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Bag maker weaves sustainability into its company philosophy

Tom Bihn, founder and president of TOM BIHN, in his Seattle factory

TOM BIHN takes pride in making its small business as sustainable as possible. The company is committed to manufacturing products in ways that are better for the environment and to reducing the climate impact of shipping those products. On a companywide level, they are dedicated to driving measurable and practical changes in sustainability. To expand and refine their environmentally responsible practices further, TOM BIHN's leaders chose UPS as their logistics provider.

Tom Bihn, the founder of the company, knows how important it is to have a shipping company that cares about sustainability: "UPS sees themselves as being around for a long time, and they understand that it means taking responsibility for the impact that their operations have on the environment. That's inspiring. For us, sustainability is the lodestar that we're driving toward; we're never going be absolutely perfectly sustainable, but it's where we're headed."

Inspired by sewing lessons from his mom and engineering tips from his dad, Bihn began making backpacks as a kid. He started the company in 1982 and has since been designing backpacks, briefcases, travel bags and even dog gear, all of which is now manufactured at the TOM BIHN factory in Seattle. The business uses almost all U.S.-made materials, and it has an eye toward the future as well, creating durable products that come with a lifetime guarantee.

UPS helps the company live up to its sustainability promise and reduce its shipping impact through UPS carbon neutral shipping. UPS calculates the emissions associated with TOM BIHN's shipping, then funds environmental projects around the world that reduce carbon emissions. As part of the program, UPS works with certified carbon reduction projects such as reforestation efforts, landfill gas destruction, wastewater treatment and methane destruction.

TOM BIHN also participates in the Eco-Responsible Packaging Program. Through the program, UPS evaluates customers' packaging processes to determine the best way to protect products, while choosing materials that reduce the overall impact on the environment. "We all hate to get stuff that's overpackaged - or underpackaged and arrives broken," Bihn explains. "UPS evaluated our approach to selecting materials and right-sizing packages with the environment in mind."

Shared sustainable values

TOM BIHN takes a holistic approach to its sustainability commitments, which is why UPS's innovations in alternative fuels make for a perfect partnership.

Bihn knows that the relationship will continue to be important. "We're excited to see what UPS comes up with next. I think it's easy for people to imagine that the air they breathe, food they eat, water they drink just shows up," he says. "You've got to take the responsibility for not just your carbon footprint, but what your footprint is in terms of sending solid waste to the landfill. All those things have impacts, and you want to be aware of them, and you want to mitigate them as much as you can."

UPS strives to make more sustainable connections around the world. The tools for making this change are data and technology, coupled with the expertise and commitment of UPSers. "Every day, we connect millions of people and businesses across 220 countries and territories; the issues and challenges affecting local communities naturally become our issues too," explains David Abney, UPS chairman and CEO, in the UPS 2015 Corporate Sustainability Report. "We have the vision and commitment to create more sustainable connections around the globe; the needs of our communities and our planet spur us to act."

UPS's sustainability at a glance

The 2015 Corporate Sustainability Report Committed to More™ details how UPS is "helping customers pioneer more sustainable solutions, delivering packages more efficiently, creating more connections around the world and finding more ways to take action and give back."

Here are some of UPS's most recent sustainability achievements:

  • 10 million+ hours. The time UPS employees had volunteered as of the end of 2015, with a goal of 20 million by 2020.
  • 1 billion miles. The distance UPS drove in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles as of 2016, reaching the goal one year early.
  • 14.5 percent. The amount by which UPS's carbon footprint has been reduced since 2007.
  • $9.6 million. The value of grants UPS awarded to more than 4,200 nonprofits in 2015.
  • 350 shipments. The humanitarian relief and resilience efforts donated by the UPS Foundation across 50 countries in 2015.
  • Up to 98 percent. The amount of materials in package cars that come from recyclable materials.
  • 1,750+ vehicles. The number of new alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles added to UPS's Rolling Laboratory fleet in 2015.
  • 5.6 million gallons. The amount of renewable diesel and natural gas UPS used from methane captured from landfills in 2015.

Download the full UPS 2015 Corporate Sustainability Report Committed to More

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