EPA estimated that 14.5 million tons of plastic containers and packaging were generated in 2018 – and worse, it's estimated that only about 5% of the U.S.'s plastic waste is recycled. So we've said it once (OK, many times) and we'll say it again: Plastic packaging sucks.
That's why finding solutions to plastic packaging is a continuous part of our sustainability journey, and why we've committed to removing all plastic-based product packaging by 2026. Our partnership with Vela – allowing us to swap out notoriously pesky (but necessary) plastic polybags for widely recyclable, FSC-certified paper bags – is one huge, very important, step in that journey.
The Responsible Packaging Movement
We'd been on a journey to make our packaging more sustainable for a while, but plastic polybags continued to be a major hurdle for us. That little bag is key to keeping clothes safe from damage during transit, warehousing and shipping – and without them, much of the product would arrive damaged and landfill-bound. Enter the Responsible Packaging Movement, a collaborative working group of likeminded brands and nonprofits working together to push the industry towards more sustainable packaging. We were a founding member of this movement in 2020, and through a series of presentations and collaborative sessions, discovered the Vela bag. We introduced Vela to a small group of retailers in Fall 2021 as a test, and have expanded that number each season. In 2023, 82% of product has been (or will be) shipped in paper.
Swapping Plastic for Paper: Not Without Challenges
When testing out Vela bags, there were a lot of things we had to evaluate – are they durable enough? Are they easily recyclable? (Spoiler: yes and yes) Another big factor was figuring out supply chain feasibility and how to work Vela's production capabilities into our existing supply chain worldwide. When we first started the project, they were only producing bags in China – but now we're also buying bags produced in Europe, Vietnam and India. As Vela's production grows, so can our use of the bags.
Making Big Strides
We're now on track to ship 100% of our product in these paper bags by Spring 2024 (that includes wholesale orders and consumer-facing online orders).
*OK, one caveat here: Some of our vendors who have small quantities of leftover poly bags will be using those to pack a handful of orders to be sent to retailers. We don't want any existing polybags to be wasted... and we do offer a list of ideas for polybag reuse (hint: they make great dog poop bags).
Look for the Vela Icon
While you can expect to receive all orders in the Vela bags next spring, for now you can look for the Polybag Free icon on our product pages (like on these Sunkissed Shorts, for example).
And Go Reusable
We also offer reusable shippers through our partnership with LimeLoop. They're made from durable vinyl from upcycled billboards, and you have the chance to opt in when you shop with us online.
We hope that as we make this big changes in packaging, we can help drive the industry (and world!) to a more sustainable future. Learn more about our sustainable packaging journey here.