It’s our responsibility as a manufacturer in 2020 to be mindful of our brand’s sustainability. While we aren’t perfect, and we probably never will be, we want our customers to be aware of the choices that we’ve made, and the opportunities that we see to improve.
Locally Sourced Hardware and Materials
Unlike other major brands who import materials and hardware from around the world, we source everything in one city.
As we’ve discussed before on the site, you can walk from our warehouse to the vendor who supplies our hardware, to the vendor who makes our vegan leather materials, to the factory that presses our Ivy & Fig badges, all within 10 minutes. We also source our garment bags in Bogota, but those are made across town. We can only get so lucky about what factories are nearby.
By sourcing locally like this, we reduce the waste created by transporting these materials to our factory. This includes the packaging waste that other brands create, including boxes, plastic bags, and filler materials used to package these materials long distance. It also means that we use less fuel and create less pollution by not needing to ship these items internationally.
The animal farming industry is one of the major factors in climate change. While we choose to use vegan leather materials in our bag because they are cruelty free, they have the added bonus of not supporting the animal farming industry.
As we continue to grow and scale, it’s our goal to use our size to help drive improved sustainability at the factory that makes these vegan leather materials.
We’re also continuing to search more more leathers and fabrics made with recycled materials.
We’ve heard it plenty of times, “how are plastic materials more sustainable than leather?”
It’s a fair question. But as I said, being cruelty free is our major motivation for the vegan leathers--plus I just explained the added benefits of this choice. The biggest problem with vegan leather isn’t people who purchase and use handbags made with vegan leather, it’s the cheaply made bags with materials that fall apart that people buy, use for a while, and then throw away. This adds to landfills.
So we do our best to make high quality products using highly durable materials so that our bags last, and our customers keep using them for years to come. This means reinforced straps and paying close attention to making sure that any points that take more pressure or weight are stitched to hold up over time.
Even brands that say they are environmentally friendly often ship their products to their warehouse or to their retail locations individually wrapped in plastic bags.These bags are meant to protect the bags in transit, and when we started Ivy & Fig, that’s what we did, too. These bags serve an important purpose.
But because we also source our garment bags in the same city, we saw a special opportunity to get rid of these plastic bags. Now our bags are imported in their garment bag already. This helps to protect the bag without using any additional plastic.
How most fashion and retail stores ship their products
All our orders ship from our warehouse just outside of Detroit, Michigan. We only import our products to one location, and we don’t do any re-balancing between warehouses. Yes, this means that orders in California have to ship much farther than orders in Wisconsin, but we don’t create as much transportation waste managing multiple warehouses or using Amazon warehouses.
As discussed above, most manufacturers create plastic waste shipping their products in small plastic bags when they ship to their retail locations.
We choose to support wholesale partners who are independent or family-owned. We do not currently sell our products to major retailers or redistributors. This is both an effort to support small business, and it allows us to better control the sustainability of our wholesale network, because we can consolidate shipments to these retailers, and we can ensure that these retailers are not shipping products between warehouses or stores, creating more transportation waste.
We use cardboard boxes that are completely recyclable. We do not use laminated prints on these boxes so that these boxes are easy to recycle.
As we are currently in the process of finding a new source for our boxes, we are currently testing boxes that are made using a higher percentage of recycled paper, so that our boxes make as small a footprint as possible.
Zero Plastic or Foam Fills
While some plastic fills, like the air bag fills that Amazon uses, are recyclable, these bags still get thrown away or become litter. We refuse to use plastic or Styrofoam fills in our boxes. When we need, we use cardboard or paper fills which are also recyclable.
This one is our current shame. Due to a number of damaged boxes during shipping, we have been forced to put our boxes in a polymailer bag. This is currently a plastic bag, which makes it the only plastic used in our entire process from the time it leaves the factory.
These bags are a sore spot for us and we're dedicated to finding another solution. If you know of a good option for us to look into, please email us at email@example.com. We'd love the help and advice.
We’re currently testing some compostable and recyclable options. Unfortunately, because manufacturers or compostable mailers are limited, the size options are also limited so finding bags large enough for our boxes is taking some time. Once we find a bag that properly protects our shipments and is more sustainable, we will switch over to these bags.
We continue to make decisions about our products and our processes with our sustainability in mind. There are some places that we can still make improvement, *grinds teeth thinking about those polymailers* and we're going to do what we can to improve this. When we do, we'll let you know.
You should expect this kind of transparency from retailers and manufacturers. We aren't doing this because we're forced to, we're sharing this information because we think you deserve to know. As we move forward into 2020 and beyond, we have to make sure that thinking about our impact on the climate is a daily effort. We need to be dedicated to constantly making improvements. And we need to hold companies, like ours, accountable to sharing honest information about their practices and their sustainability.
We hope you found this enlightening and encouraging. Someone recently called us a "breath of fresh air" on instagram, and that's exactly what we're trying to preserve.