Product Shipping – Environmental Considerations & Customer Satisfaction ships everything through the US Postal Service.  Both UPS and Fedex have better tracking information and more integrated web-based solutions which would make switching to one of those carriers faster and more efficient for our office staff.  Unfortunately, there are 3 big downfalls to both of those options. 

First, both UPS and Fedex are more expensive than the US Postal Service when shipping small items to individuals.  If you’re shipping large freight and/or mostly to business addresses, that is not true.  But for us, the good old USPS is cheaper for more than 95% of our everyday shipping needs – including overnight.

Second, while this may seem odd, USPS is actually faster for standard shipping than either of the other carriers. Priority Mail is a standard mailing option that generally takes 2-3 business days to anywhere in the country.  Faster, cheaper shipping generally makes happier customers, so those are both good points for us.  And despite the jokes often heard about their reputation, we’ve not had a single package “lost in the mail” within the US since we’ve been in business.

Finally, although UPS and Fedex have been “greening” their trucks and delivery methods, the fact is that the US Postal Service visits almost every household in America every day anyway.  I live in a community with 89 homes.  USPS delivers to at least 80 of them every business day, whereas I’ve often seen the UPS and Fedex trucks come into the community to deliver a single package.  I have to believe that a lot more fuel is being wasted on “special trips” to single homes here and there rather than just adding a package to a destination that is already being covered.  (Though in truth, I have no data to back this up – but it seems sensible to me.)

This year we’re trying to ship more items in the cardboard envelops rather than the Tyvek bags whenever possible.  Besides the flat rate cardboard being slightly less expensive to ship, it is easier to reuse and recycle.  We are happy to point out that all of the USPS shipping supplies have achieved the environmental cradle-to-cradle certification for sustainability and health concerns.

Also, don’t worry if your package comes with some packing materials or even bubble wrap.  All of our packing materials (except the recycled tissue paper we wrap undergarments in) are reused from shipments we get in.  We like wrapping purses with metal zippers as well as jewelry in bubble wrap.  Even though we don’t use very much, early on we found we wanted more bubble wrap than we were getting.  Then a local tech company moved their offices and I got a great idea.  After the move we asked them what they were going to do with their packing supplies.  They were reusing boxes, which is good, but they were going to toss out the mounds of bubble wrap and packing materials they had purchased just for the move.  Viola!  We scored enough bubble wrap to last us for years to come and diverted it from becoming a big landfill mess.  We also bring all packing peanuts we get in to a local mailing center for reuse.  We hope you reuse the packing materials you get from us as well.  Most of these things can be reused again and again.
We’re happy to hear suggestions on packing and shipping.  One person suggested we try Freecycle to get reused packing supplies.  We’ve posted want ads, but thus far haven’t had any response.  We’re always looking for new ideas to minimize waste though; so keep the suggestions coming. 

Happy New Year everyone!

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Product Packaging – A Response to Your Comments

One commenter in the last post mentioned that they were uncomfortable purchasing items that are individually wrapped in plastic.  We agree, the plastic wrap has got to go.  So here’s a list of companies that are doing their part in getting rid of the wrap.

Companies that send items unwrapped in bulk

  • bgreen – our most eco company in terms of packing and shipping.  They do all their manufacturing in Los Angeles about 8 miles from our warehouse.  Most of the time we don’t even have their items shipped; we schedule a time when someone’s already out and about and have the products picked up directly.  So there’s virtually no transportation cost from them to us and everything is unwrapped.  Their smaller items, like panties, don’t even have hang tags.
  • Perfectly Imperfect Tees (PI Organics) – another Southern California based company that ships all their products without bags.  Sure, their dresses wind up a bit wrinkled from them to us to you, but what’s a little steamer or touch of ironing between friends?  Their lingerie also comes without hang tags.
  • SOS From Texas – from seed to shirt this company works completely in the USA, and ships all their products bag-free in bulk
  • Jim Morris T-Shirts – their environmental-themed screen printed tees always come in bulk without hang tags or bags. They source the tees from a variety of places from the USA to India, so there are some transportation costs, and they use conventional screen printing methods.  But the lack of packaging and a commitment to charitable giving make this small company a good choice.
  • Pants to Poverty – this UK-based poverty-fighting powerhouse company has traditionally sent their panties in bulk with no tags. Their most recent line of Angel Wing and Angel Print panties came in adorable recycled cotton gift boxes for the holidays. While we love the look of the boxes, they’re environmentally impractical.  We’ve talked to them and they assure us they’ll be going back to bulk shipped items in the new year.

