The Environmental Impacts of SustainU Tees vs. Conventional Cotton

Recently, we had a client reach out to us and ask us for more information on the types of materials we use for the fabric of our clothing. This tends to be a typical question from many of our potential customers, so we thought we could provide a little more information on why you should choose SustainU Tees.

First and foremost, the current production of creating conventional cotton is not sustainable. According to The True Cost film, it’s estimated that Americans consume nearly 80 billion pieces of clothing annually. landfills

Producing this high volume of clothing has significant environmental impacts. Conventional cotton requires a hefty amount of water, mostly for irrigation. For T-shirts made with conventional cotton, it is estimated that approximately over 700 gallons of water is needed per shirt. To put it into a more measurable term, that many gallons of water amounts to about 40 showers [just for (1) T-shirt!]

Aside from the water over usage, there are also issues with the land it is grown on, as well as the petroleum-based, fossil fuels that are used to grow it. Many different pesticides and fertilizers are used in conventional cotton production. These can do a number of things to the planet, such as contamination of the soil, air and water systems. These pesticides and foreign fertilizers typically end up in the groundwater and/or nearby rivers. The production of conventional cotton is also often grown through genetically modified (GMO) seeds. In 2014, the US Department of Agriculture estimated that 96% of cotton growth in the United States was genetically modified. This not only further contaminates the soil and water, but also more seriously can have an affect on the overall biodiversity and ecosystems.

By using 50% of recycled cotton waste in the fabric of our tees, we’re helping save hundreds of gallons of water and decreasing reliance of fossil fuels for production. Additionally, being an American made company makes us that much more sustainable, as all of our factory-to-print transportation is based on the East Coast in Appalachia. Thus, reducing our CO2 footprint of our apparel since we don’t have to travel massive distances.

But what about organic cotton, you may ask.

Well, while organic cotton is knowingly better for our environment due to the absence of pesticides, fertilizers and GMO seeds. Also, a significant amount of water is still needed to produce the cotton. According to Triple Pundit, only 1% of total cotton production is organic cotton, and it’s also estimated that 75% of that organic cotton is produced in India. So, while harmful pollution is avoided through no added chemicals, the majority of organic cotton being produced overseas means that transportation over large distances is taking place, thus potentially increasing CO2 emissions. So, while organic cotton can obviously be a better choice, it doesn’t seem to help decrease water usage or transportation costs.

Our T-shirts are also made of 50% recycled polyester (PET) from plastic bottles. While some may argue that no form of polyester is good for the environment, others also say that polyester “has become indispensable to the modern wardrobe.” This is why we’ve found that using 50% recycled polyester (PET) is a sustainable solution for our garments. On average, using two pounds of recycled polyester yarn conserves the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, which is almost enough to make two new T-shirts. Up to (5) recycled plastic (PET) bottles can provide enough polyester fiber to make one new, extra large T-shirt. Thus, we’re helping fewer plastic bottles end up at landfills and conserving energy.

This is why we choose to use recycled cotton waste AND recycled polyester (PET) in our clothing. We’re using innovative and recycled materials, local transportation, and manufacturing in the USA. This helps us decrease our overall carbon footprint. Because of this, we’re able to help have a significant impact on both the environment and sustainability, and ultimately, that is what sets our clothing apart.



  • TriplePundit
  • Man Repeller
  • True Cost (film)
  • Eco Cult
  • US Department of Agriculture – Economic Research Service
  • SustainU – The Future of Clothing

Can Men Be More Influenced to Embrace Sustainability as Sports Continue to Become Greener?

Within the sustainability industry, there is currently a conversation on whether “green” can be thought of as masculine. The prevailing view in some sustainability circles is that “going green” is thought of as more feminine. Though making more conscious and responsible purchasing decisions has no gender-specific connotations behind it, to some, the stigma still appears to exist.

According to a new study, “Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its Effect on Sustainable Consumption” from the Journal of Consumer Research, people identify eco-friendly practices as “feminine” practices. They also found that men might avoid sustainable behaviors and products ENTIRELY, all just to “protect their masculinity.”

