rPET Dopp Kit for KINSHIP. Dopp Kit image © KINSHIP 

The Problem

Plastics get such a bad rap. They release microfibers into our waterways and when thrown away take up tons (literally, tons) of space.

We have seen that for ourselves. The WORK+SHELTER production center is located close to a landfill in New Delhi, one that is constantly burning. There are two reasons for that:

  1. The trash is purposefully incinerated, in part, because the city lacks infrastructure to manage the waste.
  2. It spontaneously combusts.

When the trash burns, smoke, and smog are created, polluting the air for all of the city’s inhabitants. 

With such negative externalities, why even use plastics at all? One reason is that they have immense utility. They are lightweight, affordable, and strong.

Quilted rPET Zip Pouch

Our Solution 

What can we, as folks in the promo/swag/merch/sewn goods world, do about this massive environmental issue?

Our answer: buy fabric made out of recycled plastics. By doing that we get the utility of poly fabrics and also keep waste out of the landfill.

The technical term is recycled polyethylene terephthalate, RPET for shorthand.

When we buy bags or shirts made out of RPET fabric, we provide a monetary incentive to recycle those plastics, instead of burn them. What’s more, individuals in parts of India can actually sell their waste to recyclers. In economic terms, we create “demand” for this type of fabric, resulting in building a supply chain of collectors, recyclers, and weavers who then make their living from doing something that actively improves the environment.

              Digitally printed woven RPET

Production Options

RPET is available in both knitted (think tees) and woven (think totes) fabrics.

For knits, RPET can be combined with organic cotton (GOTS certified), resulting in material that works well for athleisure apparel.  One of our clients, a yoga clothing brand decided on this mix because the RPET dries fast and is super durable, while the cotton makes the garment more comfortable, soft, and breathable. 

In woven form, RPET is strong, partially water resistant, and lightweight. Less weight results in an easier-to-carry and cheaper-to-ship than a cotton equivalent, making it a great option for make-up bags or foldable totes.

Knit rPET yoga pants for SAMVEGA. Image © SAMVEGA

Design Trade-Offs

As you may have heard, RPET is composed of microfibers that can shed into the water supply. This has given RPET somewhat of a bad rap in the environmental community. 

Despite the microfiber issue, using RPET is a huge upgrade from using virgin polyester, as its creation is taking post-consumer materials out of landfills, incinerators, and the oceans.

Designers should especially consider using RPET in items that can be wiped down and not machine-washed. Examples of products that fit these criteria:

  • Tote bags
  • Packing cubes
  • Packaging for other items
  • Wall hangings (pictured below)

If you’d like to consider giving plastics a second life and use RPET for your production, let us know and we can send you complimentary samples of various compositions and weights. We’re always reachable at [email protected].rPET Great Lakes Map Quilt

At WORK+SHELTER, we’re committed to sewing super high quality swag while making a difference in the world. We know that for small businesses, every dollar counts and purchasing has to be financially sustainable. On that note, it’s actually possible to leverage branded merchandise to not only generate revenue but also fund giveaways that amplify your brand’s reach. Let’s dive into how ordering swag from us can help you achieve your marketing goals while contributing to social impact.

Tote bag for Diaspora Co. Image © Diaspora Co.

Step 1: Sell Your Swag

Let’s say you are a growing small business – you have a loyal fan base but are looking to expand your reach. It’s possible to parlay the support of your current customers by adding complimentary categories of goods. For example:

  • A spice company that often vends at farmer’s markets offers a shopping bag
  • A restaurant that sells their own in-house brand of olive oil in glass bottles offers a gift bag the exact right size for the oil
  • A soap company that employs refugees in the making of the soap adds a t-shirt that drives home the impact

Organic custom-printed tees for Sitti Soap. Image © Sitti Co.

Now, on to the numbers:

  • To start, you could sell branded hoodies for $54 each to your existing fans, with a margin of $25 per hoodie.
  • Selling 100 hoodies would yield $2,500 in margin ($25 profit per hoodie × 100 hoodies sold).

And of course, by selling high quality swag, you’re not only generating revenue for your business and buidling your brand, but also creating positive change in the lives of others.

Work+Shelter can create product you can use for giveaways.

Step 2: Reinvest In Giveaways

As you sell branded merchandise made at WORK+SHELTER and generate revenue, you have the opportunity to fund giveaways that amplify your brand’s reach while making a positive impact. Let’s see how you can use the profits from selling hoodies to fund giveaways of bags that can be purchased at a lower price point:

  • With the $2,500 profit from selling hoodies, you now have funds to invest in other promotional items to giveaway.
  • Let’s say with those funds you decide to purchase handcrafted tote bags for $5 each. You can actually purchase and give away 500 bags, really expanding the brand reach of your business

In conclusion, WORK+SHELTER empowers businesses to maximize their promotional product ROI while making a meaningful difference in the world. By selling ethically sourced merchandise, funding giveaways that amplify brand reach, and reinvesting profits into sustainable growth, you can create positive impact at every step of the way. Ready to make a difference with your branded merchandise? Get started with WORK+SHELTER today and join us in our mission to create a better world, one product at a time.