Part of being a retail co-op means shipping our products from factories to stores and members. When we create MEC Label gear and clothing, we find ways to reduce the environmental impact from packaging and shipping products. We also work to reduce the impacts of staff commuting and travelling too.
Each year, we keep track of our waste diversion rates and carbon footprint and report back to members in our performance summary.
Reducing waste in packaging
Being smart about how we package MEC Label products can help keep waste out of the landfill. Over the years, the MEC Label team has found ways to cut down (or cut out) packaging for products when they’re shipped from factories. We also use recyclable materials so members can recycle packaging instead of it ending up in the landfill.
Cutting out plastic bags for shipping
One of our biggest wins has been “sushi-roll” packaging. When the majority of MEC Label garments are shipped from factories, factories roll and tie each item instead of wrapping items in individual clear plastic bags called polybags (which are unfortunately very common in shipping). Other items are just loosely packed without polybags.
We’ve been cutting out polybag packaging since 2010, and ship only with a single plastic carton liner to protect from moisture damage in transit. So far, our efforts mean we’ve eliminated the need for more than 18.7 million polybags.
Recycled hang tags
Hang tags are the paper info tags attached to products. Today, over 80% of MEC Label product hang tags are made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, which saves energy and water, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
No plastic bags in stores
When a member walks out the door with a product, we continue cutting out single-use plastic waste. MEC eliminated single-use shopping bags from our stores in 2008. No single-use shopping bags means we keep about 3.4 million single-use bags out of the landfill each year.
What’s next for packaging
Our quality assurance and production teams are looking at each MEC Label product to see if there are ways to reduce the environmental impact for packaging, while still making sure the product is protected when it’s shipped from the factory to MEC. As a retailer, we sell brands other than MEC Label. While we don’t have direct control over how other brands choose to package their products, we do share what we’ve learned in the hopes of influencing others to reduce packaging in the world of retail.
Reducing our carbon footprint from shipping
MEC Label products are made in many places around the world, and shipping them from factories to our stores requires some form of transportation. We track the carbon footprint from product shipments and report back to members in our annual report, and we’re always looking for ways to keep improving and lowering our environmental impact.
Choosing lower impact freight methods
To minimize the carbon footprint from shipping products, MEC Label prioritizes lower impact modes of freight:
- For overseas shipments, the majority of MEC Label products are shipped as ocean freight, since boats have a lower carbon footprint than planes.
- Once overseas shipments land at the ports, we use rail as much as possible to move containers from the port to the distribution centre, so we can minimize the use of trucks.
- For North American shipments, we aim to ship by rail instead of trucks whenever possible, since trains have a lower carbon footprint.
- Whenever we can, we reduce multiple shipments by consolidating loads for MEC Label and other brands.
- When we choose carriers to ship MEC Label products, the majority are SmartWay partners. These carriers keep fuel costs and environmental impact at a minimum.
For products we sell from other brands, which come from warehouses in North America or overseas, we also use lower impact modes of transit whenever we can.
Solutions for shipping to members
Every time someone orders gear from mec.ca, we need to make sure their package arrives on time and intact. We’re actively looking into ways to improve boxing up packages and shipping less empty space in packages. Not only will this save on the amount of cardboard we use, it also means our packages would require less space to ship, which translates to more packages per shipment for a lower carbon footprint.
Promoting lower impact commuting
We’re aware of our carbon footprint for both products and people. MEC finds ways to reduce our air travel footprint by having online meetings with factories when we can, instead of flying to factories. If we do need to visit in person, we take the most direct flights and group factory visits together.
To promote sustainable commuting, our head office and stores offer safe bike parking and showers. We support local bike advocacy groups and events like Bike to Work Week and Commuter Challenge to build a culture of riding. Our stores and head office are built close to transit hubs, and some locations have electric vehicle charging stations.