Polybags Suck

Polybags suck. Something we can all agree on, right?

We hate plastic as much as you do. But the prevalence of the notorious polybag is a reality we face in the clothing industry. That little bag your clothes showed up in is key to keeping them safe from damage during transit, warehousing, and shipping. Without them, much of the product would arrive damaged and then comes the big, bad L word (aka it ends up in a landfill).

We are always working to make the best decisions for the environment and for our customers, and – real talk – the polybag that each garment is wrapped in is currently our biggest challenge.

Here’s what we’re doing to address it.

  • •Since the beginning, we’ve made our polybags from recycled plastic.
  • •A few years ago, we audited our bags to reduce the amount of plastic used. We made the bags as thin as we possibly could and reduced the overall average size.
  • •We removed the individual polybags completely from all shipments of samples sent to HQ – and are working with other key partners to ship their products without polybags.
  • •We’re currently in the middle of another audit that will lead to less, and even smaller, polybags in future seasons.
  • •We’re constantly thinking creatively about how to get a second or third life from the bags. We moved the little ventilation holes up to the top of the bag so that it can be reused as a doggy pick-up bag or for your dirty clothes on a weekend getaway (keep reading for more on that).

 

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But what about alternatives?

The short answer: The current alternative options just don’t match up to our sustainability requirements. And there isn’t enough research yet to prove that alternative options are actually better.

Here’s the long answer: Believe it or not, alternative materials (like compostable plastic) are often not as awesome as they sound. Most compostable plastics (this goes for cups and silverware too) can only be composted in industrial compost facilities, which are rare in the U.S. And even if they make it as far as an industrial composter, they take much longer to break down than the true organic waste. What does this mean?

  • •This can end up causing issues like slowing down the turnover of the facility by causing employees to pull out the compostable plastics to put them back in with the next load of organic waste. Sometimes this takes 5-6 cycles before the plastic is fully broken down!
  • •Often the compostable plastics are thrown into the recycle stream where they can ruin processing machines, so in most places the presence of compostable plastics often cause the whole batch of recycling to be sent to the landfill.
  • •Even when the compostable plastics do fully break down, their presence can degrade the rest of the compost in the batch because they break down into a sticky, resin-y mess. This creates poor compost that’s not rich or nutritious for plants (like compost from truly organic materials is).

 

We promise to keep an eye on alternatives and are constantly evaluating how they stack up to what we’re currently doing. And while we’re always working to REDUCE the amount of plastic, here are some ideas for how you can REUSE the bags in the meantime.

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  • 1) Dog poop bag. Done and done.
  • 2) Store your phone, wallet, and keys when hiking in the rain. Keep bags on hand to cover your muddy shoes before you get back into your car.
  • 3) A simple starter pot for plants: Fold down the bag until it’s as tall as you want the soil to be, poke a few holes in the bottom, fill with soil, and plant your seeds.
  • 4) Scoop cat litter with leftover bags or use one to line the litter box.
  • 5) Hang a cedar closet bag (fill a bag with cedar chips, tie it closed, then poke several small holes in the bottom with a safety pin) to repel moths. Or fill the bag with flower petals, crushed fragrant leaves, and a couple of drops of aromatic oil for an easy DIY sachet to freshen up musty drawers.
  • 6) Fill a bag with distilled white vinegar (a couple of inches below the vent holes), then tie it around your showerhead to remove soap scum and mildew.
  • 7) Cover fragile plants with plastic bags if you detect frost on the way. Same goes for outdoor padlocks in the winter to keep them from freezing.
  • 8) Replace bubble wrap with plastic bags when mailing packages. You can use the same trick when packing away breakable holiday decorations.
  • 9) Use the plastic to stuff winter boots or bags you don’t use in the summer to help them keep their shape.
  • 10) Put plastic bags under furniture you’re painting. They also work great for protecting tables and counters when kiddos are doing craft projects.

 

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And of course, we’re always looking for other ways to cut back on waste, like by making clothes from recycled plastic and offering reusable shippers. Because just like you, every step we take counts!

 

How to Have a Sustainable 4th of July

 

We may be assuming, but we’re pretty sure that had our forefather’s predicted climate change, sustainability would be up there with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Treat the land of the free with respect this Independence Day by opting for these sustainable practices. Help to keep our communities cleaner and more conscious, from sea to shining sea.

Even George Washington Composted

That’s right, even ‘ol George was composting and using the soil for his crops at Mount Vernon. So do as George did and make sure you’re composting all those corn cobs and potato peelings. Better yet, take the holiday to build a compost bin in your own backyard. Composting your food scraps and yard waste can help divert material from your local landfill and provide good quality soil for your garden or potted plants. If you can’t commit to a whole bin, gather your scraps in a paper bag and find your local compost. It’s one of the best ways to minimize your waste every day (just ask George).

Use Reusable Water Bottles, Cups, Cutlery and Plates 

You know all those red solo cups and single-use plates you see at BBQ’s across the country? Those are really, really bad for the environment. It takes about 500 years for each piece of plastic to break down in a landfill, and even longer if it ends up in the ocean. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Not worth it. Use reusables every time you can. And if you can’t, there’s lots of great “green-ware” disposables that are made from organic matter and can easily be composted. You can find them online or in most grocery chains.

Say No To Straws! 

This technically falls under the category of “don’t use one-time-use plastics”, but we wanted to highlight the issues with that little inconspicuous straw in your cocktail… it’s not so little when there are 500 million straws being used in the US EVERY DAY. That’s enough to fill 127 40-ft long school buses each day. Yikes. Go sans straw (the best option) or opt for glass, metal or compostable straws.

Kiss a Farmer (or just find a Farmer’s Market) 

America was built on the shoulders of small-scale farmers. From back-country beet farmers to urban bee keepers, communities across America still have local farmers who work every day to feed you. Hit up your local farmer’s market and literally taste America. In-season veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers are great in big salads, and summer fruits like peaches and watermelons are bursting with flavor. Support local and support good farming practices. Now that’s patriotic.

 

Sustainable Seafood or Bust 

Grilled lobsters, clam chowder, shrimp cocktails, trout over an open flame – all excellent 4th of July fare, just make sure it’s sustainably sourced. The two most important things to consider when purchasing seafood are when and how it was caught. Look for the blue and white MSC Certified icon on packages and menus; that indicates seafood that’s been responsibly caught by a certified fishery. Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide App to find what’s sustainable where you live or travel. Try to avoid imported shrimp and don’t be fooled by the word “fresh” – never buy if you can’t find where and when the fish was caught.

Ditch Your Car 

With more than 253 million cars on US roadways, it makes sense why we’re the auto capitol of the world. But remember, the first explorers traversed the entire country long before our beloved automobile was invented. Let’s kick it real old school and hit the pavement by foot, bike, rollerblade (seriously, when was the last time you did that?) or public transit. If you have to drive,  be sure to carpool and avoid sitting in traffic (exhaust from idling cars isn’t great for your health nor the planet’s). Enjoy the benefits of being outside and have a great 4th of July!