Baggu does not get a full three planets because they must continue to update their practices and make sure that suppliers comply, in addition to investigating the ethicality of their partnership with ATRS. Otherwise, their commitment to minimal waste design, their utilization of deadstock, their avoidance of “trends,” and many other initiatives, signal their commitment to true sustainability. They make a point to address sustainability at every check point in production, from the facility where the bags are produced, to the mailers used for shipping. Additionally, it is worth noting that their entire brand in based in encouraging people to bring reusable bags wherever they go, in hopes of reducing mass plastic consumption. Overall, I find their conceptual understanding of a product lifecycle to be the biggest indicator of their progressiveness, as they are sacrificing what could be great profit for the sake of doing the right thing. Very admirable!
The Baggu “Duck Bag” is part of the company’s deadstock collection, which they advertise as a “patchwork” of previously used fabrics. This particular bag is made from 16 oz of recycled cotton canvas. Baggu’s cotton canvas comes from “pre-consumer waste,” which they are able to recover in the production of other cotton products. The canvas is 65% recycled, and Baggu explains that this is to maintain durability and affordability. In the process of recycling cotton, the natural fibers are broken down, so they must incorporate virgin cotton fibers to increase the bag’s strength. Baggu no longer uses leather in production, and recycles other materials like nylon, mesh, polyfill, paper packaging, and mailers. The company’s utilization of deadstock is admirable, as this the concept is not widespread. Personally, I think their attention to waste and materiality is vital in their sustainability, hence the three planet rating.
Baggu outlines an extensive code of conduct, which includes their standards of production. The code of conduct requires fair compensation, taking into account worker protections and allowing their workers a comfortable lifestyle. It also includes working hours, safety measures, labor practices, nondiscrimination, and more, all of which indicate a holistic understanding of ethical production on the human side. Baggu explains that they have trained staff to audit the goods being produced, which is a vital in maintaining the quality of their products. They require that their manufacturers uphold these standards, and presently, their manufacturers are ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 140001 certified. The Baggu team visits the manufacturing locations once a year to verify that the standards are upheld, but I think it is worthwhile for the company to have more engagement with their suppliers. By only visiting the locations annually, Baggu is in the dark to the day-to-day operations, thus making them unaware of potentially unethical practices. Because of this, Baggu does not get a full 3 planets for their production.
Baggu encourages accountability through the bag’s entire lifecycle in their recycling initiative. While the bag is “designed for durability,” they understand that every bag will eventually reach its end. Rather than putting the responsibility on the consumer to find a way to ethically dispose of the bag, they ask consumers to recycle the bag at any of their store locations, or by shipping to their manufacturing headquarters. The brand has also partnered with the American Textile Recycling Service (ATRS), where they are able to make sure that there is as little waste as possible in the process. ATRS not only works to support existing textile companies in their recycling, but has also partnered with charities that benefit from used clothing, volunteers, and donations. That said, ATRS does not provide nearly enough information on their own practices, and it is unclear whether or not the recycling happens at the Baggu Facility, or at an ATRS location. As a result, the consumer must keep in mind the energy and water required to recycle the materials, and should be wary of greenwashing in partnership with ATRS.