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REI Gives Its Packaging a Makeover

Here's some heartening news: The Novara bike I recently purchased at REI was shipped using 68% less packaging than was used previously. The shipping box is fully reusable and recyclable and eliminates all waste (no zip ties, polybags, tape, etc.).

Hmm, I think I like my new bike even more now.

This is just one example of a bigger effort at REI to cut out unnecessary packaging—some of it behind-the-scenes, some of it visible to you, our customers—whenever we can. Working with other eco-minded industry partners and groups, our goal is to reduce overall REI-brand packaging 25% by 2013.

REI packaging engineering manager Eric AbrahamThe man behind much of REI's progress in reducing the volume of bags, boxes and shrink-wrap is packaging engineering manager Eric Abraham. Ask Eric if paper or plastic is better and he's likely to counter with, "How about neither?"

Among the victories: The REI brand no longer uses any of those annoying PVC plastic "clamshell" packages (you know the ones that, as Eric describes, "it takes a multi-tool to open a package for a multi-tool"). Shipping cartons have been redesigned for efficiency and reuse. Packaging has been downsized and paper sources are greener.

Eric shares a few photos of his "less is more" success stories here:

REI trekking pole tip protectorsLeft: To display tip protectors for trekking poles, REI's previous packaging (in brown) hangs on the left next to our new design, in green and white.

Changes: Plastic laminate is out; the new backing card uses a lighter stock; the paperboard-only design (easy to recycle) involves 40% less material.

 

Novara bicycle tire tube packaging

 

Right: Novara bicycle tire tubes used to be sold in a paperboard box (left). Not bad, but our new tube holder (right) uses a plant-based film that reduces materials by 98% and is compostable. Designed by Eric after he participated in an adventure race, the new shrink-wrapped film lets you conveniently keep the tube coiled in a jersey pocket or seat bag until it's needed.

Novara bike box, beforeNovara bike box, after

Left, and above: As noted earlier, bike shipping from factory to store or warehouse is now much more efficient. Novara bikes are now shipped 4 to a box (above) and have no associated waste. Previously, it was just 1 bike per box with lots of inefficient extras (shown at left).

REI cable lock packaging, old to new

Above: The REI brand stopped using those infamous PVC "clamshell" packaging (left) a few years back and in 2009 transitioned to packaging that used less plastic and a paperboard-based holder (middle). This year's paper-only design (right) eliminates the remaining plastic and is fully recyclable.

REI hang tagRight: Hangtags you see dangling from REI-branded apparel are or will soon be made from paper that is 100% certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC is an nonprofit, independent, non-governmental organization established to promote the responsible management of the world's forests.

Past REI hangtags contained recycled content potentially as low as 10%. New and future REI hangtags will feature 100% post-consumer recycled content. 

How they are attached to products is another subtle improvement. This year REI converted hangtag attachments from virgin plastic to fasteners made from recycled polypropylene that comes from old apparel hangers.

REI is pleased to be reducing the amount of materials used in product packaging. Learn more about REI's efforts to run a socially and environmentally responsible business in our stewardship report.


 

Posted on at 1:11 PM

Tagged: bicycle, packaging, rei and stewardship

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Gypsy Joshua

Excellent guys! I'm proud to say that I'm a member. You guys keep integrating new ideas into the company that deserve attention.

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oboek1

Excellent news! Eric Abraham, you are my hero (and are you single? haha JK) I just received a package from REI yesterday and plan to compost the cardboard box it arrived in, as well as reuse the paper that was packed inside. I'm glad to hear how, exactly, REI is doing leading the way in less packaging. Please let me know if you need an assistant!

Reply
pdourte

While this is great news, I would like to see a store go spartan with this. I think that a bar code on each item and one label for its spot on the shelf as well as cutting down on the amount of ink used in packaging would be improvements upon this idea. Does REI have any ability to modify packaging for items such as the Gerber knives that come packaged in the clear plastic as pictured above for the bike lock?

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Midwest Hiker

Thanks for making these changes in your products! I'm especially happy to see the changes in bicycle tube packaging - it will be more convenient and I can dump the empty package in the compost. Excellent.

Reply
Kathy in Cali

I just got a box in the mail with two items from REI and I was very happy with the small size of the box and the small amount of packing material (all paper!) in the package. Keep up the great work!

Reply
vaxmn

Great to see the reduction in packaging waste ... nice job!

