As a circular business owner, it’s important to me that I make business decisions that are reflective of my personal values. Too often, in my opinion, businesses are focused solely on the bottom line without regard for the greater social and environmental impact of their decisions. Things that might seem trivial, like the bags we pack our toys in, can actually have a significant impact as we scale. An impact on the people who make them and an impact on the environment throughout their lifecycle. So, I put a lot of thought into how I wanted to source them.
I’m in love with the packaging we chose for so many different reasons. Here’s why.
First, just look at them! They’re vibrant, beautiful, and cheerful.
The fabrics they’re made from are all East and West African prints. We have bags made from hundreds of different fabrics, so if you’re a member with us, each toy rental subscription box you receive will likely have a completely different mix of prints. Which makes for a great (and beautiful) surprise with each unboxing!
Second, they’re made from off-cut fabric that we have diverted from landfill.
Off-cut fabrics are the little scraps that are leftover from the clothing production process. It’s new, perfectly good fabric, but the pieces are too small for the manufacturer to use in their designs. It’s estimated that 15% of all brand-new fabric ends up as off-cut and is destined for the landfill.
We’re making good use of it while also diverting it from the waste stream. In an effort to use all of the material possible, some of the bags even have two different patterns - one the front and one on the back - because there weren’t two matching pieces leftover.
This strategy prevents us from needing to source and consume new packaging materials for every subscription box that we ship out.
I still have some work to do in figuring out alternatives for the cardboard boxes and recycled kraft paper padding – if you have any ideas, drop them in the comments!
Third, they’re made by talented tailors who are paid a fair living wage.
We’ve partnered with a small business in Arusha, Tanzania that integrates beautiful African prints into their designs of everyday clothing. They’re always changing up the patterns they use, so we end up with a huge array of off-cut prints that are honestly like works of art. I love just leafing through them. The bags are all carefully made by hand by local Tanzanian tailors who are paid a fair living wage for their labour.
Check out this video to see the work that goes into making just one bag.
Fourth, they’ll have a long lifespan since they’re washable and reusable.
We’re in a unique position as a toy rental company to be able to utilize reusable packaging. Since our products get returned to us in the same packaging that we shipped them out in, we can reclaim the bags, wash them, and use them repeatedly.
Lastly, we’re supporting another small business in operating more sustainably.
The fact that we’re collaborating with another small business in order to make both of our operations more sustainable just gives me warm fuzzies. Imran, the owner of Xtreme Designs, is delighted that this collab is making good use of his manufacturing by-product, and in turn, making his business operations more eco-friendly.
Learn more here about how I’ve been striving to make sustainable and ethical decisions as we build this unique circular business.