Archive for the ‘Sustainable Products’ Category

From the floor II: PPAI 2013

February 5, 2013

The safety/responsibility issue is the serious face of the PPAI Expo; the super-cool fun face is the new product ideas featured there. We profile a few of them here.

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Shiny red boots!

1.      Rubber boots. These were among our favorite products — so cool, so well-made, and  manufactured from a usable, durable product.

Beautiful things come from all around here.

2.      Custom world globes. We loved this use of a globe and stand. So many of our clients have supply-chain stories to tell their customers about where their food is grown, where their ingredients are sourced, and where their products are made. Here is a great use of a globe as an educational tool – the Body Shop used this to identify the origin of their ingredients.

It’s felt! It’s cork! It’s lovely!

3.      Recycled felt and cork products. We oohed and ahhhed at this new line of recycled PET and cork accessories. The colours are fabulous and the styling contemporary. These were in keeping with the “sustainable style” trend we noted in a previous blog [link to blog post]…

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Liivng tools.

 4.      Grow-your-own toolkits. A fantastic use of herb and veggie seeds in these bookmarks – to encourage folks to grow their own food.

Mmmmm. Snacks . . . .

5.      Soft-touch vintage tees. A new t-shirt vendor from San Francisco that makes its product right in the USA produced cool looks, organic options and great designs.
It was a great show. We’re already looking forward to PPAI 2014!

From the floor: PPAI 2013

January 27, 2013

 

Does your lip balm have a pedigree?

Does your lip balm have a pedigree?

The 2013 Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo took place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre in Las Vegas from 14-18 January. Fairware was there, sharing ideas with colleagues, scoping out new products, and noting trends.

What really struck us as we walked the floor of this vast trade show? It was the way that the concept of product responsibility has leapt onto the radar. Historically, the promotional product industry has viewed product responsibility through a compliance-based lens and paid attention strictly to the letter of the law. But in the Product Safety 201 session held at PPAI, Rick Brenner, CEO of Primeline, was quick to point out that product “safety” needs to expand to a product “responsibility” framework that includes social compliance, product quality and environmental standards.

When we walked the trade show floor, we made a conscious decision to ask vendors if they could supply compliance testing reports for their products to see where random suppliers stood on the safety aspect of the conversation. We were surprised at how many could supply those reports, and were clearly up-to-date on the issues. Our preferred organic lip balm supplier even had a poster of their testing and labelling standards in their booth.

The two sessions on product responsibility that we attended were full, and there were lively discussions regarding whose responsibility it is to manage product safety in an industry in which products travel through many hands before they reach the end user.

Also noted was the profile and attention PPAI has given to this important issue. They have a well-developed internal resource centre for members, featuring a dozen educational and capacity-building guides (from “How to Read a Compliance Document” to a guide on product, social and environmental best practices) as well as the Turbo Test, an intuitive online roadmap that will help distributors ascertain which rules, regulations and tests apply to which products.

We think that staying ahead of the curve on matters of safety and responsibility is good business, good citizenship, and good sense. It was great to see that so many of our industry peers think so, too.

 

 

A corking idea!

January 23, 2013
A stylish kit - not your average promo product.

A stylish kit – not your average promo product.

It seems that every day we get more bad news about how our species is ransacking the planet — encroaching on more wildlife habitat by clearing more land; overfishing the oceans; depleting the sources of some wonderful or miraculous material until there threatens to be none left for anyone or anything. You may have seen, for instance, the recent Guardian article on the supposed problems with the quinoa craze, and the passionate responses to that article.

These days, conscientious people are pretty much primed to believe the worst about these things, and that’s understandable. But at Fairware, we believe two things: we believe that humans actually do play a role here — it’s not hopeless, and we’re not helpless — and that’s why we’re in the business we’re in; and we also believe that it’s still really important to get the facts. Because sometimes, despite everything, things actually aren’t as bad as they seem.

Take the issue of cork. The general consensus in recent years has been that cork sources are critically endangered, and it’s unethical to use them. Synthetic corks are now widely used in the wine industry, from which the prime demand for the substance comes, and that’s seen as a good alternative. The truth, however, is a bit more complex and nuanced than it looks at first glance (isn’t that always the way?). In fact, cork isn’t endangered. (That story may have started when wine producers stopped using cork — some for economic reasons, some to avoid cork mold.) Unlike other trees, which must be cut down during harvesting, cork oaks are harvested simply by peeling bark off the tree; the tree itself is left to regenerate and thrive. As well, a tree that is harvested on the usual nine-year cycle will absorb three to five times more CO2 than one that is not. Harvesting cork is an ancient, sustainable practice and supports the livelihoods of many people in parts of Europe, in particular Portugal and Spain.