Companies improving packaging options

  • Goddess Gear – this small, woman-owned business does all their manufacturing in Colorado and ships whole size runs in a single bag.  So all smalls for example will come in one plastic bag. Generally that will mean 2 -5 items per bag instead of individually wrapped.
  • DreamSacks – in 2009 DreamSacks switched from plastic bags to biodegradable corn-based bags. While we don’t believe corn is the answer to every environmental woe, this is a great use of corn-based plastic substitutes. At this time, about 1/2 our products from them are still in plastic bags as we sell off the remainder.  However, all of our restocks are coming in the new packaging.
  • Earth Creations – this USA manufacturer has just announced that starting in 2010 they will also be doing a complete switch to corn-based bags. All of their current products are still in plastic, but we’re excited that they’re making the switch.

We take bulk-shipped items and wrap them in a single piece of 100% post-consumer recycled tissue paper before we ship them.  All bulk items go in one tissue together.  This keeps them clean and hygienic for shipping.  But if you really don’t want even that much packaging, just let us know in the comments section of your order and we’ll let all your items roam free in their shipping envelops. 🙂

On a side note, our commenter mentioned that it might be better to just buy from a local, non-organic store to avoid the packaging. I have personally seen items shipped from China in individual plastic bags get taken out of their bags and hung on hangers (from the days of college side jobs). Just because you see something on a hangar doesn’t mean it didn’t come in a plastic bag.

I’ll address shipping options (boxes versus tyvek versus reused/recycled bags) in the next post.

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It’s that time again… Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping

I had planned on doing a post about eco-wrapping later this holiday season.  Today I was going to write a bit about the first ever Eco-Model, Rachel Avalon, who won the Project Green Search eco-model competition.  I had the chance to meet Rachel very briefly last week at the first ever Green Bloggers Convention.  (On a side note, it’s thrilling to see all these new environmentally-focused events popping up.  More and more people are taking action to dance lightly on our planet.)

To my surprise, while I was looking for an introduction on Rachel, I found this fantastic little video that she produced on… you guessed it… eco-friendly gift wrapping.  So here’s Rachel introducing herself better than I ever could with some awesome green holiday tips.

In addition to all of Rachel’s great ideas, one of my personal favorites is wrapping gifts with the Sunday comics section.  If you happen to have any old maps lying around, they also make great wrapping paper. 
Reusable gift bags are good in a pinch as well.  Although many of them are made from virgin materials, well made ones can be used again and again.  I’ve had some holiday gift bags pass back and forth between family members for years.  Just fold them after use and store them for next year.
We offer a selection of tree-free gift bags made from a mix of kenaf, hemp, sugar cane, flax and recycled materials that will last through many gift exchanges.

If your child is asked to sell gift wrap through a school or event fundraiser, be sure to mention to the coordinator that you’d like to see recycled gift wrap on offer next year.  Many of the fundraising companies don’t receive a lot of requests or feedback, so letting them know what you would purchase can really make a difference.  If you have a chance to write or e-mail the company directly, take it.

As a final thought, if you’re purchasing any holiday gifts from, you can always have us gift wrap them for you using 100% recycled apparel boxes (65% post-consumer) with 100% post-consumer recycled tissue paper and 100% post-industrial recycled kraft gift wrap finished with natural raffia ribbon.  New for this holiday, we just got in this festive tree motif recycled kraft wrapping paper design.

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