DESIGNING BEYOND THE PRODUCT: A FULL CIRCLE SOLUTION
Rather than emulating the current packaging and shipping ecosystem, we decided to shift our thinking towards envisioning a different kind of shipping landscape.
With the rise for consumerism, and the ease with which we have become addicted to convenience and speed of delivery, online shopping has undoubtedly become embedded in our culture. In a recent letter to its shareholders, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos reveals that they have more than 100 million Prime subscribers. The digital economy has officially arrived. Inevitably, every new age brings with it with a new set of consumer challenges.
Our increased reliance on e-commerce purchases has resulted in a momentous rise in packaging waste. At LimeLoop, instead of focusing on the existing packaging solutions that namely come in the form of cardboard boxes and mailers, we chose to re-imagine an entirely new shipping landscape. Why, you ask, do we need to be considering alternative shipping materials? After all, cardboard boxes and paper mailers are recyclable. As it turns out, recycling is a complex matter. Consumers’ understanding, or lack of, what they think is recyclable has led to a significant amount of non-recyclables making their way into single-stream containers. From plastic bags, organic matter to metal… you name it. Today, the average contamination rate sits at approximately 25%, which translates into 1 in every 4 non-recyclable item being placed in recycling container.
Take for instance, when foods or liquids contaminate good cardboard and papers, they lose their quality and become un-recyclable. Papers can only be recycled 5 to 7 times before the cellulose fibers become too short, as stated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recycling costs have risen As much as we like to think our packaging materials are being recycled, that is not entirely accurate.
Rather than emulating the current packaging and shipping ecosystem, we decided to shift our thinking towards envisioning a different kind of shipping landscape. We asked ourselves, what if we shipped items using something that is not a cardboard box? What would that look like? How would it move an item from point A to B? What could it hold? Beyond product, what else could this shipper hold? How would it interact with the user and the environment? And the list goes on.
In this stage of the brainstorming process, we don’t edit ourselves. No question is stupid, and no answer is correct (or wrong). The goal is to think outside of the (cardboard) box, literally, and examine the root of the problem. Essentially, we were looking to solve for packaging waste in a sustainable way, as opposed to designing a single product to replace the cardboard box. This means examining form, function and material use for the entirety of the product life cycle. The result: a full circle shipping solution in the form of a reusable, trackable shipper that would last up to 10 years.
HOW IT WORKS
The LimeLoop shipper is made from recycled billboard vinyl and is designed to be reused over and over, in place of a cardboard box or mailer. Designed to be modular, the shipper can snap and contract as needed. When expanded, the shipper is large enough to hold up to 11 adult shirts comfortably. Waterproof, abrasion-proof and trackable, the shipper is built to last up to 10 years. This extended life cycle reduces carbon emissions, energy, and the consumption of valuable resources such as trees, water, and oil.
When you receive your order from participating brands, all you need to do is take your product out, flip the mailing label over and put the shipper back in the mailbox instead of in the trash. The shipper is then mailed back to the brand so it can be used again for the next customer. As we like to say, it’s as easy as zip, flip + ship.
To prolong its usage, damaged shippers are flagged and re-routed to our partner workshops for repair. Over time, as a shipper reaches the end of its product cycle, it is taken to innovative upcycling facilities where the components are taken apart, and materials are salvaged or converted for alternative uses. In the words of designer Bruce Mau, “the fundamental idea of design is to make the world a better place.” We have to begin somewhere. And so we soldier on, closing the loop, one shipper at a time.