In an article from Quartz covering this specific subject, the reason for this stereotype is unclear. Some point fingers at green marketing or at women just “tending to be” more responsible. However, in terms of green marketing, it seems that if masculinity has been affirmed then males will feel more comfortable “going green.”

Enter the expanding world of sustainability practices and sports. Can the increased expansion of this market help to dismantle some of these stereotypes?

Recently, the US Department of Energy’s initiative announced its support for green leadership within sports venues. According to the DOE, within the past few years, “the sports community has realized the importance of taking action on clean energy and is now playing an increasing leadership role on sustainability. And for many of the sports teams and leagues, these efforts have started with the stadiums. Today, there are about 30 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certified sports venues that have been completed, or are currently in the construction phase according the U.S. Green Building Council. Even more have implemented energy efficiency projects and other resource conservation efforts to significantly reduce their environmental footprints. The leading efforts of these stadiums, and the many millions of people they reach, clearly reverberate throughout the community.”

According to the Green Sports Alliance, the U.S. Open is now greener than it has ever been, with its “practical and measurable initiatives designed to save water, conserve energy and improve both its materials selection and indoor environmental quality.” They’re generating less energy, water and waste, and they’ve used some recycled building materials.

Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, just received the “Energy HERO” Award, for their “outstanding leadership and innovation to conserve resources and protect the environment.” Like the Grandstand for the U.S. Open, they’ve also improved water and energy efficiency, saving thousands of gallons of water and they’ve cut energy usage by 40%.

FIFA just became the first international sports organization to join Climate Neutral Now, pledging to control the greenhouse gas emissions that will be related to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The PGA of America just announced Constellation, a U.S. energy supplier, as their Official Energy Provider and Sustainability Partner. According to an article with the Green Sports Blog, the partnership will help PGA by minimizing the 2016 Ryder Cup’s carbon footprint, as well as the overall environmental impact of the PGA’s events.

NFL and College Football are also promoting green behaviors and practices.

The University of Colorado has opened a zero-waste aluminum can tailgate zone. Similarly, the University of Southern Carolina has a zero waste tailgate certification program for tailgate parties. Virginia Tech has a “Tailgate Toolkit” to help improve recycling and energy sustainability processes while tailgating. And that’s only just a few of the colleges pushing their sustainability efforts in the sports world. Although it’s more difficult for the NFL, many of the team’s stadiums have a major focus on energy efficiency to help lessen the costs and overall impact on the environment. Stadiums such as AT&T Stadium, FedEx Field, Levi’s Stadium, MetLife Stadium, Georgia Dome, Gillette Stadium, and more are just some of the top energy efficient and sustainable stadiums in the NFL.

With MLB, NHL and NBA, green practices are extremely prevalent. Each of these organizations has their own green initiatives and teams. Whether it’s the stadium’s recycling efforts/capabilities, the energy being used in the lights and scoreboards or the water used to create an ice rink, they’re all constantly doing something environmentally friendly to help continue to push sustainability forward in the sports realm. Additionally, they’ve all three chosen SustainU to create sports-licensed apparel for their fans out of 100% recycled materials that are Made in the USA.

It’s apparent that sustainability is becoming more pronounced across many sports properties and leagues. But, how can the overarching perspective on sustainability affect individual action and potentially help “masculinize” green behavior in sports?

Sports fashion provides an amazing medium to actually influence popular culture. For example, just think about basketball and how the length of men’s shorts and socks has been directly affected by what is worn on, around and outside the court.

Apparel may hold one of the keys to mainstreaming sustainability across any perceived gender line. It has the very unique ability to bring people together. Think about the when you see someone wearing your team’s logo or colors and how this instantly provides a connection.

So, if we can influence what is worn to show unity, pride and passion in the sports culture, this could potentially spill over to other areas of life. Apparel could be a great first step in consumers making more sustainable lifestyle choices.

The sustainable message of recycled technology and domestic investment is gender neutral. Consumers seem to be growing in their desire to support brands that can tell an authentic story and provide great products. As we look to the future, we see sports as a gateway to more sustainable practices for male and female fans alike.