Sami Grover at Treehugger has a really fine article on the truth about cork, with links to other pieces discussing both the pros and cons of harvesting and using it. At Triple Pundit, Leon Kaye has an interesting look at the wine industry’s move away from cork and its possible environmental impact.

Fairware features some very handsome and practical cork products sourced sustainably from Portugal, such as the distinctive toiletries bag above. Take a look. Because it’s nice to enjoy some good news.

Sustainable style

January 16, 2013

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When it comes to living green, fashion has always lagged a bit behind. While a few companies like EDUN and London Ethnic focus on producing hot style while upholding ethical, sustainable practices, those are definitely not the norm when it comes to the garment industry and its ilk.

Historically, recycled and sustainable clothing items of even the humblest sort have come in only limited colours and styles. Fairware’s not a fashion house, but we’re happy to report progress here: the days of scratchy, boxy t-shirts are over — and we no longer have to tell clients, “You can have any colour, as long as it’s ‘eco-grey’!”

Our assortment of sustainable apparel is getting more fabulous all the time, from stylish Blue-Sign Approved items to hipster hoodies. Check out what we have to offer — we’re thrilled to offer gear that’s good-looking, high-quality, and the real deal ethical deal.

FAIRWARE CRUSH: Nature Conservancy of Canada

December 29, 2012
Jacket

These jackets are made in Canada–and are Bluesign-approved.

 

Talk about a true force of nature! For an astonishing 50 years, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has been breaking ground in the conservation of areas of natural diversity across the country.

Launched by a group of naturalists in 1962 in an effort to protect natural spaces, the NCC has since blossomed into one of the country’s most cherished not-for-profits—and one of Fairware’s major crushes.

Since its inception, the NCC has gathered innovative conservation-science professionals to help manage land and waters for their natural value in a non-confrontational manner that promotes nature’s own processes. Over their 50 years of hard work, the NCC has helped protect nearly 2.6 million acres of ecologically significant land.

From the start, their mission has been driven by the belief that we Canadians owe it to our society and our country to do create something great in the present—and conserve what we have for the future.

We love when we hear stories of passionate people looking to make a difference—and truly make their mark. From its grassroots beginnings, the NCC has been a shining example of how Canadians have historically seen the value and the cultural importance of guarding our natural spaces.

In celebration of their 50th anniversary, we not only donated $9,000 to their continued efforts, but were proud to be the source of their commemorative jackets marking this amazing milestone. Made in Canada, the jackets are made primarily of recycled polyester—a Bluesign-approved fabric that meets the most stringent environmental, health, and safety standards.  We were so stoked to work with this amazing organization, and we look forward to 50 more years of their crucial work.

For more on the Nature Conservancy of Canada and to read up on their remarkable 50-year history, check out their website.

Fairware Supplier Crush – ETS Express Line

December 6, 2012
ETS water bottles

Ever wonder how your artwork gets printed onto drinkware? I mean really, how do you get a logo on a curved surface?

ETS Express Line, our fabulous drink-ware supplier, takes us on a tour of their production offices with this great video introduction on their exceptional products and in-house screen printing capabilities. It’s like magic.

They’re our supplier crush of the month – we adore them because:

  •  They focus on providing innovative and fashion forward products, which keeps them at the forefront of the drink-ware industry.
  •  Their printing quality is exceptional, we’ve seen some of the most complex logos reproduced with precision on their products.
  •  They have a great team! From JB (our stellar sales rep) to Mike Williams (VP of Sales) to the beloved Leeton Lee (who works tirelessly to ensure global standards are met for quality, safety; social responsibility; supply-chain security; and environmental stewardship, they’re stars.

Ok, now check out how the magic happens… and then call us 1.866.606.3247 or email contact@fairware.com.

GREEN AMENDMENTS: A Look at the Long-Awaited Revisions to the FTC’s Green Guide

December 2, 2012

 

 Guidelines on green marketing have gotten a lot clearer. Picture via Michael Caven

Guidelines on green marketing have gotten a lot clearer. Picture via Michael Caven

 

Green? Eco-friendly? Earth smart?

Marketers have been throwing these terms around freely for the past decade as consumers have taken more notice of the environmental impact their purchases can make. Until recently, these terms have had little restrictions placed on them—and advertisers have gotten away with misleading buyers through a scheme called “greenwashing.”

After five long years of deliberations, the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guide has been revised for the first time since 1998 to ensure that marketers’ green claims are truthful and accurate.

We talked a little bit about greenwashing a few weeks ago in our post exploring the proper disposal of sustainable alternatives to plastic. Put simply, greenwashing is exactly what it sounds like: stretching the truth about how sustainable or environmentally friendly a product really is.  Sometimes, the truth hasn’t only been stretched—but fully manufactured.

