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Comparing Carbon Footprints: A Journey in Sustainable Backpack Design

September 07, 23
Comparing Carbon Footprints: A Journey in Sustainable Backpack Design

At Targus, we believe in the power of sustainability and the positive impact it can have on our planet. Through years of working towards sustainability we've discovered that accurate information is the first step to success, so we’ve partnered with ClimatePartner to conduct a carbon footprint comparison on our backpack range. The goal was to understand and compare the environmental impact of our products, giving us the vital information we need to guide our choices for the future. It's all part of our commitment to data-driven change.

A future for good is the future we build together, so as part of our commitment to transparency we’re keen to share our discoveries and insights - the good and the bad. We've split this report into several sections, but you can skip between to find the parts that interests you - click to jump to the project overview, the findings we made, the learnings we took away from from the project, or the future and how we intent to use this information moving forward. Join us on our journey to a more circular economy, and a better future.


The Project:

Before we dive into the comparison, let's take a moment to understand what a carbon footprint represents. Gone are the days when simple recycling was the peak of sustainability; in today’s world we need to consider every step of a product's journey. A carbon footprint CO2 calculation is therefore the total amount of greenhouse gases, measured in CO2 equivalents, emitted throughout the lifecycle of a product, including its raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, usage, and end-of-life.

For this project we set up to measure two bags, chosen to represent our eco and standard backpack categories. Our flagship eco-friendly backpack, the Cypress Hero EcoSmart® Backpack, is a testament to our commitment to sustainable design. Crafted with recycled materials and thoughtful features, it offers functionality without compromising on environmental responsibility. The standard backpack we selected for comparison, the Work+™ Compact 25L Daypack, is great bag designed for commuters, and provides a baseline for understanding the environmental impact of a traditional Targus backpack. The bags were purposefully chosen for their similar weights, allowing us to get the most accurate comparison possible.

To ensure a holistic evaluation of our backpacks' carbon footprints, we adopted a cradle-to-customer & end-of-life approach. This means that we accounted for CO2 emissions along the entire value chain, from material procurement to end-of-life. In other product categories the usage phase would also be considered, but since a backpack requires no energy and creates no emissions to use, we haven’t included that one. By capturing data at this level and analysing the carbon emissions throughout the product's lifecycle, we gain valuable insights into areas where we can make improvements and drive positive change.

The Findings:

Materials:

The first step in our carbon footprint calculation related to the materials used to produce the backpacks, encompassing factors such as raw material extraction and production of intermediate products. This first step is where we see the most significant CO2 difference between our two bags. The notable difference didn’t come as too much of a surprise as the fabric of the eco bag is woven from a high percentage of recycled post-consumer plastic, resulting in very low-carbon textiles. This means that while the standard backpack raw materials had an impact of 4.85kg of CO2, the eco backpack was less than two-thirds that, at 3.05kg of CO2.

The matrials cartegory also covers packaging - a key component to Targus operations around the world. While both products use FSC-certified paper and card for their hangtags, the eco backpack still outperformed the standard backpack by nearly 10% (1kg of CO2 for eco vs 1.09kg CO2 for the standard backpack). While this may seems like a minor win in the overall impact of the product, it's extemely useful for us to be able to see the impact of small differences. This will become especially relevant as we begin to look at other products with significantly more pacakging such as tech accessories and docks.

Electricity and Manufacturing:

The production phase is another crucial aspect of our carbon footprint calculation. Here, we considered direct energy consumption and overhead activities involved in manufacturing our backpacks. The results for electricity use were really interesting, as it represented one of the the only data points where the eco backpack’s CO2 output was actually higher percentage than the standard backpack (even though the total CO2 was approximately equal). The reason for this comes down to the composition and complexity of the bags themselves; an extra pocket here or zipper there can make all the difference. This was a great insight, providing valuable data about how product design affects the overall impact of what we create. By optimising our designs to be more mindful of our production processes and embracing energy-efficient practices, we can minimise the CO2 emissions during this manufacture phase.

Logistics:

Vital to our business but equally significant in the carbon footprint of our backpacks, logistics play a key role in everything we do at Targus, so we took a particularly thorough approach to examine that aspect of the project. This involved tracking the journeys these backpacks make all over the world, considering our shipping capacity and transportation modes such as sea freight, barges, and lorries.

While the percentage of overall CO2 emissions caused by logistics was slightly higher in the eco backpack than the standard, the smaller overall footprint of the eco backpack means that the total carbon of the journeys was still lower. As a global company operating in over 100 countries around the world, these logistical differences can have as much to do with where a product is sold and how far it has to travel to get there, as the efficiency of the travel itself. With a higher appetite for eco-friendly products in Europe than, the eco backpack generally sells better there while the standard backpack tends to be more successful in Asia; as Asia is a significantly shorter trip from the manufacturing facilities the overall footprint of the logistics is lower. Moving forward, we are continuing to improve our overall logistical footprint by reducing packaging sizes and developing smarter solutions to optimise our shipping containers.

