Doing business sustainably includes delivering quality products that are light on the environment. Many businesses have this as their guidepost for creating innovation.
Such is the case with ReFleece, a Massachusetts company started in 2012 by husband and wife team Sam Palmer and Jennifer Feller. After meeting and working for years at Patagonia with the company’s quality fleece products, they created the latest upcycling phenomena – producing stylish cases for iPads and e-readers from discarded fleece jackets.
ReFleece is a felt-like material created from Patagonia jackets through that company’s Common Thread initiative. As Patagonia makes their products by using recycled PET plastic, this is perhaps the ultimate in upcycling.
ReFleece takes the used jackets and washes and cuts them into squares the size of a tablet case. Utilizing a low energy manufacturing process, they then press the layers together. The outside charcoal gray layer is made from post-industrial recycled fleece scrap made here in the U.S. while the inner colored layer is made from the recovered jacket.
Patagonia takes back their fleece, at their own expense, said Feller. One of the first companies to do so, they were shipping it overseas to be shredded, reprocessed and dyed again to make new things.
“Patagnoia was thrilled we wanted to take their stuff,” she said. “They were very supportive.”
ReFleece now take all of their fleece that can’t be reused for garments.
There are many exciting green aspects to ReFleece. These cases are almost totally made of recycled materials. The only virgin materials used are the sewing thread, elastic band and/or the snaps. Also, because they use the original jacket materials, ReFleece doesn’t have to dye any of their materials. Also, unlike most manufacturing processes where plastic is heated twice – to make small pellets, then again to melt the pellets to make fiber – with ReFleece, it’s only heated once, and at a lower temperature.
The textures and color hues differ from product to product, depending on the jacket that was used. But that’s what makes them unique.
ReFleece wants to show the story of the garment. Feller wants people to think where they’re going to put them next.
Not all municipalities realize they can recycle these types of products. Feller sees their job being to educate municipalities about this.
ReFleece products are made almost entirely here in the U.S. The cases are manufactured, sewn and packaged here at the same location. They’re all sleek, lightweight, durable and water-resistant. And they close securely, protecting your device from dust, scratches and errant sticky fingers.
The problem, says Feller, is the obsolescence of the product.
If you upgrade to a new device, the case might not fit. But, she said, you can put it into the recycling bin or “reuse” it creatively. Her daughter makes colorful flip-flops out of them.
We want companies to think about this, she said. “What happens to clothing, to material when (consumers) are done with it?”
“We’re trying to design things that are thinking the whole life cycle through,” Feller said.
ReFleece is launching a Kickstarter campaign in March. Its purpose is two-fold: to raise money to produce a Fall line of laptop cases and to bring in new companies. Having reached capacity with the material they receive from Patagonia, they recently brought Polartec on-board, who gives them material “ends”, scraps and unusable fabric.
Designed around the specifications of the iPad and mini iPad tablet, ReFleece won’t fit every type of tablet. The small e-reader cases, for example, don’t fit the Nook. The company is currently working on updating the list of what it will fit and will post it on their website.
ReFleece cases run between $25 and $32. You can find them online at DailyGrommet.com, on Amazon and, although ReFleece isn’t an official Patagonia product, you can find select ReFleece products at their ores and at other small retailers.
Filed under: Green products Tagged: | clothing, Common Thread initiative, iPad, Kichstarter, Kindle, Nook, Patagonia, Polartec, recycled fleece, recycled materials, ReFleece, sustainability, upcycled products