Is Away Travel Sustainable?

Is Away Travel Sustainable?

Key Takeaways

  • With the majority of their products made with plastic or nylon, Away Travel is just a  plastics company.
  • Away Travel is guilty of greenwashing.
  • They could easily increase sustainability by using recycled plastics and investing in new materials.
  • Away Travel is not a sustainable or eco-friendly company. 

Over the last few years, Away Travel has become a household name. Their DTC first-mover advantage, creative millennial marketing strategy, and focus on design made them a leader in the industry. Recently valued at $1.4 billion, the disruptive growth is nothing short of impressive. However, in an age where consumers demand sustainability, Away Travel has managed to sneak into millions of American homes without any sustainable products. How has no one exposed the truth?

What’s Inside the Plastic Bag?

Away Travel makes most of their luggage with two types of plastic: Polycarbonate for hard cases and nylon for soft luggage.

Polycarbonate is frequently used for its ability to be molded, stay molded, strength, and durability. It’s a thermoplastic polymer produced by the reaction of phosgene (used in WWI chemical warfare) and BPA. BPA is a toxic chemical that, when ingested, upsets the normal processes of development. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has found present in almost every tested American since the early 2000s, which is partially due to polycarbonate disposal. In Landfills, BPA from polycarbonates breaks down, allowing the chemical to leach into the environment, eventually finding its way into our water systems. 

And of course, all conventional plastic production relies on fossil fuels and produces high amounts of CO2 emissions.

Nylon is a synthetic fiber also heralded for its strength and durability. Similar to polycarbonate, it’s a plastic, derived from coal and petroleum. Nylon production produces high amounts of CO2, NO2 (100 times worse than CO2, wastes water, and is extremely energy-intensive. Also, nylon does not take natural dyes, meaning that the process of dying or printing can create significant pollution

Both nylon and polycarbonate are not sustainable and cause substantial harm to the environment.

The above explanation was a bit technical, so on a scale of 1–10, Away products would score around 3/10. It’s not all bad; they get points for making a product that is technically recyclable and supposedly has a long lifespan. However, the disparity between their website curated reviews, and Trustpilot reviews are suspicious.

Other Unsustainable Practices

In 2019,  Away Travel confirmed it had a toxic work culture that stemmed from the co-founder and CEO Stef Korey. Away’s founders sold a vision of travel and inclusion, but former employees say it masked a toxic work environment that included the use of racism and hate speech. Korey has denied such claims, but that is to be expected. Sustainable companies are not just environmentally conscious but socially, including their corporate workers. If their corporate culture is toxic, I would hate to see how they treat their manufacturing partners. 

 

How does Away get away with it? 

They simply don’t talk about it. Away’s advertising relies heavily on design and functionality. 

The issue is their website makes unsubstantiated sustainability claims which the media has blindly used to associate the company with sustainability. For example, their impact page gives off the perception that the brand is only doing good for the world. However, they take no ownership over their environmental impact, which one would think would go on a page titled “Impact.” In the help section, they claim their products are sustainable by using buzzword filled vague statements unbacked by third-party certifications, transparency, and science. Although hidden in their help section, this is an example of greenwashing as all statements are unsupported. 

Consumers should be very wary of brands not taking ownership of their impact on the environment. If Away’s products were environmentally sustainable, they would let you know it.

All luggage companies need to step up their sustainability initiatives. The good news is that Away and others in the space can easily pivot into a responsible brand. Here’s a list of a few things they could do:

  1. Use recycled nylon and plastics.
  2. Instate transparent sustainable initiatives 
  3. Provide consumers with an easy way to recycle all their old luggage
  4. Invest in research to find new raw materials (Their investors would LOVE this!)
  5. Take ownership and publically commit to doing better
Jon K.

Jon Kirsner, MBA, MSBA, is a supply chain professional with a decade of experience in sustainable manufacturing. His industry experience has exposed him to the truth of the sustainable fashion and consumer goods industries. He does not write as a journalist but as an industry expert and passionate advocate.

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