The Green Guide sets the rules on how marketers can promote the eco benefits of their products. As demand for these products continues to boom, these new revisions couldn’t have come sooner. After all, the Green Guide was written in 1992 at a time when “green” and “eco-friendly” weren’t exactly on buyers’ radar.

The most striking of the revisions made to the guide is the cautioning of marketers against the use of these terms in general, as they are “broad and unqualified.” To consumers, terms like “green” and “eco-friendly” suggest that the product has specific or far-reaching environmental benefits. According to the FTC: “Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from these claims.” Up until now, any slight changes made to a product that could be construed as beneficial for the environment has given marketers just cause to label a product “green.”

The newly updated Green Guide also requires that claims of a product’s degradability be backed up by evidence that the entire product does actually break down naturally and return to nature over the course of one year.

And we are happy to report that the guide calls for clearer labelling of how products can be disposed of—whether they are compostable, recyclable, or safe for landfills.

You can read more about the revisions to the FTC’s Green Guide here. We are stoked about these revisions not only because of what they mean for our industry, but also because it really shows a strong push towards growing the market for products that are accurately labeled.

Fairware Holiday Better Gift Guide

November 1, 2012

With a little effort, you can avoid holiday gifting pitfalls.

The holiday season is fast approaching—and along with the cheer comes that annual shopping stress. For business owners, this can also mean finding the perfect way to thank clients and employees for their support and hard work. We think it’s important to give fun and unique gifts that align with a company’s values. All of Fairware’s products come with an option to personalize—but we know that not everyone is keen on logos. That’s why we’ve got lots of options for great gifts (another option is to use the standard imprint area of a product to send a non-branded message like ‘thanks’ . We’ve complied a handy list of some of our favourite gifts to give, and gifts to get.

When buying for clients, we like to focus on enjoyable gifts that tread a little more on the side of enjoyment, rather than work. These gifts are all beautifully crafted by sustainable manufacturers, making them good for the giving, and good for the planet.

Holiday purchasing doesn’t have to feel or look like a rushed job. Planning early and setting aside time for gift distribution is a great way to start—and we’re here to help you along the way. Contact us with any questions regarding gift giving or to discuss the many more options we have to offer. We’ll be happy to help you fill your office with cheer!

EXPLORING SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVES PART 2: DEGRADABLE VS. BIODEGRADABLE VS. COMPOSTABLE

September 26, 2012

From Flickr Common Creatives via @cobdogblog

Last week, we posted a piece on bioplastics and the problems that arise from improper disposal of bioplastic and plastic products. Primarily, we touched on the misconceptions regarding labelling. Labels are sometimes misleading and the terminology used is often confusing. We love that so many clients and customers are coming to us looking for sustainable alternatives to common materials like plastic. That’s why we want to further explore the differences between degradable, biodegradable and compostable to better manage waste and to make the most of these eco-friendly options.

The Environment and Plastic Industry Council states that the term “degradable” broadly implies that the product will break down into smaller pieces naturally, over a (vague) period of time. “Biodegradable” is the process that takes place after degradation, when the particles are consumed by micro-organisms, resulting in water, carbon dioxide or organic matter.

“Compostable”, meanwhile, refers to degradable materials that—under proper commercial or home composting conditions—turn into usable compost or humus that enriches the soil and returns nutrients to the earth. These products leave no toxic waste behind and the process takes between 90 to 180 days.

So, how do you actually dispose of these products properly?

As we mentioned in last week’s post, most municipalities in Canada and the US still lack the proper means to compost and recycle. Between that and misleading terms, well-intentioned customers are becoming frustrated.

With the help of some wonderful sources, including the Green Office, we’d like to clear some things up:

 

  • Compostable products must be disposed of in a proper industrial composting facility. If such facility is not available, these products can be disposed of in the backyard or in a home composter, though it will take longer for the products to fully disintegrate. Improper disposal of compostable products in the recycling bin will actually contaminate the recycling process.
  • Biodegradable products are most often thrown in the garbage. While this should theoretically be okay as these materials are thought to just “break down”, it’s really not. Landfills are basically built to entomb waste and therefore lack the microorganisms and oxygen to break down these materials in a timely manner. Until there are proper processing facilities for biodegradable materials—like in California and Washington—these materials should be disposed of through a composting facility. But again, with the green bin program only just taking off in major cities, most municipalities make it next to impossible to properly and efficiently dispose of biodegradable products.
  • Recyclables should always be disposed of through the municipal curbside garbage program—those blue bins that are handily available almost everywhere. If there is no access to these programs or blue bins, services like Earth911.org help locate drop-off locations.