  • Journal of Consumer Research
  • Quartz
  • US Department of Energy
  • Green Sports Alliance
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • Green Sports Blog
  • University of Colorado
  • Electric Choice
  • Bleacher Report

How Ellen Pompeo and Tacos Are Helping Inspire Change Through SustainU

With every new custom printing order comes a different story attached along with it — whether it’s a fundraiser, local restaurant/bar or an upcoming marathon, each client is unique as well as each of their narratives. Two of our most recent custom projects had important causes that our clients are helping support through the sale of the custom T-shirts they ordered through us.

When a new client reached out to us to order tees with the words “Sass Squad” printed on the front and “Pompeo” on the back, we wondered whether or not this had any relation to Ellen Pompeo, the star of ABC’s hit show Grey’s Anatomy. Upon further exploration and research, we discovered that Pompeo was indeed behind the inspiration for these T-shirts.

Sass Squad is a fundraiser that was created to honor Ellen Pompeo’s birthday, which is November 10, by donating to a cause she cares about through the sale of official Sass Squad merchandise, including T-shirts. In the past, the squad has donated 100% of its profits to organizations such as Ocean Conservancy, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and International Animal Rescue. To date, around over $5,000 has been donated to these charities (according to the squad’s website).

This year, as their site says, “it’s back, but it’s better!”

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Sass Squad decided to take their message to the next level by partnering with us to make their T-shirt in the USA with recycled fabrics. All of the profits made from the sale of this tee will be donated to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. If you want to help out the cause and get a Sass Squad tee of your own, they’re available for $35 in their online store. Buy It Here:

(Emmy-nominated actress Ellen Pompeo even tweeted about it herself!)

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Around the same time, another client, whom we previously had worked with in the past, reached out to us for a custom order. However, this time, she needed T-shirts printed for an entirely different project than we had done with her before.

La Presa Cafe, a popular Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, Texas that specializes in breakfast and street tacos, was targeted in a vandalism attack in early August. According to News 4 San Antonio, the business was completely trashed and many items were destroyed, including but not limited to the cash register, kitchen items and paintings which held high sentimental value. Unfortunately, merely weeks after the initial attack, the restaurant was once again targeted in what local news station News 4 San Antonio is now calling a “string of break-ins.” This time, the glass door was shattered and many items, such as an empty register, ladder, power drill and 20 pounds of meat, were now found missing.

It just so happens that the owner of the restaurant, Norma Gomez, is a close friend of the client who initially reached out to us. She wanted to help Gomez raise funds for the damage that had been done to her restaurant, so she put together a design and submitted an order to us. The graphic she sent over to us read “I Love You So Much,” but, the “you” was crossed out in place of an image of a taco.

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Upon further investigation, it turns out that “I Love Tacos So Much” is a San Antonio landmark that was created after drawing inspiration from the popular “I Love You So Much” landmark wall in Austin, Texas. Both walls are popular locations for photographs and tourists. Though both technically read “I Love You So Much,” the wall in San Antonio has the word “you” has been marked out and replaced with the word “tacos.” This wall, which is sadly vandalized on the regular, is what inspired the “I Love Tacos So Much” graphic that our client sent over to us.

San Antonio I Love Tacos So Much Wall

(Photo courtesy of

The “I Love Tacos So Much” T-shirts are being sold to help raise money for the damages of La Presa Cafe. The restaurant will be hosting a “Community Engagement Pachanga,” which will be an official City of San Antonio event in the Metro Health District on September 10. The “I Love Tacos So Much” T-shirts will be available for sale at the event, with proceeds going toward La Presa Cafe. For more information on the event, visit the Facebook event page.

Soon, the T-shirts will also be for sale online at the website

Currently, the site has not been launched, but is expected to be sometime this week. Until then, donations toward the La Presa Cafe Recovery Fund can be made on their GoFundMe page.