One area where I would like to see improvement is in the shipping of small/medium sized items to the store. Last week, I had a pair of pants shipped to the store. It was in a tough white/grey poly shipping bag. While there was no additional packaging/waste inside the bag, the outer bag itself appears to be non-recyclable. It is made from post-consumer waste but showed no markings indicating it was recyclable. If it already is recyclable, maybe it just needs the appropriate recycle code stamped on it?

Ironically, a slightly larger item that was shipped via USPS arrived in a USPS poly bag. This USPS bag was marked as HDPE #2, clearly recyclable. If the postal service can switch to a recyclable bag, surely REI can??

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Bailey Trail Builder

I used my 20% off coupon to get a Kelty Redwing 50 in a color that wasn't in stock. It arrived in the bag from Kelty packed in a recycleable wrap and a recycleable box. Both will either be repurposed or recycled. Nice work REI. The only thing better would have been to have the Java Red in stock.

Reply
werkim

I applaud REI for its efforts to eliminate plastic in its packaging, but I think they should go a step further and eliminate offering shopping bags. Frankly, it surprises me that REI wasn't the first retailer to do so and that they are still offering them. I always have to tell the clerk that I don't need a bag. I carry my own bag and am happy to use it instead of taking a plastic bag. If a store like IKEA can do it, I think REI certainly could!

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werkim

I applaud REI for its efforts to eliminate plastic in its packaging, but I think they should go a step further and eliminate offering shopping bags. Frankly, it surprises me that REI wasn't the first retailer to do so and that they are still offering them. I always have to tell the clerk that I don't need a bag. I carry my own bag and am happy to use it instead of taking a plastic bag. If a store like IKEA can do it, I think REI certainly could!

Reply
plau

Thanks. Is there anything that we can do regarding the price tags as well?

While doing a volunteer park grounds cleanup detail in Yosemite, we went through one day campsite, and found a TON of REI price tags and packaging on the ground by what we assumed to be first time campers, opening up their newly bought equipment.

They were strewn all around the ground, including those tiny plastic price tag holders. My young niece really got upset at REI in particular because as a company that made so much money on people returning to nature, she felt REI's customers were doing some of the most visible damage.

So anyway to discourage this trash would be much appreciated.
Thanks

Reply
Thom the Realist

I am sure he myriad of offshore companies who make REI products will appreciate that when they take over a country that uses less renewable resources.

Reply
ThreeBlackLabs

Let me count the ways I love REI. Thank you for moving forward.

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ThreeBlackLabs

Let me count the ways I love REI. Thank you for moving forward.

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peterpaddlehikebikerun

Love it! I've always aprpeciated how my local REI store asks if I want a bag or not when I purchase something - almost always I say "no." As an avid recycler, I appreciate this new initiative, too. Although I shop in an urban area (Washington DC suburbs) I live out in the boonies and my recycling options are limited. Recycling paper and some plastics is easy but my recycling center doesn't take ALL plastics (only #1 and #2). I know some products I buy actually emboss the type of plastic on the packaging itself. Has REI also considered doing this? Or possibly printing the type of plastic on the paper packaging? I'm moving ever closer to recycling 100% but in my area it's tough to recycle it all.

Still ... a great move. Thanks and congratulations!

Reply
peterpaddlehikebikerun

Love it! I've always aprpeciated how my local REI store asks if I want a bag or not when I purchase something - almost always I say "no." As an avid recycler, I appreciate this new initiative, too. Although I shop in an urban area (Washington DC suburbs) I live out in the boonies and my recycling options are limited. Recycling paper and some plastics is easy but my recycling center doesn't take ALL plastics (only #1 and #2). I know some products I buy actually emboss the type of plastic on the packaging itself. Has REI also considered doing this? Or possibly printing the type of plastic on the paper packaging? I'm moving ever closer to recycling 100% but in my area it's tough to recycle it all.

Still ... a great move. Thanks and congratulations!

Reply
LorinzMuze

EXCELLENTE'!!!! One more reason REI is my favorite store in z world! Would LOVE if individual blogs, like this one, could be tagged/shared on facebook!

Reply
LorinzMuze

EXCELLENTE'!!!! One more reason REI is my favorite store in z world! Would LOVE if individual blogs, like this one, could be tagged/shared on facebook!

Reply
SteveW

Why not go the extra step and stop offering for sale ridiculous things like trekking pole tip protectors that you used as an example of green packaging?

Reply
MaryPoppins

This really is wonderful! Now if only REI could start manufacturing their products in the USA we would be set!

Reply
MaryPoppins

This really is wonderful! Now if only REI could start manufacturing their products in the USA we would be set!

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