With subscription services on the rise, especially in times when in-person shopping is a challenge, four service providers are seeking alternative, reusable packaging options from a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based designer and manufacturer.
Returnity Innovations has been commissioned by Hyber, Borobabi, FreshlySet, and Storytime to design and manufacture customized reusable shipping packaging for each of the rental and subscription services.
“Hyber, Borobabi, FreshlySet, and Storytime came to us with a strong desire to reduce their environmental footprint and participate in the circular economy,” says Mike Newman, CEO of Returnity Innovations. “They chose our solution because they wanted to create a unique packaging experience with their customers while acknowledging the triple-bottom-line.”
Since 2014, Returnity has been building out solutions and empowering the systems necessary for companies to shift to the new circular economy.
“Returnity will replace the use of over 6 million shipments of cardboard boxes and poly mailer bags with reusable packaging by August 2020,” says Newman.
Many brands are under real economic and public pressure to switch to lower cost, environmentally friendly ecommerce systems.
“Making the switch is not driven by packaging design -- it requires smart system design and implementation, and then finally the right packaging to fit that system,” says Newman. “Our work centers have expanded to focus on system development first, enabling a growing roster of clients to become circular in a cost-effective manner.”
Storytime is an unlimited book subscription service based in Orange, Calif., which provides parents with books that cover a wide variety of themes to address issues that matter most to parents and their children. The company was looking for a reusable shipping bag that could hold and protect children’s books.
“Customization was key because we needed a practical exterior that would hold up through lots of shipments but also wanted a bold interior that would excite parents and children,” says Jared Sippel, who co-founded the service with his wife Brandi. “Plus, the postal service can inspect our packages at any time, so having a zipper allows them to see the bag’s contents without totally destroying the packaging.”
According to Sippel, Storytime was a customer of several companies that used Returnity bags and were always impressed with the concept and quality.
“Learning more about Returnity’s mission and its 40-shipment guarantee sealed the deal,” he says. “We want the packaging to balance the practical goal of surviving as many shipments as possible and the aesthetic goal of surprising and delighting the parents and kids who receive them.”
Borobabi Co., a fully circular ecosystem for 100 percent organic baby, toddler, and maternity fashion retail, was seeking packaging that aligned with its mission to reduce waste and keep materials in a closed recirculation loop for as long as possible.
“We wanted a returnable bag that was a model of circularity; made from recycled materials that could be recycled at its end-of-life as well,” says Carolyn Amsinger, CEO and co-founder of the Paterson, N.J.-based company. “We also wanted to create a unique customer experience through our packaging that surpassed the mundane and wasteful cardboard boxes and plastic bags.”
Borobabi’s goal is to make it easy for parents to store, ship and participate in a circular economy.
“Choosing to work with Returnity was an easy choice; they are mission aligned with Borobabi’s desire to create viable circular economies that benefit both the public and the environment,” says Amsinger. “We are so proud of the partnership that we co-branded our bags with Returnity as an exemplar of how companies can work together to do good.”
Freshly Set is a tabletop rental service offering an online catalogue of tablecloths and accessories from top designer brands, delivered directly to the customer’s doorstep. Hyber is a fixed monthly subscription service that allows members to rent children's clothes without worrying about wear and tear or outgrowing products.
Returnity makes everything custom to client’s requirements. The company’s default fabric is rPET. It is durable, waterproof, cost effective and low footprint.
“Many opt for basic black because they do not want to signal what is inside, but others do have us print custom designs or integrate custom zipper pulls, handles and other unique brand flourishes,” says Newman. “We have done imprinting on every surface – inside and out! The life-cycle assessments we have done show that both rPET and standard PET are better over time compared to corrugate or poly mailers and are recyclable at the end of their use in standard PET recycling systems.”
Returnity enables the shift from single use to reusable shipping bags and boxes by designing tightly integrated logistics systems and the packaging necessary to make those systems effective, making it easy and cost effective to re-aggregate empty packaging, according to Newman.
“Re-aggregating empty packaging creates new transportation requirements -- but it is worth remembering that even cardboard boxes must be driven to recycling plants -- if they are in fact recycled,” says Newman. “Our life-cycle assessments have looked at the full scope of material manufacturing, outbound and return shipping, and processing for reuse, and shows that reusables lower resource consumption as you use them. In fact, our work with Green Story in Canada suggests that on average our packaging reduces energy consumption by 86% and water use by 97% over the lifespan of use.”