When I think of protection, eco-friendly, and phone cases, the first brand that comes to my mind is PELA. Add vibrant, bold colors and customization to this combination of words, and the next brand I think of is CASETIFY. In fact, Casetify is widely known today as a brand that offers electronic accessories with a wide range of colors and customization options while also providing strong protection. Of all the company’s products, I think that their phones cases are the most popular. Thanks to collaborations with Youtubers, Instagram and Tiktok influencers, personalities and famous brands, Casetify’s phone cases are now all over the internet. The latest of the company’s products that are making a name for themselves on the web and gaining the interest of environmentally conscious consumers are Casetify Ultra Compostable phone cases. They are advertised to be 100% compostable and biodegradable, a first in Casetify’s catalog.
By taking a look at this new collection of Ultra Compostable phone cases, the Motels Sun Moon and Stars print one immediately caught my eyes. I fell in love with its original design and beautiful dark color with a dash of beige. When looking a little more into the collection, the product, and the company itself, I discovered many things. I learned about the amazing advance into the company’s journey towards zero carbon and waste that this collection represents, and about the impressive and sustainable materials that were used to make the phone cases, but also about Casetify’s lack of transparency and communication. The company has launched a lot great initiatives, but I think that it still has a way to go to be more transparent. Despite being new to the fight for a more sustainable world, I think that Casetify has a high potential of growth in the area.
Casetify’s Ultra Compostable phone case is made of ecotify; a blend of biopolymers, starch, and bamboo fibers which the company claims to be its proprietary blend. Now, let’s talk a little bit about the bamboo fibers used, which are kinda like the main ingredients of this mix. According to two articles from Eco&Beyond and GreenMatters (websites covering sustainable living trends, climate news and justice, food and energy innovation, animal welfare and tips for living sustainably), bamboo is as sustainable as it comes. They qualified bamboo as a super plant. In fact, it absorbs as much as 12 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year and produces 35% more oxygen compared to an equivalent tree mass. Bamboo doesn’t need chemicals to help its natural growth and grows insanely fast (at a rate of 3 feet per day) and fully matures in 1 or 5 years depending on variety. The only problems that might occur with bamboo are the damages on the environment, depending on the location of shipping, the destruction of the natural habitat of wildlife when exploiting bamboo fields, and the energy and water consumed during its transformation process.
The design on the back of the case is then made with an eco-friendly ink and the packaging of the phone case is also 100% compostable, making the ready-to-be-sent product (phone case + package) entirely eco-friendly and compostable. Amazing ! Each phone case, compostable and biodegradable, breaks down into carbon dioxide, water and other naturally occurring minerals that seamlessly mix back into earth without leaving any toxic by-products. These compostable cases were born during their journey to #droptozero, a journey toward zero carbon and zero waste to help protect the future. Casetify is working to reduce single-use plastics without compromising the quality their consumers have come to expect from them. Compared to their traditional injected and molded petroleum-based plastics cases, I think that Casetify has has a pretty impressive evolution going to compostable phone cases.
