This post was sponsored by Pela Case, a brand I’ve been using since 2016. All views my own.
Although I got a new (secondhand) phone literally seven months ago, I only just got round to actually getting a phone case. Of course there was only one place I was going to turn, seeing as my last phone lived in a case from the same brand for its whole life. And that was Pela’s compostable, zero waste alternative; a phone case crafted from a blend of plant-based biopolymers and Canadian flax straw.
Although the sustainable community often use the term zero waste to describe our lifestyle choices and eco-friendly habits, it’s actually an industrial term. Zero waste refers to a holistic approach that aims to eliminate waste rather than managing it, shaping a company’s design philosophy as they work to remove waste at the source and through their supply chain. Moving towards this more circular way of production obviously tackles environmental issues, but can also end up being more efficient and more in line with way the natural world works.
‘Zero waste means designing and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and materials as close to zero as possible, conserve and recover all resources and not burn or bury them. Successful Implementation of zero waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that may be a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health… This definition of zero waste describes a so-called ‘whole-system approach’ to redesigning resource flows to minimize harmful emissions and to minimize resource use.’ (source)
The best zero waste design also promotes a stronger culture of collaboration across industries. The idea is that the waste or by-products produced by one industry can be used by another, creating an integrated process that produces no waste overall, emulating the cycles of the Earth’s natural systems (one human breathes out CO2, one tree breathes it in, etc).
So it’s not just about recycling your plastic bottles, it’s about shifting the way we create and consume before we get to that point.
And this is what Pela gets so right.
It’s not just that their phone case is plastic free, home compostable, BPA-free, non-toxic, or ethically made in Canada, it’s that they’re reducing waste in other industries too. This creates a solution that is more impactful than just our individual choices, whilst also still giving us the option to make better purchases too. It’s a perfect combination.
So how do they do this? Pela’s founder Jeremy hails from Saskatchewan, an area of Canada which grows a mighty amount of oil seed flax. After harvesting, the flax straw is too difficult to break down before the next crop is seeded. It often ends up being burned in the fields instead, becoming a completely wasted potential resource. Upon learning about the development of biopolymers, Jeremy had the idea of incorporating flax straw fibres into a biopolymer material, both utilising the straw and giving the material a special appearance, which could also spread awareness of sustainable bioplastics. This idea led to the material that now makes up each Pela phone case.
The inclusion of straw in these phone cases helps improve bonding and provides better shock absorption, but also gives farmers the chance to sell their flax straw rather than burn it, both boosting their industry and creating a collaborative zero waste process. Pela is very vocal in their belief that the options exist to make everyday products without the waste and, beyond their actual plastic free product, this circular nature of eliminating waste to create solutions shows just how possible this future is.
On top of this Pela is also a member of 1% for the Planet, meaning they donate at least 1% of sales to environmental non-profit groups (they’re particularly passionate about clean water and clean ocean initiatives like Water.org and Surfrider Foundation), and they have a pay it forward scheme in place through their referral programme. When you purchase a Pela Case you get a special referral link to share with friends and family, and if someone buys from your link Pela donates $3 to a selection of partner charities such as Amnesty International, World Wildlife Fund, and Unicef.
The case itself
Research suggests that 75% of smartphone users have a phone case, and that the global phone accessories market is huge. It’s expected to reach $107.3 billion by 2022, with phone cases dominating this market. That’s a huge industry and a huge amount of influence. While most cases are made from oil-derived plastics that won’t break down, Pela is the only company that is operating with a truly zero waste mindset. Eliminating waste is ingrained into their design philosophy (they’re even committed to reducing 1 billion lbs of plastic from the waste stream every year) and they provide a really wonderful plastic free alternative for the consumer too.
This isn’t my first time trying out a Pela case, so I knew what I was in for, but this case is just as smooth, sleek and easy to use as my last. It’s flexible and strong, and each case is completely unique to you thanks to the patterning from the flax straw. This time around I opted for a rose quartz case with an engraved design in the back; I love how it’s subtle but still has something to say, and I adore this pale pink colour. Although some of the smaller aesthetic design elements have changed a little since I got my last case, this case still contains the charm and individual flare that I love so much. This ‘Lead The Way’ case is part of Pela’s custom engraved collection, and I like how the double meaning can both inspire me in my work, and encourage me to seek adventure. And, of course, it arrived in plastic free packaging too!
So, overall, I really love this phone case, but what I love even more is Pela’s commitment to thinking bigger, and actively moving towards a more sustainable future.
To see more of Pela’s cases check them out here, and use the code ETHICALUNICORN at checkout to get 15% off!
images by Hannah Woolley