A little bit about where the 2015 Festival T-Shirts are coming from
(Pre-order yours now)
As this year’s festival coordinator, I am thrilled to share that Friends of the Cheat is partnering with SustainU to produce the Fest T-Shirts. Below are the results of a recent conversation I had with the company’s founder, Chris Yura.
Headquartered in the Morgantown Industrial park, SustainU might not be what comes to mind when you imagine business in West Virginia. A clothing company dreamed up and powered by 23 young, decidedly passionate West Virginians, SustainU is leading the way for the next generation of entrepreneurs in the Mountain State. SustainU operates according to something called a triple bottom line. This means that they prioritize environmental and social responsibility alongside profit. On the surface, these may seem like contradictory maxims. Often, we think that making money requires sacrifices elsewhere; the factory that discharges untreated wastewater directly into a river at the expense of the fish. But as you will see, a closer look reveals that these priorities can actually work in concert with one another.
SustainU apparel is made from 100% virgin material and manufactured in the United States. The process goes something like this: Recycled and chipped plastic is melted into pellets and then transformed into a fiber called Repreve in North Carolina. This fiber is blended with recycled cotton in knitting factories in North and South Carolina, and then sewn into blank shirts in South Carolina and Pennsylvania. The blanks are then printed, labeled, and distributed from our own Morgantown, WV.
What does this have to do with that triple bottom line? According to their website, the production of a single recycled t-shirt is estimated to use 700 fewer gallons of water and a half gallon less gasoline than a t-shirt made from conventional cotton, even the organic kind. Suffice it to say, Homo sapiens haven’t yet evolved to drink cotton. Moreover, as the decreasing space in landfills becomes prime real-estate, it makes good financial sense for the enterprising entrepreneur to reverse the direction of the flow of waste, and see ‘garbage’ as a valuable resource. By localizing production to a few eastern states, SustainU minimizes shipping costs while also reducing its fossil fuel consumption. Localized production also affords them a close relationship with their factory partners. This means they can easily check in on the factory conditions, and know that the employees are being paid fair, living wages – a difficult task for their competitors who manufacture internationally. Finally, Morgantown itself is a particularly sweet spot for distribution as it lies within 500 miles of half of the UsS population. Again, saving money and reducing pollution.
Chris was careful to point out that he doesn’t view these decisions as sacrifices, but rather as advantages. He explained that SustainU isn’t alone in this, “We do as much consulting as we do manufacturing. Other companies want to know how our process works and how they can get on board. We just want to raise awareness, push technology, and that reduces prices […] collaboration is the only way that the sustainable business model will work.”
To me, this is the most encouraging part. Of course, no one makes t-shirts or hosts festivals without having some kind of footprint. However, we can strive to regularly consider alternatives that factor the environment and community into our bottom line. The more we can do this without feeling as though we have made a sacrifice, the more other people will get on board and bring new, innovative ideas to the table.
All pre-ordered shirts will be available for pick-up during Cheat Festival on Saturday, May 2nd during Festival Hours. If you aren’t able to make it, contact FOC directly to arrange for a shipment after the fest.