If you order a sweater or t-shirt from the clothing brand Eliou, you don’t have to get it in a plastic or cardboard mailer. Instead, you can choose to have it sent in a reusable package. When the shipment arrives, you take out the clothing, fold up the empty package, seal it with the included return label, and drop it in a mailbox to be sent back, cleaned, and used again.
The company is one of the first in the U.S. to work with RePack, a Finland-based packaging company that aims to begin replacing standard cardboard boxes and plastic bubble mailers. RePack’s recycled plastic mailers—made from the same tough woven polypropylene as Ikea’s reusable shopping bags—are designed to have a lower carbon footprint than a typical box or bag as soon as they’re reused once.
The impact shrinks further each time the bag goes through the system. “Even taking into consideration that that empty return path—when the RePack’s folded up and mailed back to us, and the carbon that it takes for that post truck post office truck to take it back—it’s still a huge win over single-use in terms of carbon emissions,” says Mitch Barlas, the company’s president for North America. The system also helps keep old packages out of landfills.