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A handbag that cuts down your carbon footprint by almost 90% Featured Image

A handbag that cuts down your carbon footprint by almost 90%

27/5/2021

BEEN London is a social enterprise making stunning bags entirely by hand in East London. But there’s so much more to these backpacks and totes. Every material the team at BEEN london use, is what others might consider ‘waste’. The skilled artisans give new life to felt made from recycled IKEA uniforms, recycled cotton woven from textiles beyond repair and a wide range of leather alternatives – from recycled leather to PETA certified vegan pinatex, AppleSkin and everything in between! But what does all of this mean for the carbon footprint of the finished product?

We asked BEEN London to share their brilliant new research. Over to founder, Genia Mineeva.

 

We’ve always known that using materials that are already out there is waaay better than using new, virgin ones. You save an incredible amount of water by not having to grow cotton and instead using processed cotton clothes as your starting point. Same goes for leather and the need to raise and feed animals. On average, roughly 2/3rds of any garment’s carbon footprint would be raw materials, so by not using any virgin ones we knew we were making a positive impact. The question was how big is that difference? How much CO2 emissions are our bags helping our customers save? So we set off to find out (spoiler alert, it’s good news!).

The research wasn’t quick or easy. In fact, it took us over six months to do all the calculations. I’m forever grateful to our friends at Terra Neutra for helping us with the process. It included looking at everything from the raw recycled materials we use, how we ship them, how we store them and even the electricity used at our East London studio.

We had to draw a line somewhere so we chose our best selling Columbia crossbody for the in depth analysis and compared it to its high street equivalent. A bag of similar design, same material usage, but made from virgin materials in South East Asia – where most leather goods available on the high street are made.  

Countless hours spent on many lengthy spreadsheets and complex carbon calculators, the results came in and it turns out all those supply chain decisions we made really do make a huge difference! It turns out that the Columbia Crossbody bag emits just 13% of the carbon compared to a high-street bag made from virgin materials, an incredible reduction of 87%. A few more calculations later and we worked out that this huge carbon saving is the equivalent of leaving your lights on for nearly a year or 418 plastic bags!

The coolest thing was that the biggest CO2 savings happened thanks to the materials we use, which once again proves that using what we already have in circulation can make a real difference on our individual impact. Plus not shipping products around the world but actually making them here, 10 mins away from our design studio in Hackney Wick.

And while Columbia is still available, we now know that our entire new collection which is made from the same materials will have a similarly low carbon footprint. What is most exciting is the fact that the guys at Terra Neutra have built us an innovative tool allowing us to calculate the CO2 emissions of any new materials we might introduce in the future, helping us make any design decisions based on impact. 

So whether it’s a treat for yourself or for someone you love, just remember that the difference between a BEEN London bag and pretty much everything else on the market will be equal to leaving the lights on for almost a year. 

To tackle all of the numbers we worked closely with our friends at Terra Neutra to conduct the study. They’re an incredible online platform with a mission to help people live more sustainable lives and create a carbon positive world. Whilst climate change is seen as one of the greatest challenges we’ve ever been faced with, Terra Neutra believes it also presents an incredible opportunity for all of us to work together to meet that challenge and make positive changes in the world! And we agree.