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!

 

20 Reusable Everyday Items

Helping save the planet may sound like a superhero-sized task, but everyone can do their part to keep the Mothership clean. Our New Year’s resolutions reminded us to “reduce, reuse, recycle” with an extra emphasis on REDUCE and REUSE. Recycling is great but there are some untold complications (like high energy use and lack of recycling centers). The best solution is reducing what you use in the first place and reusing the things that you already have. Here are 20 reusable items – superhero powers not required.

    1. 1. Beer bottles: Repurpose old beer bottles as funky new string lights. Or, use an old bottle as a soap dispenser.
    2. 2. Wine corks: Fill an old jar (reusable items x2!) with old wine corks and 90% rubbing alcohol; let the corks soak for a week. What you’ll get is flammable corks for an easy, non-toxic fire starter. (Just make sure to use all-natural corks; no one wants to breathe in synthetic fumes.)
    3. 3. Tea bags: There are an endless amount of opportunities for reusing tea bag herbs: in homemade soaps or air fresheners, to feed your garden, de-grease dirty dishes, shine glass, renew wood furniture, and to treat burns, rashes, and infections. You can use old tea bags to add flavor to food (like jasmine tea to rice or cinnamon tea to oatmeal), and spruce up a bourbon or vodka cocktail with a little herbal somethin-somethin.
    4. 4. An old toolbox: This is possibly our favorite camping hack. Fill an old tool box with spices, pantry staples, utensils, mini bottles of booze, whatever you want in your camp kitchen kit.S19_Day_2_32_Group_Yurt_0138
    5. 5. Used coffee filters: Just to be clear, you CAN reuse coffee filters for more than one brew if you dump the grinds out. You can also rub dark shoes with used filters to make them shine again. To dispose, compost or stick them in your garden, grounds and all.
    6. 6. Coffee cans: Embrace the Kondo Method and use old coffee cans to collect all that random junk that’s accumulating. Already de-cluttered? Make indoor or outdoor planters from old cans. Or, a rusty colander comes ready-made with holes and needs barely any work to become the perfect planter.
  1. 7. Beer/Soda can tabs: Use a can tab to hook two hangers together, creating double the storage for hanging clothes. Small closets rejoice!
  2. 8. Old condiment bottles: Fill one old condiment bottle with pancake batter and one with eggs (un-shelled, obviously) for a quick camp breakfast. Best enjoyed outside with a side of bacon.
  3. 9. Egg cartons: It’s like they were designed specifically for growing seedlings. Plant a few seeds in each cup until they sprout into seedlings, then replant. (Bonus hack: let a few of your best plants go to seed and save the seeds for the following season.) If you don’t have a green thumb, reuse egg cartons as packing materials or donate them to local farmers.
  4. 10. Food scraps: There are zillions of ways to prevent food waste (we’re fans of Save The Food for endless ideas), but here are some Toad faves: season potato peelings and sauté for a crunchy and addictive snack; mix and match leftover veggies to make savory scones; and use strawberry tops for a refreshing Rosé Granita cocktail. Citrus peels infused with white vinegar make a nontoxic, smells-so-fresh, cleaning solution.
  5. 11. Jars: The poster child for reusable items. Reuse jars for leftovers, homemade sauces (see #10 for ideas), bulk dried goods, and pre-fab lunches. Pro tip: When freezing liquids, don’t seal the jar until contents are completely frozen or the jar will break.
  6. 12. Gallon jugs: Forget the bags of ice, fill an old gallon jug with water and freeze. That giant “ice pack” will keep your camp cooler just as cold. Bonus: You can use the water for drinking, cooking, or washing when it melts.
  7. 13. Prescription bottles: The perfect size for a mini first aid kit. Be a hero when you have band-aids, Neosporin, ibuprofen, and allergy meds on hand.
  8. 14. Empty laundry detergent dispenser: Fill with water, flip upside down, and you’ve got a camp hand and dish-washing station. Bungee your paper towel roll to the top for even more glamp-tastic efficiency.
  9. 15. Fabric scraps:  Like food, there’s a lot you can do with old fabric scraps. Here at Toad, we recycle them into new clothes. For minimal effort: use fabric scraps to wrap gifts. For more DIY, here are 100 fun projects.wrapping header
  10. 16. Bathroom items: When looking for things that can be reused, your bathroom is a great place to start. Old toothbrushes make great scrubbers for grout and hard to reach places. Empty toothpaste tubes can be repurposed as frosting tubes (cut the end off and clean them well!). Fill empty deodorant bottles with your own DIY deodorant. And when you finish a bottle of product, opt for a place like The Refill Shoppe that will fill up old containers with new shampoo/conditioner/etc.
  11. 17. Cereal liner bags: Lots of ways to keep these pesky little bags out of the trash. Make a piping bag for frosting, use the bag to store leftovers, or use the bag to crush crackers, nuts, cereal and more without making a huge mess.
  12. 18. Vintage camera: Turn a camera into a cool lamp. You’ll need an old camera, a few small tools, and a couple of free hours.
  13. 19. Sunglasses cases: Not just for glasses. Storage for reusable utensils, makeup, and anything else that you don’t want getting lost in the fray.
  14. 20. Old skis: The great and powerful shotski. As far as we’re concerned, a group shot-taking tool is the only use. Instructions for building one here.

Do you have more tips for reusing and up-cycling? Let us know, we’re suckers for living sustainably.

Ending Apparel Waste with The Renewal Workshop

 

Like it or not, we all have to wear clothes. As an apparel company, we’re committed to making clothing as responsibly as possible – from the beginning to end. That’s why we’ve partnered with The Renewal Workshop to keep Toad&Co clothing out of the landfill and in the market as long as possible.

They say, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” and the Renewal Workshop has taken that adage and applied it to business. In warehouses across the country, apparel is piling up because it’s been returned, slightly damaged, or over-produced. Most unused clothing eventually ends up in a landfill, contributing to the 14 million tons of apparel and textiles that get tossed each year. But like we said, The Renewal Workshop is working to turn that trash into treasure.

In a state-of-the-art facility in upstate Oregon, the folks at the Workshop are taking our slightly damaged, excess and returned clothing and turning it into wonderful, fabulous, and renewed clothing. Here’s how it works: We send them Toad&Co clothing that, for whatever reason, we can’t resell. The clothes get sorted into two camps: clothing that can be renewed or clothing that can be upcycled into new fabrics. It’s cleaned in a zero-waste Tersus washing machine that uses CO2 to get deep into the fibers of the garment. There’s no water wasted, all byproducts are captured and reused and it will never, ever shrink your sweaters.

The rips and tears are fixed, buttons are sewn back on and broken zippers are replaced. The renewed clothing is co-branded, packaged with recycled paper, and made ready for resale on the Renewal Workshop website. Good as new, but far better for the planet. Treasure, indeed.

To find renewed Toad&Co clothing, visit RenewalWorkshop.com and search for Toad&Co products by gender. When you buy renewed clothing, you can trust that you’ve done something great for the planet and the apparel industry. Extending the life of a garment means less water, less carbon and less waste in a landfill. Together we can change the apparel industry from a linear one to a circular one. Together, we are a force.