The Print Shop Life & Summer Internship at SustainU


Written by Micah Allen (shop employee, summer intern & WVU Business Marketing student)

Do you ever wonder what happens between the stages of shirt design to shirt-in-hand? Well, there is a journey behind every shirt made here at SustainU! The journey consists of many procedures and steps that most people probably wouldn’t think about. Here is a look inside the printing process of our shirts after the design and planning stage is over.

Prepping Screens:

Our screens are pre-meshed, aluminum framed and are coated with emulsion. EMULSION is a coating that, when dried, keeps ink from running through the screen. Before we can print shirts, screens must also be “burned” to hold the design of the print.

BURNING A SCREEN consists of shining a UV light underneath a screen that is taped up with a film positive; this film positive will have the image or part of the image that we want to create, and this stage uses a special machine we have here at SustainU. The UV light essentially hardens the emulsion surrounding the film positive and leaves what’s under the film positive soft so that it can be easily washed away in our washroom. What’s left is the exact image we want to be printed onto our shirts. Complex and/or multi-colored designs require multiple screens. In these cases, each screen will hold a separate part of a whole print as well as separate colors. (see below).

Following the burning stage, screens are rinsed, dried and taped up (sides are taped to keep ink from coming through). After these stages, the screen(s) is now ready to be set up on one of our printing machines!


Each burned screen print is accompanied with registration marks. These marks help us line up the print so that it is centered and straight (see below).

Prints that require multiple screens and/or colors are lined up so that the final print image is created. This sometimes requires an “eyeball” test to make sure that there are not gaps within the print image. Multiple test prints are conducted to make sure the perfect print image is created.

Once everything is lined up, the screens are locked into place and registration marks are taped up so they do not show on the final shirts. Each screen slot on the machine is then equipped with a flood bar, squeegee and appropriate ink color (see below), before one last test print is conducted, and then its go time!



Our printing machines consist of our newer machine, the RPM (Real Performance Machinery), and our older machine, the Brown ElectraPrint. These machines do not operate fully on their own. It takes workers to program, put shirts on, take shirts off, make sure enough ink is flowing and that each shirt/print is coming out correctly. We have specific names for some of these positions that will make sense once described.

driverDriver (left) – Timely and carefully places shirts on the printing machine; also responsible for controlling the printing machine, hence the given name “driver.”



Passenger (left) – Carefully removes shirts off of the printing machine as they have finished printing; the passenger, who stands next to the driver, is responsible for checking the shirts and passing them through the dryer, which cures the shirts so that the print is permanently stuck to the shirt.

– The employee(s) at the caboose position stands at the end of the shirt dryer and removes shirts that have passed through; the final person(s) responsible for checking the print/shirt for errors and fixes; also responsible for counting shirts and matching the number to the order; gets its name from being the last position in the printing, somewhat “train,” process; then, shirts are packed up and sent out to the respected customer.

The People:

SustainU’s print shop has given a great employment opportunity for locals living in the surrounding areas of Morgantown, as well as West Virginia University students who major or are interested in graphic design, or that just want to experience something different.

The shop has a friendly, upbeat feel to it, and all employees who work directly with the printing dress in old jeans and T-shirts that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty since the job can get a little messy. Somedays, the print shop can hold its different challenges, but that’s what helps make working here unique.

It’s a rewarding experience being a part of the SustainU’s printing team because one week you will be printing shirts that are going right down the street to a local brewery, and the next you could be printing shirts for MLB teams across the country or for one of the largest concerts in the nation like Lollapalooza.

It’s a cool feeling to know that these shirts are going to so many different places and that you had a hand in every shirt that leaves here. You get to view the final product before it leaves as well, and that’s a type of satisfaction that you don’t always get somewhere else.

Summer Internship Recap:

I really hope you have enjoyed this look inside SustainU’s print shop. I have spent over two years working in the print shop and had the great opportunity of interning this summer under Jordan, our Online Marketing and Sales Manager.

Currently, I am about to head into my last semester at West Virginia University, where I am a Business Marketing Major. Before I started my internship, I was asked to come up with some projects that I wanted to work on and two ideas that stuck out to me were tapping into a new social media area as well as somehow shining a light on the printing that happens at SustainU, so, that’s exactly what I did!

