Production Diary - recycled & eco friendly cases for ipod, iPad, iPhone, touch, nano, Blackberry and HTC Smartphones

Our story of going green

The Proporta Smart range is the result of a lot of very careful research into how we could produce and deliver our products in a more sustainable way.

We wanted to do more than simply pay money to offset our carbon emissions and rename our products "green".

We started researching in 2008. We're still on a massive learning curve. We have a long way to go before we're doing business sustainably through-and-through. But we've discovered stuff that even we couldn't make-up.

Making the case and the environmental consultant

Proporta directors Mike and Guy, Graham (Product Design), Chris (Sales) and Lynnette (Marketing) meet to discuss bringing in a new "eco" range of cases for the iPhone, iPod and main HTC and BlackBerry devices. "We're keen to learn as much as we can about sustainable materials," says Mike. So we make an action plan. We also meet Ben, our new environmental consultant, to discuss alternative, sustainable materials with our manufacturers.

Says Mike: "Because we have our own manufacturers, it's easier to oversee sourcing and development procedures, than if we outsourced them."

We request samples of recycled leather, recycled polycarbonate (for the C-Clips, which hold a device in place) and bamboo plates to use as an alternative to the aluminium plate lining that Proporta is so well known for.

Our favourite finding

A bit of research unearths the fact that we can not only make our Smartphone cases and PDA skins even better looking while reducing our environmental impact. But this can actually positively benefit the environment.

We didn't realise how expensive touch screens are to produce. In terms of natural resources and chemicals used in production – it's a lot. So protecting them is really important.

Bamboo, an entirely natural material, is actually stronger than steel, and at the same time carbon negative. It removes carbon from the atmosphere and locks it away.

First samples arrive

Samples are in and after a few suggestions, we're happy with our initial selection of "smart" materials.

The recycled leather is very high quality and we reckon some customers may actually prefer it to the real thing. "The bamboo's extremely strong," says Lynnette. "I did a little research and discovered it actually has a tensile strength stronger than steel, making it one of the toughest materials in the world, which is pretty protective."

And instead of using a form of polystyrene to line the case and give it a "spongy" feel, we decide to use cork. The stitching of the case will use a natural cotton fibre.

The only downer is the polycarbonate C-Clip material, which can only be made of 30% recycled polycarbonate as any more would make it brittle. We're open to ideas if anyone has any alternatives to this.

Inspired, Graham puts on his thinking hat and heads off with a new product design agenda and a handful of crayons...

The smart concept: it's all about bamboo

Design concepts are finalised. We decide to begin with a bamboo-lined recycled leather case.

Prototypes arrive. They're great. After a few adjustments, our "eco range" has a product line. All we need is a name. So Guy and Lynnette put it to the rest of the team and talk to HarrimanSteel, a long admired branding agency.

"Proporta will always be modest," says Guy. "We prefer our well considered product design, prided customer services and 3,000 mobile accessories to speak for themselves."

"Eventually, we want to use what we learn about sustainability across all our products."

"So, after much deliberation, we decided on the name Proporta Smart because it conveys how we're not perfect, but we're trying to be smart about what we do," says Lynnette.

First samples arrive

Shipping and packaging are two key considerations. "If you've ordered from Proporta before, you'll know we have a very quick speed to market," says Chris. "Within two weeks of a device being launched, Proporta is building accessories to protect it - sometimes even sooner."

Shipping by air is six times quicker than by sea. However our environmental consultant, Ben, tells us that the carbon footprint of an air shipment is about 25 times larger than a sea shipment.

We've started to be more clever with our shipping, which takes around six weeks. We also decide to upgrade our stock management and plan to sea ship in more universal products such as cable tidies, adaptors and multi-device compatible cases.

We aim to ship all Proporta Smart products by sea in the future. We’re working more closely with our shipping partners to improve turnaround. If products need to be shipped by air, we'll offset the carbon emissions.

The Eureka moment

Most people will know that packaging can often be a tripwire for companies trying to improve their environmental credentials. So we talk about this and Mike suggests using bamboo as a packaging method. (Bamboo can shoot up to a whopping 60 centimetres in one day). In a moment of genius where we can only assume the planets aligned and all became right with the world, the team simultaneously came up with the idea of using the bamboo plate which lines the case, to double up as its packaging: so smart.

"The environment has been a consideration of ours when looking at packaging for a while now," said Lynnette. "We aim to take what we've learnt from Proporta Smart and inject that into the rest of Proporta – whether that means including instructions on how to make a docking station out of the box blister packaging used by our main range or by asking customers to recycle the jiffy bags we use to send web orders, which we've started doing already."

Final step towards the green horizon 
– for phase one, at least...

One stumbling block with zero packaging is that it doesn't leave you much room for product information, instructions or not very interesting (but really important) barcodes. So we decide on a barcode sticker with easy peel, non-chemical glue, and stick it to the back of the case. Our design team are thinking of ways around this, but if you've any gems we're open to ideas.

With the issue of not only requiring instructions, but also needing them translated into five different languages, we decide that the only way around including this information is to add a strip of recycled card around our Recycled Leather Cases. With our aim of avoiding unnecessary waste in mind, Mike (one of the Proporta Directors) has a brilliant idea of allowing the customer to cut a template out of the card and turn it into a device stand. He'll be reminding us about that one for years, probably.

Lift off

Champagne bottles at the ready (recycled glass of course) and we're ready to launch. If you are reading this then the microsite was successfully brought to life.

And along with our PR Agent (Victoria from Little Red Rooster), Guy and Lynnette do a media tour of London to meet with top journalists in the tech and environmental industries.

We could've put on a big launch party and invited everyone along, but we thought that would probably go against our eco credentials.

2 months old and already winning awards

It’s not just us who think we've created a pretty nifty little case for your iPad – it’s also been given a MacWorld Editor’s Choice Award for best iPad case. Praised for its green appeal, but also its rather dashing style, and the way that it cunningly turns into a stand.

"What we like most about the Proporta Smart Recycled Leather Case for iPad is that it doesn't play into the traditional Hippy-vibe design of an eco-product, it looks every bit as smart (actually, smarter in most areas) as other cases and Proporta hasn't compromised anywhere, either materials, design or build quality".