Eco-Friendly Back to School Bags

Day 223 – A couple days ago I wrote about sustainable options for school supplies. Well, now you need something to hold all that stuff. As mentioned on Monday, the most eco-friendly thing you can do when it comes to back to school supplies is to reuse items from the previous year. School bags are one of the easiest things to use year after year. There’s no doubt bags may not last a second or third year and it may be difficult to convince the middle schooler that the unicorn backpack is still cool, but making the effort to try to reuse or find someone else that can, is helpful.

If you are in need of new bag, I put together a few eco-friendly options. Rareform – They use recycled billboard vinyl and turn it into unique, durable bags. Over the past seven years they have repurposed 3 million pounds of vinyl that was destined for landfills. Rareform’s Blake Tote made it under our Christmas tree last year. They are well made, easy to clean and weather resistant. No two bags are the same.

Ecogear – Their bags are made from Repreve. Repreve is recycled fiber created from plastic bottles.

thredUP – They don’t just offers secondhand clothing, but also offer bags and backpacks. They have some of the world’s largest and high-quality brands for up to 90 percent off.

Beekeeper Parade – These backpacks are on the high end of pricing. However, if you are looking for a one of kind bag, you will find it here. The bags are made using discarded textiles and fabric remnants from local factories that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Every purchase helps children in rural Cambodia access quality education.

Jansport – This brand has always been my go to for backpacks. Jansport has started to use recycled plastic in their bags. They also offer a Lifetime Warranty on their backpacks.

As more and more companies are offering products that can either be reused, made with recycled materials or created using earth friendly materials, we need to make an effort to find and support these companies.

Tomorrow, saving the elephants.

IGLOO’s Coolers are Going Green

Day 205 – Many of us have an IGLOO cooler. It may be very large or it could be very small. They come in all sizes and colors. Now they’re even environmentally friendly. IGLOO has created the first hardside cooler made from recycled plastic. The ECOCOOL collection is the first of its kind to be made with recycled resin. The resin is made from post-consumer plastic. They are taking discarded plastic yogurt cups and milk jugs that would otherwise end up in landfills throughout the world and transforming it into a recycled resin used in the outside body, liner and/or lid of each ECOCOOL cooler, all made at their facility in the USA.

IGLOO has also partnered up with the Parks Project. A special edition collection of ECOCOOL™ Playmates is now available with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the National Parks Conservation Association.

IGLOO also offers the Packable Puffer cooler bags, which is made with recycled plastic bottles from the inside out: PrimaLoft® insulation and REPREVE® exterior. With a fully scrunchable, compressible construction, this cooler folds into its own front pocket for ultimate packability. All this and the Packable Puffer still provides 12 hours of ice retention.

Lastly, IGLOO has created the world’s first 100% biodegradable cooler. It’s biodegradable, compostable and recyclable, RECOOL helps eliminate the need for those harmful, single-use polystyrene foam coolers that had once been so commonplace. Since they released RECOOL in 2019, it’s gone on to receive eight innovation awards, and have sold 575,000 and counting. Less polystyrene foam in the world is a good thing.

IGLOO not only wants to keep your food and drinks cold, but they are doing their part to help keep the planet cool.

Tomorrow, an important message from the U.S. Coast Guard.

REPREVE: Recycling over 26 billion plastic bottles and counting

Day 198 – I first mentioned REPREVE back on Day 24, when I wrote about purchasing a new couch from Love Sac. The upholstery fabric is made from 100% REPREVE certified recycled yarns.

Unifi makes REPREVE and this is how they do it:

  1. Source Recycled Waste: Recycled plastic bottles and post-industrial waste (including our own) are collected worldwide.
  2. Make the Chip: Waste material is chopped, ground, washed, melted and reformulated into high-quality REPREVE chip.
  3. Form the Fiber: Chip is melted into liquid polymer and extruded through tiny openings in a spinneret, creating continuous filaments that form REPREVE fiber.
  4. Process the Yarn: Fiber becomes yarn through spinning and air-jet texturing.
  5. Ship to Customers: Finished yarn goes into fabricsmaking everyday products more sustainable.

Unifi created U TRUST® verification to certify the recycled content in products made with REPREVE. With their unique FiberPrint® tracer technology, they can test partner products at any point in the supply chain to verify that REPREVE is being used properly. They’re not just finding new life for recycled materials. Compared to making what’s called virgin fiber, making REPREVE offsets using new petroleum, emitting fewer greenhouse gases and conserving water and energy in the process.

