Pela is company primarily focused on phone cases that has also branched out to related technology protection products such as air-pod cases. Pela is one of the leading smartphone case companies that are trying to pioneer the elimination of the audacious amount of plastic and non decomposable materials that go into creating cheap, plastic and environmentally damaging phone cases. Overall, I was impressed by Pela’s sustainability efforts and the extensive information that the website made available to the consumer in order to be transparent about their mission to “create everyday products without everyday waste.” With their goal of keeping 1 Billion pounds of plastic from production is a very hopeful goal to strive for. Similar to the rapid pace of the production, use and ultimate disposal of smartphones, smartphone case’s life cycles are even shorter as they have now become not only of form of protection but also a part of one’s fashion or accessories that are a created at such a rapid pace with a limited amount of companies holding themselves liable for their environmental and social responsibilities, and for that I commend Pela for taking this step into a somewhat unchartered territory.
One of the positive aspects of the Pela brand is that their website is very user friendly in regards to locating information regarding their sustainability efforts, however they are still slightly vague in their descriptions. For example, for this phone case they claim to have “revolutionized phone cases once again.” They state that their clear phone cases are made of plant-based material and is the first ever completely compostable and clear iPhone case that is not made of plastic. While it is great to hear that they are completely avoiding the use of plastic, as a consumer I would appreciate more information in regards to what exactly these “plant-based materials” are and where exactly they are sourced from. However, they do provide a diagram that details why exactly their phone cases are more expensive then your typical case, with this one is particular being priced at $54.99 USD and within this they claim that their raw materials and manufacturing cost 4 times as much as phone cases produced with plastic. Within this diagram they also claim to be the “only phone case that has been verified by third party labs to work.” Again, they are lacking is specificity of what labs, and what they consider it means “to work.” The phone case is “Biodegradable and Eco-Friendly” as the materials used are 100% compostable. As I looked further into their website I discovered that the base of the cases are made of Flax shive and a plant based biopolymer. The bumper that circumnavigates the outside of the case, aiding in shock protection, is made of different colored Flaxstic material. Flaxstic is a “combination of flax straw ‘waste’, plant-based biopolymers, and recycled material.” The biopolymers require as much as 50% less non-renewable energy and creates as much as 60% less greenhouse gases than typical plastic polymers. They also use Flax fibers as oilseed flax is grown extensively in Saskatchewan, a province of Canada, and the flax straw that is created as a byproduct is often burned in order to get rid of it. Therefore by using the flax as a natural shock absorbent, this aids in supporting local farmers as well as creating a signature look that helps distinguish these biodegradable polymers from traditional plastics during the recycling process. They also note that they approach packaging in a minimalistic style and use only what is necessary to safely deliver your product.
The website indicates that this case is hand-made in Canada and takes approximately 5-7 days to ship from their studio where they are produced. They manufacture the Bioplastic in Canada. The cases are made in Canada but also have “operations out of Kelowna, BC Canada as well as in Hong Kong.” Their Kelowna Sustainability Studio in Canada is where their classic Pela Case is manufactured and engraved. This is also where they house the equipment needed to regrind and reprocess plastics used by other companies as a part of their Pela 360 Program that they then use to make new products. The website says that they have 12 employees who work out of this studio is Canada. Their manufacturing partners are located in South China which is where they manufacture Pela Cases as well as most of the other products Pela offer where around 800 employees work. While outsourcing to manufacturing companies raises the concern of transportation emissions, the website states that they were in need of a partner that would take a chance on Pela, a small start up, and work with their unique biodegradable material. While I commend Pela for being transparent in regards to their manufacturing sites, I would love for them to offer a little more information about the actual process in which the phone cases are created and how this process requires less energy, less carbon emissions, less water usage and less waste production as indicated on their website.
Pela is a company that surrounds its whole mission and ventures around sustainability so they understandably partake in many programs that are centered on helping the environment and lessening waste. They also have many certifications that have to be examined in detail as often companies use these certification as a ploy in greenwashing. They are Climate Neutral Certified, B Corporation Certified and are labeled as being Biodegradable and Eco-Friendly. The Climate Neutral Certifications, similar to many other certifications has a process that is completed by the company themselves and merely guided by the Certification corporation. While it certainly does have set steps that do seem to hold some validity including measuring the greenhouse gas emissions the company creates in both production and delivery their software tool called BEE(Brand Emissions Estimator). They then help the company offset their whole carbon footprint from the previous year by connecting the companies with “verified carbon credits, funding projects that eliminate emissions all across the globe.” Finally they set the companies up to reduce their carbon emissions by identifying their biggest sources determining steps to implement steps following their Reduction Action Plan (RAP). The full process takes 1-3 months depending on their size. Pela is also a part of the 1% for the Planet program that requires them to donate at least 1% of their annual revenue to environmental causes. The company also has certain resources that help consumers determine if other companies are sustainable and how to go about reaching out to companies to learn more before you make decisions based on your research. While Pela has extensive information available regarding their environmental programs they are a part in, they do not have an abundance of information regarding social justice initiatives or fair labor treatment practices. While I understand this is a smaller company that does have a page detailing their communities values, I would love to see more information on how the company treats their employees, supports their community and stands up for inclusivity and equality for all inside and outside of the workplace.