Rickshaw Launches Round Trip Shipper

In an effort to reduce shipping waste we’ve come up with an innovative solution using scrap fabric to create packaging. We’ve designed a fleet of reusable shipping pouches to eliminate disposable boxes — and we make each one by hand right here in San Francisco. The Round Trip Shipper is a small zippered pouch that we’re using to send our Folios, Accessories and small Zero bags to customers.

Here’s how it works: When you receive your Rickshaw product in the Round Trip Shipper (that colorful pouch on your doorstep), simply clip the security zip-tie and open it up to reveal your new Rickshaw goodies. Pull out the pre-paid return label and sticker-it over the original shipping label on the front of the pouch, then zip it shut and drop in the nearest US Postal Service mail box. Yes, it’s that easy. And, you’ve just saved another disposable cardboard box, because we will re-use the pouch again… and again… and again.

If you decide you love your Round Trip Shipping pouch and want to keep it as a handy organizer, just let us know and we’ll charge you a small $10 fee for it.

Thanks for helping us reduce waste and inspire others to do the same. The little things really do add up!

See more photos on our Flickr gallery.

Also, please read and add comments here.


19 Responses to “Rickshaw Launches Round Trip Shipper”
  1. bag donalds says:

    what about the fuel to transport the bag back and forth?

  2. mmdwight says:

    Thanks for asking. Though we have not yet completed a formal Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), we expect the Round Trip Shipper pouches can be used indefinitely, thereby eliminating the waste of innumerable single-use cardboard boxes. We believe the incremental fuel required to return the pouch is negligible, since we’re leveraging an established, ubiquitous and convenient return loop — the United States Postal System. We expect a formal LCA will demonstrate a net reduction in carbon footprint using our fleet of Return Trip Shippers versus disposable packaging — plus a reduction in scrap fabric waste from our factory. We think it’s all good.

    -Mark Dwight, Founder/CEO, Rickshaw Bagworks

  3. life cycle analysis says:

    Don’t forget to factor in the materials and embodied energy consumed in the manufacture of the Tyvek envelop.

    If all Round Trip Shipper pouches are returned for reuse, how is there a significant decrease in scrap fabric waste? You’d have the old pouches to reuse and wouldn’t need to make many new pouches.

    I think it would have been best to have completed an LCA before announcing this new approach.

    • Thanks for your comment. Indeed, a formal LCA will account for all of the inputs — nylon scraps, Tyvek, zipper, thread, labels, instruction card — and logistics. The RTS pouch has only a small swatch of Tyvek for sticking the shipping labels, since they don’t stick to nylon fabric. As for factory waste consumption, we will make more pouches as shipping volume requires, and the RTS pouch is just one way to use what would otherwise be scrap. As a matter of design philosophy and methodology, we try to minimize or eliminate scrap from our designs to begin with.

      We do intend to commission a formal LCA; however, Rickshaw is a small start-up company on a tight budget, and a formal independent LCA can cost at least $5,000 for even the simplest product — and a lot more for complex products. We would prefer to sponsor a college project for students learning how to perform LCAs. We have several local design schools here in SF, and will put the word out. If you know anyone who’s interested, they can contact me directly (mark at rickshawbags.com).

      In the meantime, I have to rely on my own engineering and design background. My “informed intuition” tells me that replacing 10, 20, 50, 100, or more disposable cardboard boxes with a single, reusable pouch is net-good. While a formal LCA will add the necessary technical rigor to my gut feeling, I am actively instilling the mentality and practice of sustainability and social responsibility into the very DNA of our company, and I prefer experience-based action over wait-and-see caution. Every one of these projects — zero finished goods, zero waste, round trip shipping — plus our financial support for local charities and socially responsible advocacy organizations — no matter how small — support that mission.

      As always, I welcome constructive comments, suggestions and criticism. This is a journey…



  4. todd says:

    Great idea

  5. Geoff S says:

    Mark & All,

    Great idea. I hope more companies see this and rethink their waste streams. Maybe they’ll turn to you for packaging. 🙂

    Well done,


  6. natasha deganello giraudie says:

    What an excellent idea! This is a model for so many others to follow. This could turn into a new business unit for you in and of itself. Why not do this for all your bags?

    Well done! An inspiration.

    • mmdwight says:

      Thanks Natasha. We will be extending this program to all of our products. We started with the small ones to make sure FedEx and the US Postal Service — and our customers — were okay with us using our “unconventional” shipping pouches. So far, no complaints, problems or “unintended consequences”. And, it’s great to see the returned pouches in our daily mail!

  7. Don B. says:

    I think the idea is great. Within the last couple of days I bought a Zero messenger bag from REI (got a great deal ) and now just ordered from the RickShaw website a medium Commuter bag and few other goodies. Mark, I have watched most of your videos. The passion you have for the products you make shine through, very inspiring. I’ll be back soon to buy a Moleskine Folio once I recover from the $300+ I spent on RickShaw goodies of the last couple of days. Thanks

    • mmdwight says:

      Thanks for your kind words Don. As you use your new Rickshaw bags, please let us know if you have any comments or suggestions about the designs, features, fabrics, etc. We welcome feedback from enthusiasts. Cheers! -Mark

  8. Susan says:

    Love this idea so much am already thinking how I can do something similar for my own business.

    Brilliant idea is great to see people thinking “outside the box” keep up the great work!

  9. mwschmeer says:

    This is a great idea, but from a consumer standpoint I think you are executing it poorl. Think about the complaints that might pile up if customers are not aware of this policy and start seeing mysterious $10 charges on their credit cards for not returning the Round Trip Shippers.

    To charge the customer for the shipping container AFTER THE FACT is a bit troublesome, especially since many customers will assume they can keep the shipping container or toss it because they just aren’t paying attention. I’m placing an order this afternoon for a Folio, and if I hadn’t read this blog post I would have assumed I could keep the container in which my order arrived. This is normal consumer behavior–since I keep all other shipping packaged (or recycle them), why wouldn’t I keep yours?

    Shipping containers are part of the cost of doing business, whether you make them yourself or purchase them from a supplier. As a customer, I expect you to either a) swallow that cost, or b) provide me upfront information about the true cost of shipping and handling at the time of purchase when I fork over my credit card information.

    A better way to do this is to announce during the ordering process that there is a $10 shipping package charge, and that this charge is refundable if the customer returns the Round Trip Shipper. As a consumer, I would be alerted to the fact that I will need to return the shipping package, and I will have an incentive to do instead of a penalty for failing to do so.

    It is always preferable to change behavior with a reward (a $10 refund for a return of the RTS) instead of a penalty (a $10 charge for non-return).

    All told, though, it’s great idea and I’d like to see more companies do something along these lines to increase recycling and avoid non-recyclable shipping materials.

  10. Curtis says:

    Hi Mark,

    Great idea! I just started producing backpacks in Portland, and have started wondering about the best way to ship them.

    I also admire your zero waste methods – that’s something I strive for in my shop as well.

    Nice work, you stuff looks great!


  11. Hi Mark. This is really a great idea for saving energy and the environment. I hope your round trip bag will be a success.

  12. Mike says:

    Great idea Mark !! Every little helps, keep up the good work.

  13. Kate Schuler says:


    I am very intrigued by the idea of the round trip shipper. Any plans to market this as a product. I would certainly buy one (or more)!


    • Thanks for the encouragement Kate! We are hoping to bring this to market as a full scale solution for companies who ship product on a regular basis. If you are interested in having one/some for personal use we can certainly arrange something and if you are interested in it for your company we may be able to work with you in our pilot program launching later in 2011. You can e-mail me directly at marketing@rickshawbags.com thanks again! -Chris

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