End-of-Life:

The disposal phase, integral to any circular economy model, constitutes a significant portion of the overall carbon footprint for both backpacks. Unfortunately, we expected this; managing the end-of-life phase for products like backpacks is incredibly challenging, and it’s a problem we’re grappling with every day at Targus.

While household recycling of such complex products is unlikely to be available any time soon, we’re driven by data like this to alternative options. With all or bags – eco or otherwise – coming with a lifetime warranty as standard, our efforts are focusing on providing a second-life for used bags that are still in great condition. We’re developing take-back programmes, implementing recycling initiatives at our head offices, and collaborating with key partners on local projects. Addressing this challenge remains a priority as we work towards minimising our environmental impact throughout the entire product lifecycle.

PULL THE SLIDER BAR BELOW TO COMPARE THE BACKPACK EMISSIONS

The Learnings

The goal of this project was to collect data to drive our strategy, to confirm where we thought we were doing well, and to find the areas we can improve for ultimate impact. Let’s start with the good.

  1. The project has confirmed that our eco-friendly bags have a lower carbon impact compared to their non-eco counterparts – in fact it’s lower by a whopping 30%! This knowledge reinforces our commitment to sustainability and encourages us to further increase the share of eco-friendly products in our portfolio. Over time, this shift will contribute to a significant reduction in our overall environmental impact.
  2. We now have specific data highlighting our strengths and weaknesses in terms of carbon emissions. For example, by far the biggest impact comes from our materials and pre-processing, accounting for 65-72% of the overall CO2 of the backpacks. This information empowers us to address the problem areas more effectively, targeting areas of highest emissions to make meaningful progress in reducing our carbon footprint. Targus is passionate about data-driven sustainability - making real changes with real impact.
  3. We have already taken actions to reduce our carbon emissions across the board, in every subsection of the model used here. For example, optimising our packaging and the shipping containers used for product transportation has resulted in fuller loads and reduced inbound logistics CO2 emissions. Proactive steps like this give us a lot of confidence for the future.
  4. Importantly, the project has equipped us with the knowledge and expertise to gather vital sustainability information in the future. Starting from a baseline and understanding where we stand is often the most challenging aspect of sustainability initiatives. With this experience under our belt, we are better prepared for future projects, enabling us to collect and analyse data more efficiently.

 

Open and honest communication is vital to our success, so we think it's important to also highlight the areas we found for improvement. Here's where we think we can do better.

  1. While the emission totals were a good reflection of the work we’ve done towards sustainability, we would like to aim higher and cut the numbers further. The overall the results were positive, but we recognise the importance of continuously working to reduce our carbon footprint and will actively pursue strategies to minimise emissions across all stages of our product lifecycle. This is a lifelong endeavour for us, we will never stop bettering ourselves to reduce our impact.
  2. The results emphasise the need to expand our eco-friendly product portfolio further. By increasing the availability of sustainable options, we can effectively reduce our overall CO2 emissions. Fortunately, we are already working to prioritise and expand our eco-friendly offerings to meet this demand.
  3. The project highlighted the challenges associated with managing the end-of-life phase, particularly for products like backpacks. This has always been a huge challenge for Targus, and we readily acknowledge that this is an area where we need improvement. To address this we are actively developing second-life projects and implementing recycling initiatives at our head offices. Additionally, we are collaborating with key partners on local projects to enhance recycling practices and promote take-back initiatives.
  4. The project reinforced the importance of gathering more data to gain a comprehensive understanding of our environmental impact. We recognise the need to continue expanding our data collection efforts across more product categories, enabling us to make well-informed decisions and identify opportunities for improvement. This is just the beginning.

The FUTURE:

Everything we’ve learnt in this project will serve as valuable stepping stones for our sustainability journey. By sharing the information we’ve collected freely and without compromise, we hope to encourage open and honest business, united towards a common cause. This is vital to how we grow, work and thrive. We will continue to collaborate with partners, explore innovative solutions, and refine our practices to create more sustainable products and foster a greener future.

By leveraging the knowledge gained from this project, we are better equipped to make informed decisions and take impactful actions. Our commitment to transparency, the circular economy model, and continuous improvement will remain the driving forces behind our sustainability initiatives.

Media Contact

Rachel Neppes Contact
Targus PR
Head of Public Relations
Phone: 714.575.7432

About Targus

Targus has been creating purposeful solutions for 40 years. Through the ever-evolving landscape of tech, Targus is here to help you seamlessly carry, protect, and connect. Our approach is driven by insight data, global reach, responsible business, and commitment to quality, ensuring that we have the skills and experience to meet your performance, style, and protection needs. From individuals to large enterprises, we’re here to help you get more done.

Headquartered in Anaheim, California, Targus has global operations in more than 24 offices and distribution in more than 100 countries. Like or follow us on Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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About Hyper

Hyper’s world’s first connectivity and power solutions enable you to go beyond your Apple device. Specifically designed to complement Apple’s design aesthetic and philosophy, Hyper’s products seamlessly allow you to utilise the full power and potential of Apple’s technology, enabling you to go beyond what you thought was possible.

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