The majority of the clothes we wear bear a label that declares they were manufactured in another country. Through most of my 40 years on this planet, clothing made by American companies has been foreign made. It’s a depressing fact that only about two percent of all clothing purchased in the U.S. is manufactured domestically. Enter SustainU, a company who actually makes ALL of its college-geared clothing in the U.S. SustainU’s website lists a startling U.S. Department of Labor statistic: hundreds of thousands of textile and apparel manufacturing jobs will be lost between 2008 and 2018. “While the future appears bleak,” the Morgantown, West Virginia based company proclaims, “SustainU is fighting to bring jobs back to the United States.
While most American clothing companies choose to manufacture their products outside of the U.S. where wages are low and working conditions poor, SustainU believes that it can reduce the “burden on overseas labor” while creating domestic jobs by “employing best practices and materials” to make its products.
The company aims to create a “a more conscious alternative in campus clothing” and support “job growth while decreasing ecological impacts.” The clothing is made from 100 percent recycled materials, produced from post-consumer plastic bottles and pre-consumer recycled cotton scraps. By using only recycled materials, SustainU does drastically decrease its environmental impact. A gallon of gasoline is saved, according to SustainU, for every pound of recycled yard produced. One ton of recycled cotton saves 1,200 gallons of water, 500 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, and avoids the release of 1,700 pounds of non-biodegradable waste. By using less than a 200 mile radius of transport to create yarn, knit the fabric and sew the clothes, the company uses less fuel. As SustainU’s website states, “By eliminating cross-country travel, we greatly decrease the fuel and emissions created by the shipping process.”
“Most people don’t realize that approximately 68 pounds of clothing per person in the United States is thrown away every year, which amounts to about 10 percent of all the waste in landfills today,” states Chris Yura, founder and CEO of SustainU.
SustainU partners with Industries for the Blind, a non-profit that provides better employment opportunities for the blind. The factory in Winston-Salem, North Carolina which manufactures the company’s apparel is owned and operated by Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind, and the factory’s employees are either blind or visually impaired.
Yura told the New York Times, “You would never know whether the person who made the garment had full vision capability or not. It all looks the same. It’s the same product at the end of the day.”
What more can you ask for in a company than to manufacture all of its products domestically by using only recycled materials in a factory which employs blind people.
This company presented at Sustainable Brands 2012
Photo: SustainU website