By Elisabeth Wall
The University Bookstore is offering a sustainable-fashion line of Renew Merchandise – caps, tees, polo shirts and hoodies made from recycled plastic bottles. “It’s a strong brand, and a great idea,” University Bookstore Director Lorraine Childers said, “but certainly not the first sustainable apparel offered by the bookstore.”
Sustainability is not a new concept for her buyers, Childers said. For more than 10 years, University Bookstore has been actively stocking sustainably produced products, beginning with notebooks and paper goods.
A variety of sustainable offerings are generally on hand: reusable water bottles, environmentally friendly color pencils, art supplies made using 100 percent wind-power, recycled notebooks, recycled office paper, environmentally friendly binders, recycled notecards, environmentally friendly computer bags and “Sustain Appalachian” T-shirts that are made from fabric produced from recycled plastic bottles and organic cotton. Even graduation regalia are made from recycled materials.
“We put some good energy behind the Renew Merchandise,” Childers said. “We worked with the Athletics Department, the Office of Sustainability and University Communications on the branding. The tags tell how many water bottles were used for each particular item. And there’s a cool display that looks like a small refrigerator. We are offering a green T-shirt – well, because it’s green – and the traditional black and gold.”
Last fall Food Services decked out many of their employees with the Renew Merchandise hats, each one made from three recycled plastic bottles.
“Employees say the hats are cool and comfortable in the hot kitchens, serving lines and dish rooms,” Food Services Specialist Heather Brandon said.
“In the future, we hope to collect plastic bottles used on campus for Renew,” said Childers. “This would create a closed circle from plastic bottle to bookstore merchandise."
Sustainable fashion has come a long way since the “recycled” products of the ’90s – pencil skirts made from cut-up jeans, and halter tops from scarves. The concept of sustainability is the same but the buzz words have changed.
Today, sustainability language from the food world applies to fashion as well: organic, local, fair trade. The true mantra of green fashion, according to Appalachian global studies major and sustainable fashion warrior Alaina Storch, is conscious consuming – awareness of the origin of the fabrics, working conditions, fair market wages, low carbon footprint. The ultimate goal of conscious consumption is buying less and assessing before we buy, Storch said.
“Sustainable fashion is not a fad,” Childers said. “It’s a growing trend and I hope it continues to be strong. Buying local is important. We have worked with a number of North Carolina sustainable apparel vendors… The first was TS Designs, a T-shirt manufacturer in Chapel Hill. We stock Tobacco Road tees made in Wendell, and, of course there’s Champion.” The Winston-Salem-headquartered HanesBrands company “has a very strong sustainability program,” she said. “They were out front in producing sustainable collegiate and active wear.”
“We try very hard to purchase products from our state,” Childers said. “Of course it helps with carbon emissions. But, too, both my parents worked in textiles. It’s personal for me. I want to use products that are produced in our state by our state’s workers.”
Renew Merchandise uses a simple process to turn post-consumer plastic bottles into custom merchandise:
“It’s personal for me. I want to use products that are produced in our state by our state’s workers.”
- University Bookstore Director Lorraine Childers