Some of the brands you know and love use REPREVE to make products you use every day. If you see this bottle count badge when you shop, your purchase makes a difference. Look for it!

Many familiar brands are using REPREVE; Gap, The North Face, Under Armour, Aeropostale and Levi Strauss & Co., to name just a few. You can find a list of brands using REPREVE in their products, HERE.

Billions of plastic bottles go into landfills every year. Thankfully, companies like Unifi has come up with a solution to divert a great deal of plastic from landfills and waterways. However, it doesn’t stop there. We need to do our part to limit, if not, stop all together, the use of single-use plastic. REPREVE is not the answer to the plastic pollution problem, it is just a piece to the puzzle.

Tomorrow, plastic free makeup.

Clothing Made from Recycled Plastic

Day 193 – On Day 150, I posted about shoes made from recycled and sustainable material. On Day 181, I wrote about sustainable options for swimwear. Today, I’ll be writing about other types of everyday clothing, shirts, pants, shorts and everything in between.

Here is a list of just a few of the companies creating clothes from recycled plastic.

Last Bottle Clothing is a sustainable apparel company with products made from 100-percent recycled plastic bottles. More importantly, each piece of apparel is also 100-percent “recyclable,” meaning the company closes the loop at the end of the product’s life by taking it back and recycling it yet again. Every piece of Last Bottle Clothing apparel removes an average of 13 plastic bottles from the environment. Next time you are looking to have t-shirts made for an event, be sure to check out Last Bottle Clothing.

Patagonia has been making recycled polyester from post-consumer soda bottles since 1993 making it the first company to turn trash into fleece. Now the company makes its recycled polyester fibers from a blend of soda bottles, manufacturing waste, and worn-out apparel. Recycled polyester is in a wide range of Patagonia’s products from t-shirts to cold weather gear.

Girlfriend Collective uses a variety of recycled material to make their activewear. The compressive leggings and bras are made from 79% recycled polyester (or RPET) and 21% spandex. their leggings are made from 25 recycled post-consumer bottles and our bras are made from 11. The LITE leggings are made from recycled fishing nets and other waste using ECONYL® yarn. LITE fabric is made up of 83% recycled nylon and 17% spandex. Their tees and tanks are 100% cupro, a delicate fiber made from waste the cotton industry leaves behind. Their yarn is made in a zero-waste, zero-emission facility in Japan.

30A’s line of super-soft apparel is made from recycled plastic bottles. They have already prevented 5 million plastic bottles from going into landfills and oceans. All 30A designs are printed in the U.S.A. with eco-friendly water-based inks, and our products are shipped in recycled packing materials. They have helped raise $2.5 million for coastal charities.

Toad & CO uses a variety of eco materials in their casual clothing. They are a 1% for the Planet member and give back to a variety of charities. They also offer reusable packaging. From their California headquarters to their storefronts across the country, they do their part to be good neighbors everywhere you find Toad. You’ll find them volunteering with local non-profits, riding their bikes to work, cleaning up the coastline, and marching for the planet. You’ll find their name signed on petitions to support carbon caps, reduce fossil fuels and keeping public lands public.

American Backcountry uses REPREVE® recyled polysters in their tri-blend tees which use an average of 4 recycled water bottles per shirt, helping significantly in reducing the impact of their products on the Earth. REPREVE is a brand of recycled fibers made from recycled bottles and other products. It uses and emits less greenhouse gas by reducing the need for new petroleum resources. American Backcountry has worked closely with our National Park Partners to increase our product offering and commitment to MADE IN THE USA Garment and Accessories.

RECOVER strives to produce the very best apparel with the most minimal impact on the environment. The materials that they use, which otherwise would have been sent to the landfill, are 100% recycled. From design to production to packaging, their entire process contributes to the environmental impact of a garment and it is the RECOVER Initiative to reduce that impact as much as possible every step of the way. RECOVER is a 1% for the Planet member.

Tentree give back to the earth by planting 10 trees for every item purchased, while using eco-friendly and natural materials such as REPREVE to make their products. Their core values drive them to find the best responsibly sourced materials, and the guarantee of safe and respectful work environments. So, by the time your Tentree product arrives to you, you know that its journey was defined by the smallest environmental footprint, and made proudly by people treated fairly and with dignity.

