Responsible Packaging Movement
Key Takeaways (TL;DR)
- Responsible Packaging Movement: Launched by prAna, RPM is a space for conscious apparel brands to commit, collaborate, get inspired, and share sustainable packaging learnings.
- Goals: Their goals are to eliminate plastic (including bioplastic, compostable plastic and recycled plastic) and to ensure their natural fiber is responsibly sourced and made with recycled content, next generation inputs and/or certified sustainable trees.
- Shop Now: Find options to help you ship in alignment with the Responsible Packaging Movement.
- Join: Learn more and join the Responsible Packaging Movement
What is the Responsible Packaging Movement?
“Together, Let’s #ReshapePackaging”
PrAna has been at the forefront of the slow fashion movement for some time. Their mission - Clothing for Positive Change (C4PC) - represents their commitment to “respecting the planet and its people, always.” In fact, prAna has set a goal to completely eliminate plastic from their consumer packaging by 2021, eliminate use of materials from ancient and endangered forests by 2022, and eliminate the use of virgin forest fibers by 2025.
One of the many inspiring things about prAna is how they engage their community of like-minded fashion brands. Rather than seeing their eco commitment as a “competitive brand differentiator,” they recognize that Clothing For Positive Change only makes a difference if a critical mass of apparel companies are on board, working towards the same end goal.
With that mindset, they created the Responsible Packaging Movement, a space for like-minded brands to commit, collaborate, get inspired, and share sustainable packaging learnings. The process of joining is straightforward - set your responsible packaging goals, share those goals with prAna, and then showcase your commitment with your customers. Members of the Responsible Packaging Movement receive:
- Responsible Packaging Guides, including distribution and packaging best practices.
- Guidance via webinars and email communications.
- Access to industry leaders via roundtable discussions.
- Networking space with like-minded brands.
- Social Media toolkit.
As of July 2021, seventy-four apparel brands have already joined, and a review of their respective sites and social media feeds will inspire even the most cynical among us of how brands can lead the movement towards positive change. These brands are testing new fabrics, ensuring fair and ethical supply chains, and making exciting changes to their packaging.
What does “Responsible Packaging” Mean?
We love the term “Responsible” which, in many ways, is a more appropriate word than “sustainable.” The word sustainable means that something can be produced indefinitely. In truth, even “sustainable packaging” has a negative impact on the planet- and the immediate, short-term goal is to minimize that negative impact to be as close to zero as possible. Though the long-term goal is sustainable, or even regenerative, the word “responsible” beautifully captures the immediate focus.
But...what does the term mean?
There is no perfect definition, and ultimately, each brand must develop its own research-based perspective that feeds into their unique packaging goals.
We believe the Responsible Packaging Movement goals that prAna has set serve as an incredible foundation for any apparel brand.
These goals include:
- Eliminate plastic packaging. This includes ALL plastic, including bio-based plastic, compostable plastic, and plastic with additives - all of which are “alternative” options to petroleum plastic that do not really solve the problems created by plastic.
- Source natural fibers (such as paper) responsibly. It isn’t enough to do away with plastic. In fact, if brands go plastic-free without considering the source of their natural fiber alternatives, they can unintentionally create even more environmental damage. According to Canopy, the hierarchy of sources of natural fibers include the following (in order of most to least preferred):
- Post-consumer waste
- Post-industrial waste
- Agricultural Residue Fibers
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified and free of Endangered and High Conservation Value Forest fiber
- Canopy also defines cleaner bleaching production technologies that should be considered.
What is Plastic? What is Plastic Free?
Unfortunately, there is no widely-accepted definition of plastic-free, just as there is no perfect definition of “eco-friendly” or “sustainable”. EcoEnclose has researched this question deeply, and through this research, we’ve developed several definitions.
- Definition of Plastic: This image describes the range of definitions for the term “plastic.” At EcoEnclose, we define plastic as any synthetic polymer, regardless of the raw materials used as a backbone for the polymer. It doesn’t matter if the feedstock for the carbon comes from oil, sand, natural gas, corn, sugarcane, or kelp - for us, it is still technically a plastic.
Plastic-Free Packaging: The question of whether or not a package is plastic-free is even more nuanced.
EcoEnclose defines an option as “plastic-free” as long as the materials used to construct the packaging itself do not contain plastic (using the above definition of plastic). It is important to note that (with our definition), packaging can be plastic-free and still contain synthetics and polymers in its acrylic or hot melt adhesives (the glue that holds products together) and silicone seal strips (that close and seal mailers.)
EcoEnclose Packaging Options for the Responsible Packaging Movement
EcoEnclose has an extensive line of products that already meet the goals of the Responsible Packaging Movement.
Most of these plastic-free packaging options are already 100% recycled, with high levels of post-consumer waste.
Two (Glassine bags, GreenWrap void fill) are made with virgin, certified sustainable inputs, and though we are pleased that they are sourced responsibly, we also continue to seek ways to make these virgin options more responsible.
Our RPM-Aligned products can be found on this page. All plastic-free products will have our existing “plastic free” icon on the product page.
RPM Non Profit Partnerships: 5 Gyres and Canopy
Two non-profit organizations are integral contributors to the Responsible Packaging Movement. These nonprofits have also influenced EcoEnclose’s vision and sustainability framework, and we have found them to be incredibly rooted in research, science and impact. Explore their websites and resources to learn more.
5 Gyres: Not-for-profit leader in the global fight against plastic pollution, with over 10 years of expertise in scientific research and plastic-pollution issues. Since 2009, their team has completed 19 expeditions—bringing over 300 citizen scientists, corporate executives, brands, and celebrities to the gyres, lakes, and rivers to conduct research on plastic pollution. They continue to educate stakeholders, perform community outreach, and engage in citizen science in order to implement data-driven solutions.
Canopy: Not-for-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting forests, species, and climate. For 20 years they’ve collaborated with more than 750 companies, including book publishers, magazines, newspapers, printers, clothing companies, and global brands to protect Ancient and Endangered forests. Canopy works collaboratively with companies to help make supply chains more sustainable, implement innovative NextGen Solutions, and protect this planet that we all call home.
EcoEnclose recently became a Canopy Pack4Good partner and we have already gained so much value from this collaboration, in helping us better vet our fiber-based products that are not 100% recycled, and identify better ways of producing these products long-term.
Responsible Packaging Movement in Action
A few examples of how RPM member companies are using their goals to innovate packaging design and options.
Replacing Clear Poly Bags with Glassine Bags
In an effort to do away with the ubiquitous, virgin, single use clear poly bag (that is typically used to package individual garments up for shipment from factories to distribution centers), prAna has tested a few different approach, including replacing these clear plastic bags with glassine paper bags, which are curbside recyclable and naturally biodegradable. Learn more.
Replacing Clear Poly Bags with Raffia Ties
Rolling apparel up into tight "sushi" rolls and tying them with raffia is an even more minimalist approach that prAna has had a lot of success with (and an approach that is inspiring many other brands to follow suit!).
Eliminating the Hang Tang
Pearl Izumi, member of the Responsible Packaging Movement and leading conscious company in the cycling space, has grappled with how to eliminate the hang tag (and the resulting plastic and waste that typically comes along with a hang tang). They have moved to an approach of including critical garment information on one tag the size of a business card - the smallest size that can still be recycled. The new hangtags use 19,400 pounds less paper, saving 165 trees, 68,082 gallons of water and 4,503 gallons of oil annually.