Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.
LimeLoop is creating a future where goods are transported—and tracked—in reusable packaging.
LimeLoop may have only launched last April, but the idea behind it has been 10 years in the making. It started with Ashley Etling, the California startup’s CEO and co-founder, who was looking for a better way to ship goods without swaddling them in layers of corrugated fiberboard, shrink wrap and bouncy air pillows. She made her first prototype envelope out of fabric, which she sent to her friend, the entrepreneur Viola Sutanto. “We both recognized this was the beginning of something significant,” Etling said.
Together with software engineer Chantal Emmanuel, they crafted the “full-circle packaging solution” that is LimeLoop today. In lieu of throwaway paper or plastic, LimeLoop deploys lightweight yet durable waterproof pouches, derived from recycled billboard vinyl, that can be used for as many as 200 “loops” between customers and brands.
“Today we ship 65 billion packages annually and global e-commerce sales are expected to increase almost 250 percent by 2021, and yet our current packaging and recycling practices were developed with a brick-and-mortar retail economy in mind,” Etling said. “It's completely reliant on single-use cardboard and plastic poly bags, only a fraction of which are being recycled.”
Compared with conventional packaging, LimeLoop’s reusable mailers are estimated to save roughly 70 trees, 90 gallons of water and 200 gallons of oil for every 10,000 shipments.
But the pouches are just one component of LimeLoop’s operations. The company has also developed an app for brands, fulfillment centers and even customers to track the life cycle of their mailers.
“Given their extended life cycle and the data gathered throughout their travels, the shippers are a great conduit for gathering important information that can be used to enhance each of these stakeholder’s experiences,” Etling said. “They can use the app to track and purchase shippers, calculate environmental impact and connect with one another.”
This year, LimeLoop will incorporate sensors into its pouches to “provide even more data” about locations and open rates for its clients, which include brands such as Coyuchi, M. Patmos and Toad & Co.
“We’re excited about what 2019 and beyond will bring for LimeLoop,” she added. “As we continue to develop strategic partnerships with our new and returning retailers, local and federal sustainability agencies and mail-delivery organizations like UPS, we’ll continue to have people reimagine the future of how goods are transported and deepen our commitment to improving our environment.”
In what areas has the fashion industry made the biggest strides in sustainability in the last five years?
“Planning: Talking publicly about the problems we are facing today and in the future.
Acting: Setting higher standards and acting on them.
Collaborating: Sharing knowledge and actions to solve the problems at hand faster.”