Supporting companies that are helping the planet is a great way to make a difference.

Tomorrow, a favorite building block is becoming eco-friendly.

Old Furniture: Donation or disposal

Day 24 – New furniture is exciting and can really spruce up your living space. Unfortunately, the task of removing the old furniture can be troublesome. For some it’s super easy, schedule a special pick up and have your local streets and sanitation haul it away for free. The only drawback, that furniture is going to end up in a landfill.

Another option, if you’re lucky, is to have your new furniture supplier take away your old furniture. I’m sure you have seen the Walter E. Smithe commercials advertising this service.

“We recently partnered with a charity that puts old furniture to good use. It is a halfway house for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. The organization takes 90% of our clients’ old furniture to sell at resale shops or give to their clients to use.”Walter E. Smithe

Walter E. Smithe also works with Chicago Furniture Bank. If you’re furniture store offers this service, be sure to ask where your old furniture is going.

Donation is the best option. Donation Town will set you up with a local charity and help schedule a pick-up. Once, you type in your zip code a list of local charities will pop up for you to choose from. The whole process seems very easy.

Now, what to do if your furniture is in bad shape and donation does not appear to be an option? Well, this is where it gets tricky. I was on the search for a company that would take my old furniture. I had two couches and a chair (why so much? I was holding on to a couple pieces for years, not wanting to toss in a landfill). One couch was in pretty good shape, while the other couch and chair were looking pretty shabby. I thought I found a solution to my problem. Couch Disposal Plus (run by Load Up) seemed to be the answer. They had good reviews and an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau. On their site they state:

“Your old furniture items will be professionally and responsibly disposed of in the most eco-friendly way whenever possible.”

So, I went ahead and scheduled a pick up. I was billed $154. It was a little pricey, but I figured it was worth it. I believed they would donate furniture pieces that were eligible and properly dispose of pieces that were not. I pictured them taking the furniture apart and recycling the pieces they could, like springs, wood and fabric. Once they arrived, I quickly realized that the picture in my head was complete fantasy. I was led to believe that this company was “eco-friendly” and clearly they were not. I had been greenwashed!

First, I was expecting a box truck with the Couch Disposal Plus Logo, as shown on their website. Instead two gentlemen showed up in a rusty old pick up truck. As they struggled to get all three pieces of furniture on their truck (which did not safely fit on the truck), I asked them where they had to drive to drop off the furniture. One gentleman explained it was going to a warehouse, where it would be decided which pieces could be donated and which pieces would go to the landfill. Landfill? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What happened to disposing in an “eco-friendly” way? On top of it all, the one couch I thought had a chance to be donated was now in a pickup truck, exposed to the elements (January in Chicago, not ideal). I was beside myself. I had been completely duped and I felt awful.

After they left, I sent a strongly worded email, expressing my extreme disappointment and dissatisfaction. I explained that I would be sure to tell everyone I knew not to use their services. As I clicked the send button, a text message came across my phone asking for a review of my experience. I copied and pasted my email to the survey and clicked on 1 star (zero stars was not an option). I quickly received a message apologizing for the experience. The message went on to say that a representative would be in touch soon to address the problem.

As of today (8 days since pick-up), my original email (that was sent through their website) has been sent back saying it was undeliverable and I have not heard back from a representative to discuss my unfavorable review.

So, the lesson of the story, always ask questions. Make sure you are working with reputable people that are honest and stand behind the claims they make about their business. As for an environmentally friendly way to dispose of your old furniture, unfortunately, I have no good answers.

Lastly, since we are on the topic of furniture, we went ahead and invested in a LoveSac couch. I have never spent so much on furniture in my life, but we were sold on their business model.

  1. Their versatility and removable and washable covers make their lifespan far longer than a typical couch.
  2. Sactionals use upholstery fabric made from 100% Repreve (using recycled plastic bottles) certified recycled yarns.
  3. Sactionals were designed and packaged to maximuze shipping efficiency. Recycled kraft cardboard is used to lessen the use of bleaches and dyes, further reducing their total environmental impact.
  4. The hard inserts have a lifetime guarantee.

To say the least, we are very pleased with our new furniture and are happy to know we will not need to find an “eco-friendly” disposal option ever again!

Tomorrow, appreciating a product that has lost some major points on the environmentally friendly checklist.