include a single material of recycled paper, in addition to eliminating small disposable plastic components (such as attaching hang tags to clothing) On the plastic)), cannot be recycled. The next step is to evaluate inks, adhesives, tapes and stickers to ensure that they are easy to recycle or do not hinder recycling.
The solution to the plasticity problem was found accidentally
Even if the customer has never seen it, almost all garments are shipped out of the factory in thin and soft “polyethylene bags”, which are called low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or plastic #4, with the notorious family It belongs to the same family of plastic grocery bags. According to the data of Fashion for Good, a promoter of sustainable fashion, 180 billion plastic bags are produced for apparel products every year, of which less than 15% are recycled. Poly bags are one of the biggest obstacles to sustainable packaging in the fashion industry. The idea of finding alternatives is fascinating.
Compostable plastic bags have also caused trouble to American cities. Anderson, a representative of the New York Department of Health, said that industrial composting is not common, and bags are often packed in landfills or recycling bins, where they can pollute the plastic recycling stream. The two brands we talked to are moving away from compostable bags. Similarly, degradable plastics designed for oxidation will decompose when exposed to oxygen, water or air, but will not decompose as stated in the advertisement. The European Union is considering banning them.
Most small sustainable brands think that the growth of these sustainable packaging is painful, and they are committed to continuing to try to replace traditional plastics.
Kathleen Talbot, Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President of Operations of the Reform Department, said: “In the end, we are not satisfied. We don’t want to use plastic.” The company is currently transitioning from compostable mail to recyclable mail. mail. “Many brands will say similar things, especially for those in the clothing industry who are a bit constrained by clothing bags.”
Innovations in degradable plastics and bio-based plastics are also evolving. Reformation’s new plastic bags are made of added polymers, which can also be decomposed if they end up in the trash (also known as “decomposing plastic”).
Talbot said: “If it is transported to a landfill, it will have decomposing polymers, and its behavior is very similar to compostable bags.”
They may have found the answer to the plastic bag problem. Last month, the brand started to switch to paper glass bags, which can be recycled and biodegraded. Like plastic bags, glass bags are transparent, which is very important for brand transportation and organization of goods.
Reusability is the trend of the future
The next potential frontier is packaging, which can be reused dozens of times or more and can be collected and shipped by retailers.
Exciting example: Returnity in the United States has created zippered cloth bags and containers that can be labeled with return mailings. Other examples include Repack, which uses a plastic-based reusable bag that can be folded to the size of a letter and shipped back to the retailer. And Toad & CO started using the reusable packaging Limeloop, a California-based startup, in 2018.
Davis said: “If the customer is traveling, she can put the swimsuit in or put it in the lotion.”
It is worth remembering that if consumers throw away these reusable items anyway, the increased weight and durability may have a greater environmental impact.
Convey your packaging journey
Sustainable packaging is complex, and shoppers have strong opinions about it. It helps communicate packaging decisions to customers and explains how sustainability drives this transformation.
It is also important to educate consumers on how to properly recycle packaging. Brands should give clear and clear instructions on how to recycle paper and plastic mail.
It is also a good idea to recheck the packaging regularly, as the space is evolving rapidly. According to a survey by Crunchbase, a website that tracks venture capital, the top 20 sustainable packaging startups have raised a record $850 million in the past three years, which means more innovation is coming. Moreover, just because a certain solution does not exist today does not mean that it will not appear in the near future.
Reformation’s Talbot said: “You want to remain idealistic, and you want to keep pursuing better things and truly change the future of packaging.”