Making an Ordinary Household Item Extraordinary

Ditto Sustainable Brand Solutions

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 15. Life on Land

Overview

When walking around your house or a clothing store, hangers may be one of the last household items you notice or even think about on a regular basis, but should we be paying greater attention to these ordinary household items? In 2006, Gary Barker and Larry Chernicoff, both industrial designers, decided to do just that. Forming a company called GreenHeart Global, a green product design company, Barker and Chernicoff began redesigning everyday products to be closed loop, made from recycled materials, and able to be recycled at the end of their life, starting with the hanger. Although Barker was originally hesitant on the idea, even thinking to himself, “Who wants to design a hanger?”, after researching the life cycle and grave impact traditional hangers have on the environment, Barker was sold on the idea and a week later they had their first paper hanger prototype.

Since that first prototype, the paper hanger has evolved into Ditto Hangers, influential enough for Barker to expand to other retail display items, leading to the creation of a new company, Ditto Sustainable Brand Solutions (SBS). Ditto Hangers are now being used in large retail stores all over the world, including Macy’s, Disney, and Nike.

Author

Lauren Hammett

Lauren Hammett

School

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago

Professor

Nancy Landrum

Nancy Landrum

Innovation

Creating a paper hanger and convincing businesses and consumers to consider it as a replacement to plastic hangers that have already proven their effectiveness appeared to be a daunting task. Once the prototype had been created, Barker’s next step was visiting retail stores, factories that put garments on hangers, and distribution centers to discover how to infiltrate a seemingly closed off industry. For him, however, it wasn’t about creating a traditional hanger out of paper, it was about redesigning the hanger to be sustainable and effective throughout its entire life cycle from production to use to disposal. It was about looking to eliminate the negative impact traditional hangers have on the environment.

Because the concept of a Ditto Hanger began within GreenHeart Global, a certified B-Corp and Green Business member, sustainability was the focus of the innovation from the start. Not only did the final hanger need to be sustainable, but the factories the hangers were produced in and all the materials used to create the hangers had to be sustainable, as well. Although these certifications initially set Ditto back in regard to price point compared to their competitors, brand-conscious companies saw this hanger as an opportunity to move away from plastic and wire hangers. After two and a half years of research and product design, Barker and Chernicoff invented the Ditto Hanger. Once they found success with this redesign of an ordinary household item, Barker launched Ditto SBS, a sustainable, non-toxic retail display product and packaging company.

Making an Ordinary Household Item Extraordinary

Inspiration

As an industrial designer by trade, Barker had perceived his job as complete once the product was stamped with a bar code, leaving the rest of the product's life as no concern to him. As Barker researched the grave impact of the simplest products, his frame of mind began to change. He came to the realization that “all these products being produced with no responsibility as to what happened to them, became a real issue for me”. For Barker, hearing that “enough plastic hangers are landfilled every year to fill 11.5 Empire State Buildings” was the deciding factor that something had to be done and he would have to be the one to do it. After researching the impact and waste of everyday items, Barker and Chernicoff decided to start GreenHeart Global with the mission of redesigning everyday products to be everything that the Ditto Hanger is today. Following the success of their hanger, Barker created Ditto SBS to continue the legacy of the infamous, sustainable, paper hanger.

Overall impact

With Ditto SBS’s mission in environmental sustainability and redesigning traditional, wasteful items, the environmental benefit is by far the greatest. Throughout the 2.5 years of research put in to create the ultimate, sustainable clothing hanger, Barker was able to see just how massive the impacts of a frequently forgotten product can be on the environment. From there, he was able to re-design the hanger based on all the principles that the traditional, plastic hanger was not. Although sustainability was the main purpose in creating the Ditto Hanger, the cost-savings it provides for businesses and consumers worldwide is a just as impressive added benefit. Ditto SBS and their Ditto Hangers have become an industry standard and a prime example of how sustainability can be achieved with a little extra thought and care.

Business benefit

Despite Ditto Hanger entering the market at a slightly higher price point than traditional hangers, strategic partnerships with various companies, including OIA Global, a global logistics and packaging solutions firm, allowed Ditto to bring the price down. Originally the price per Ditto Hanger was much greater than the price per plastic hanger, however, the price today is very competitive. This reduction in price was made possible by OIA Global’s organization of sourcing materials, certification of materials, efficient transportation, local warehouses, and efficient fulfillment systems to deliver the product, making the entire process more efficient and sustainable. Though Barker admits that this extra step in production isn’t easy and “it takes commitment”, it’s the extra step taken by Barker that has allowed Ditto SBS, and specifically the Ditto Hanger, to be the sustainable industry standard.

For businesses looking to save a cent wherever they can, the Ditto Hanger isn’t their initial choice. After further analysis, however, Ditto Hanger quickly becomes the financially and ecologically superior hanger. Because the hanger is thinner and more easily transported than traditional hangers, “vendors can fit up to 20% more clothing per carton.” Some may wonder, is 20% more clothing per carton necessary and worth a more expensive hanger? This 20%, however, has a cascading effect over the rest of the businesses’ expenses that leads to “25% savings on cartons, on trucks, on containers, on ocean freight, on storage, and all the way down the line.” With all those reduced costs from just the reduced thickness and weight of the Ditto Hanger, the slightly higher price of Ditto is greatly offset in the long run.


Social and environmental benefit

Made from 100% recycled contents, including 70% Post-Consumer Waste and 30% Post-Industrial Waste, and certified non-toxic materials, Ditto Hangers stepped onto the market as the sole sustainable clothing hanger. In comparison to plastic hangers, producing Ditto Hangers uses one-fourth the amount of oil, emits half the amount of CO2, and requires one-sixteenth the amount of energy to produce. In addition, Ditto Hangers take 6 weeks to break down while plastic hangers take 1000+ years to break down in landfills and with the number of hangers thrown away each day reaching 55 million, 1000+ years won’t do the environment much good.

Not only is Ditto closed-loop in the use of raw materials and more sustainable than alternatives, but the Ditto Hanger is also more durable. Holding up to 20 lbs. per hanger and withstanding climates of 85% humidity, Ditto is just as strong and long-lasting as traditional hangers.

Interview

Gary Barker, Founder/CEO/Chief Designer of Ditto Sustainable Brand Solutions

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Ditto Sustainable Brand Solutions

Ditto Sustainable Brand Solutions

Oakland, California, US

Business Website: https://www.dittobrandsolutions.com/home/

Year Founded: 2010

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Ditto Sustainable Brand Solutions is a sustainable, non-toxic retail display product and packaging company that provides companies worldwide with an alternative to traditional retail display products. Made from 100% recyclable, compostable, and non-toxic materials, Ditto Sustainable Brand Solutions is the industry leader in sustainable marketing/display tools.