Since the phone case is 100% compostable, one should be able to either put it into an industrial compost bin or a home compost pile. The company’s website states that the product is compostable in industrial composting and breaks down in 180 days. However, according to an article from ethical elephant (a modern-day ethical consumer guide to navigating through conscious and cruelty-free living), when they contacted the company, they were told that “the most current version of the compostable cases got rid of the sandblast camera ring and successfully engineered it to be completely home compostable.” I think that it’s quite odd that this information doesn’t appear on their website, because of course, every company who strives to be more sustainable would want to boast of such an amazing advancement, especially when it also represents a strong marketing tactic. Furthermore, an article from Pela ranking the most environmentally friendly phone cases led me to another of Pela’s articles, where a comparison was made on how compostable Pela’s phone cases are vs Casetify’s phone cases. At first, I thought it was just going to be about taking down the competition, but it was actually far from that. This article gives an in-depth comparison with a compost test, which consists on putting a phone case from each company in specialty equipment designed to speed up the composting process using heat, airflow and circulation. This compost test is made to see how they would stack up and what would be left over after the process had finished. At the end of the test, we can clearly see that Pela’s phone case breaks down completely while Casetify’s Ultra Compostable one does not; the shape and color of the phone case is still recognisable while Pela’s is not. If in a machine that speeds up the composting process, Casetify’s phone case has trouble decomposing, I can hardly imagine how it would do in a home/backyard compost or how long the process would take (especially when the process is said to take 180 days in specialized facilities). So, what are these articles from Pela and ethical elephant uncovering? Well, they reveal that Casetify was not totally honest about the matter. While they did not claim anywhere on their website that their compostable phone case are home compostable, they let everybody think that they are. Then, is it a case of greenwashing or merely a case of not-enough-information? Pela’s article tends to lean towards the former, while I lean towards the latter. No matter what one thinks, it a clear that this situation reveals a significant lack of communication and transparency from Casetify. There is no doubt that the company is making steps to reduce its carbon footprint, however, a little more open dialogue between the company and the consumer base could go a long way in improving the effectiveness of their eco-conscious campaign. Though the phone case may not be able to be tossed in your compost yet, you can definitely bring it to a local industrial facility, or have it picked up by your composting service.
As previously said, the phone case is made from a blend of biopolymers, starch, and bamboo and is inked with an eco-friendly ink. What are biopolymers? How are they obtained? What is an eco-friendly ink? How is it made? How exactly is made the phone case? I couldn’t answer any of these questions with what I gathered from the company’s website. Thankfully, search engines such as Google exist.
From what I found, biopolymers are natural, organic polymers produced by the cells of living organisms. They can be found in large amounts in nature and are biodegradable and have no negative effects on the environment. They are produced either via fermentation or by chemical polymerization of monomers, which are in turn produced through fermentation. Polymerization refers to any process in which relatively small molecules, called monomers, combine chemically to produce a very large chainlike or network molecule, called a polymer.
Traditionally, most businesses, like Casetify, used petroleum-based ink because when it burst onto the market half a decade ago, it was cheap and quick to dry. Half a decade later, everybody is now aware of how destructive it is for us and the environment, as it often emits Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) which can be both a health hazard to print workers and pollutants to the ozone. It’s in this context that eco-friendly inks, which cause no harm, were born and became a reference for every printing specialist, business owner and consumer to whom sustainability is important. Among the most popular and common environmentally-friendly inks, soy-based ink is the most used. It is made from soybeans as opposed to a petroleum-based ink. Soy-based ink is more environmentally friendly while still providing a wide range of accurate colours. It also makes it easier to recycle printed paper. This type of ink is rising in popularity as corporate sustainability becomes more mainstream.
Now about the making of the product, I really couldn’t find much. Well sure, I was able to find some videos from other companies about how phone cases are made. But since the materials used are totally different, I think I cannot use those videos as references. Without knowing exactly how the phone case is made, I can imagine that it takes some machines to mix the ingredients, mold the product into its desired shape, and add a design on the finished phone case. I can also guess that those machines have a carbon footprint. Since the company sends its products worldwide but only manufactures them in China and in the USA, I can also guess that their transportation and shipping also leaves a carbon footprint. But since there is no information about the manufacturing and transportation, it is quite hard to be aware of how important this footprint is. For the making of the packaging, it is also the same; the company’s website doesn’t gives details and just claims that it is compostable.
The lack of information on the manufacturing of some of the products’ components, the product itself, and its packaging makes it hard to really appreciate and tell if the product is as good and sustainable as Casetify declares. We can’t stress enough how crucial transparency is in a company’s practices. And I think that Casetify’s is still a long way behind in this aspect. We are waiting for the change!
Formerly named Casetagram Limited, Casetify is a company originally based in Hong Kong that designs and produces phones cases and electronic accessories. The company was founded in October 2011 by Ronald Yeung and Wesley Ng and originally featured custom phone cases made by using Instagram photos. It later expanded to selling accessories with different designs and moved it’s headquarters to Los Angeles, USA. From a small company, Casetify became one of the three biggest accessory brands in the world that collaborated with brands and influential figures such as DHL, Pharrell Williams, Pokemon, Kylie Jenner and Yves Saint Laurent.