SustainU already has an array of social media areas that we use, so it took some researching and thinking outside the box. Ultimately, I decided to start a Flickr account for the company. I have always enjoyed taking pictures, so I thought this was a great area for us to showcase our shirts, designs and attended events, like FanFest. I looked at this as being more of an area for presenting an online portfolio of our work and less of an advertising space, although it is still good advertising. Please, feel free to check it out here: SustainU Flickr.

My other main project this summer was writing this blog post to help tell the story of how our shirts are printed. I thought it was important for us to tell people exactly how are shirts are printed as well as give some recognition to the people that work hard to get it done. A lot of times, I feel that people forget about the smaller labor jobs within companies that are equally as important to making a company successful. SustainU has done a great job at supporting everyone that they employ and creating a family bound that you want to be a part of.

Overall, I am grateful for both the opportunities that SustainU has provided for me. They have helped me create stability during a confusing time and allowed me to expand my knowledge through this internship, all while still being a student. Being able to watch this company grow over the years has been a great educational experience in itself. I never thought I would become a somewhat amateur expert in the area of screen printing T-shirts, but I have, and it is a skill that I will remember forever—no matter where I end up next.

The most exciting part about my experience working at SustainU is that you get to be a part of something new that is having a positive impact on our society and is also leading a change within the apparel industry.

University of Notre Dame Student’s Wild and Wonderful Experience Through Summer Internship at SustainU

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SustainU Summer Intern, Madeline Hagan, from the University of Notre Dame

My internship with SustainU was part of a Social Enterprise and Microfinance Internship, through the University of Notre Dame. It sounds like a lot of business jargon but, at the end of the day, the goal is really just to see how we, as a society and as individuals, can use businesses to beneficially impact our surrounding environment.

Going into this summer, I was excited to work for a company who had recently partnered with Major League Baseball and was also developing potential partnerships with other professional sports organizations. I was confident that Notre Dame was going to send all of us interns to companies that constantly strive to be sustainable and socially beneficial, but the athletic aspect of SustainU is what really drew me toward them.

However, what made me enjoy working here the most was the work ethic of the people and their unwavering commitment. They pour their hearts and souls into this company, and opened their doors to both me and my dog, Casey, who quickly became the work “therapy dog.” If you’re reading this blog then you probably have, at least some, previous knowledge of SustainU’s mission to change the way clothes are made to improve the environment, reinvigorate America’s manufacturing sector and educate the world about how clothing can positively impact people’s lives. That summed up the extent of my knowledge about SustainU before I started working here. But, as is typical when you start living and working somewhere, I absorbed much more about SustainU than the mission statement as well as what makes it more than just another T-shirt company.

I now know how to use a tagging gun and folding machine, and how to pitch an idea, analyze the potential financial success of a project, navigate windy roads filled with potholes, and run to my car without any cicadas landing on me (which are less “Wild and Wonderful” and more “Eighth Plague of Egypt”).

I’ve learned the process behind a product, which I think is incredibly valuable both as a consumer and as an intern. Perhaps slightly less relevant, but equally spectacular, is the fact that I have gone on stunning hikes through some of the most ecologically diverse forests in the USA.

But, most importantly, I’ve experienced that regional change doesn’t happen overnight… It starts with an idea, which, in this case, turned into a small business and a group of people working to improve their home.

There are many misconceptions about Appalachia, many stereotypes imparted on those who live in the Appalachian region by the rest of the nation (myself included, before I actually lived here for two months). These stereotypes are a barrier, which SustainU is trying to bust through by sustainably supporting the Appalachian economy. I am very grateful that I was able to, at least for a small time, be a part of the efforts SustainU is making to change how America views both Appalachia and sustainable clothing. Additionally, I am thankful for everything I have learned and experienced this summer, especially for the opportunity to work side by side with so many incredible people. All in all, I would say the past eight weeks have indeed been wild and wonderful.