How Can Swimming Go Green(er)?

Ok, so I know I’m a few days late for Earth Day, but I saw an interesting article today on the Kast-Away Swim Wear Blog. They come to the conclusion that compared to many other businesses (including the individually-wrapped-banana industry), the swimsuit manufacturers do a pretty good job of minimizing packaging.

But I think they can do better.

Yes, Speedo, Tyr, Arena and Nike’s individual swimsuit boxes are made of recyclable materials. And yes, they use minimal packaging. But they seem to have forgotten the third (and in my opinion most important) R-“reuse”!

Speedo Box Recycled From Kastaway Swimwear BlogBut lest we forget, recycling is a manufacturing process. And because it’s a manufacturing process, that means it creates airborne pollutants. Recycling doesn’t save the environment, it’s just kind of  a lesser evil of sorts than garbage dumps, only it makes us feel really good about ourselves.

Without getting too political (because isn’t swimming political enough already?), I’d like to see the swimsuit companies try to find a way to reuse their packaging.

I work a few days a week at a swim shop, and every day (especially in the height of the summer-league season) we throw away dozens of empty boxes. Every time I take a load out, it seems such a shame. There’s nothing wrong with the boxes, but there’s just nothing else to do with them.

What if we were to take one of those big boxes that Speedo puts all of the little boxes in to ship them, fill it with empty little boxes, and send them straight back. The stores could probably stuff 400 small boxes inside each of those big boxes, if they were flattened. It would cost maybe 10$/big box to ship it back. Let’s say 75% of those boxes that were returned were usable, leaving 300 boxes. It might cost an hour’s worth of labor to get those 300 boxes sorted, unfolded, and prepared to be reused. So conservatively, the whole process would cost about 25$. If each of those usable 300 boxes costs 10 cents to manufacture (I don’t really have a clue how much they cost, but I would guess that it would be at least 10 cents), that means that the company would be saving 5$, and would get to tout it’s renewed green efforts all over the swimming community.

I recognize that $5 a batch isn’t going to make anybody rich, but it’s better than a stick in the eye for doing something that helps the environment. It’s possible that all of my numbers are way off and totally wrong, but I think it’s worth looking into.

What other ideas do you guys have to help swimming be friendlier towards the environment? Leave them in the comments, and we can discuss them.

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I also have no idea about the cost of the boxes, but here is another idea. The manufacturers could try the Michigan can and bottle recycling model (where you basically pay an extra 10 cents per can or bottle as a deposit that you get back when you recycle). They could charge retailers an extra 10 cents per item with a box, and give them a return shipping voucher. Then when they boxes are received, the retailer gets a check for the 10 cents per box back. It’s a forced incentive. Now, I doubt the manufacturers would reimburse for the time it takes to collapse and pack boxes for return. And the whole thing would take time and money to… Read more »

Good topic, and I came across this by following you on Twitter. Just happens that we announced in our newsletter today that we’ll be phasing in all new packaging for our DVDs. While certainly not as big of a deal as Speedo and TYR, as a small business, we’re trying to do our part. Here’s a link to our newsletter if you want to see what we’re up to.

Normally I wouldn’t just plug us, but this seemed appropriate with the timing. I totally understand if you remove the link. Thanks, Glenn


It’s absolutely no problem at all with regard to posting the link! If it’s helping the swimming community then we want it out there for everyone…

Look forward to more comments from you!


About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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