 

As customers are becoming more inclined to choose products that are environmentally-friendly, eco-conscious consumerism has become a hot button for advertisers. While the Federal Trades Commission’s Green Guide regulates how companies can use the terms “degradable,” “biodegradable” and “compostable,” customers are still advised to beware of “greenwashing.” This is when companies deliberately lead consumers to think their brand is “green”, without actually being so. The next generation of green products can also be labelled oxo-biodegradable, hydro-biodegradable, photo-biodegradable or water soluble. With more and more terms being thrown into the game, companies are getting away with branding their products improperly—or even just making up terms that sound eco-friendly.

Recent amends to the Federal Trades Commission’s Green Guide and the Canadian Standards Association and Competition Bureau have tightened regulations on companies using these terms and require that environmental claims be made clear, specific and verified. Any claims made must now be backed up with evidence.

But, as with everything, it is up to the customer to use discretion when buying—and to always read labels correctly and to use and dispose properly. And let’s not forget that waste—any waste—should be reduced. Cutting back the purchase of one-time-use products and reusing or repurposing is always the best choice when thinking green.

EXPLORING SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVES: A LOOK AT BIOPLASTICS (Pt. 1)

September 18, 2012

We talk a lot about sustainable alternatives to commonly used products here at Fairware—from re-purposed and recycled items to organic textiles. It’s actually quite amazing how many options there are when making a conscious choice to buy better products.

Take plastic for instance. From plastic containers and packaging to utensils and bottles—so much of what we come across in everyday life  is made from plastics and they can have a devastating impact on the environment, human health, species maintenance, and the ocean.

First, let’s talk about what makes common plastics so damaging. Common plastics are obtained from petroleum, which significantly increases the production of greenhouse gases and makes the plastics reliant on fossil fuels. Aside from what these plastics take from the environment during manufacturing, there is the major issue of what they leave behind. Some common plastics such as Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Polystyrene are notable for the hazards throughout their life-cyle.  The production and disposal of some plastics can threaten the life of ocean species and animals, but also humans.

So, in short: the production common plastics is threatening our environment and health. Yet, their uses are vast and the need for plastic is unavoidable.

Enter bioplastics or biopolymers, promising to be a safer, environmentally responsible alternative. While there are other types of “biodegradable plastics” on the market, for the purpose of this post, we’re looking at bioplastics such as PLA are plastics that are derived from renewable living sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, potatoes, and rice. And as with most innovations, they’re bring opportunity and have risks. We explore both below:

But the biggest draw towards bioplastics is in its lifecycle. Most—though not all—bio-materials disintegrate rapidly in commercially managed composting processed. In theory, this means there are less harmful waste left in our ecosystems. Bioplastics that are not biodegradable are used to make non-disposable items such as cell phone casings or car interiors. The objective of these bioplastic applications is the use of sustainable, renewable resources in production rather than the end of life biodegradability.

According to some studies, bioplastics account for a whopping 42% reduction in carbon footprint. However, that’s not say these studies haven’t had their fair share of disputes. For example, Environmental data from NatureWorks, the only commercial manufacturer of PLA (polylactic acid) bioplastic, says that making its plastic material delivers a fossil fuel saving of between 25 and 68 per cent compared with polyethylene, in part due to its purchasing of renewable energy certificates for its manufacturing plant.

There remain critical changes that need to be made in the bio-plastics game. Powering farming machinery and irrigating crops rely heavily on petroleum as an energy source. There are also concerns around the use of genetically modified organisms in agricultural feedstock production and using a food based crop for fuel.  Finally, there is a major lack in composting and recycling infrastructure. Cities like Seattle and San Francisco have successfully implemented proper composting and recycling infrastructures. Without this infrastructure, most bioproducts end up as trash in a landfill. The emergence of a third party certification agency (BPI in the US) tasked with certifying a manufacturers claims regarding compostability to international standards will help to standardize what is and isn’t suitable for municipal composting.

Getting consumers on board is the first step towards implementing the proper production and composting infrastructure needed to make the best of bioplastic technologies. The first step comes in helping consumers understand the environmental, human and economic impacts made by their purchases (no small task, we know). But confusing labels often mislead consumers. Take “bio-based,” for example, sounds like a product branded like this would be biodegradable, right? Actually, this is not necessarily the case.

“Biodegradable,” meanwhile, does not always mean compostable, but rather that the product will eventually disintegrate. Bewildering labeling is actually a major factor of improper recycling and composting – it’s confusing to say the least. We are going to further into the FTC Guidelines on compostable vs. biodegradable vs. degradable in our post next week, so stay tuned for that!

Like all new, sustainable technologies and initiatives, there is good and bad. The development of bioplastics shows a promising push towards renewability and compostability. But there needs to be continued consumer education of how these products are properly used as well as adequate means to compost and recycle these bioplastics before this technology reaches its full potential.


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