Originally not a big figure on the sustainability scene, Casetify has today made big advancements and is now listed among the brands offering sustainable electronic accessories. Within the framework of its “Drop To Zero” journey toward zero carbon and zero waste, the company launched a lot of new programs. In fact, in April 2020, the company launched its 100% compostable CONSCIOUS case, announced its mission to remove all plastic from packaging and its partnership with EarthDay Network to plant 7.8 billions trees. This partnership gave birth to the Canopy Project, through which Casetify has committed to planting one tree for every compostable phone case, biodegradable phone case and reusable water bottle sold. In October 2020, they launched Impact & Ultra Impact Cases with 50% recycled materials, the Desert Neutrals collection inspired by sustainable materials, and rolled out 100% compostable packaging. In the same month, they also launched RECASETIFY, a phone case recycling program, in HK and the US. The program allows you to drop your old case from any brand at a Casetify store for a 15% discount on your next Casetify purchase. With the program, the company gives their consumers’ waste a second life through TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box program, which provides solutions for difficult-to-recycle waste that cannot be recycled through one of TerraCycle’s free programs or through regular municipal recycling. The innovations continued in July 2021, when the company launched its Ultra Compostable Case made with ecotify, a phone case that breaks down without leaving any toxins behind.
To help with the pandemic, Casetify also launched triple-layered medical-grade masks that are latex-free and hypoallergenic with 100% compostable inner and outer packagings. In addition, the company put 100% of the proceeds of the sale of their UV sanitizers to a GlobalGiving’s Coronavirus Relief Fund in March and April 2020. That's $100,000 donated to send medical responders, essential supplies, and food to communities in need. In the same line of sight, Casetify donated their proceeds from the “Her Impact Matters” collection, the Pride Case, and the “Stop Asian Hate” collection to respectively support girls' education and fight for women's equal rights, to invest in an organization (Ali Forney Center) dedicated to protecting LGBTQ+ youths from the harms of homelessness, and to support Stop AAPI Hate movement to fight the rise in hate crimes against Asians.
In their 2021 Impact report, Casetify announced that, thanks to the numerous advances they made, they have planted 50,000 trees as part of their iniative with EARTHDAY.ORG’s Canopy Project, they avoided 5,000 single use plastic bottles with their reusable water bottles, recycled 46,000 lbs of plastic into new products and 5,000 old phone cases as part of their RECASETIFY program.
I think that Casetify, since the beginning of 2020, has been showing us how much they care about sustainability and how they plan to invest in it. I was particularly pleased with their collaboration with EARTHDAY.ORG, even though it’s a shame that they didn’t extend this initiative to their Impact and Ultra Impact cases, but also to each of their products that was thought and designed through a sustainability lens. Their goal of planting 7.8 billions trees would have been closer to being attained. I also noticed on Casetify’s website that there is an insane amount of accessories designed for Apple’s products and some of them, like the new Ultra Compostable phone cases, are only available on iPhones. While I understand that they have to meet the demand to maintain and expend their fan base, I think that focusing their accessories on Apple’s products indirectly supports the brand, which is definitely miles away from being sustainable. It is regrettable that a brand that is thriving to be more sustainable indirectly facilitates the use of Apple’s products. What I also find regrettable is how pricey Casetify’s products are. You will have to spend at least $50 to own a customized Ultra Compostable phone case. I don’t know about you, but I find it insanely expensive! Unfortunately, it would deter more than one to invest in an eco-friendly phone case from Casetify, even knowing that it’s for a worthy cause. For this amount, many would rather invest in a great quality sweater or enjoy a copious meal! While we still haven’t reached the era where sustainable products will not cost an arm and a leg, let’s hope it’s not too far. Casetify is certainly a company to keep an eye on because I am convinced that it has the potential to grow even more and become a reference in the field of sustainable electronic accessories.