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.

MLB by SustainU Tees featuring REALTREE® Camouflage — Now Available on Cabelas.com

National pride, environmental conservation and USA manufacturing are some of the core identifiers of American sportsmen and women. That’s why we found it important to represent the values of American hunters and anglers by partnering with both Cabela’s and REALTREE®.

The “Conserve/Nation Collection” by SustainU featuring REALTREE® camouflage is now available online at Cabelas.com! You can view/shop these shirts on their website by clicking here: Cabela’s MLB Fan Shop.  (Screenshot of site pictured below).

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Cabela’s MLB Fan Shop Homepage featuring Our REALTREE® Tees

“SustainU understands how important conservation and USA manufacturing are to the American hunter and angler,” said Chris Yura, founder and CEO of SustainU. “Our ‘Conserve/Nation Collection’ of REALTREE® and MLB prints allows sportsmen and women to represent their passions while staying true to their values.”

Combining the experts in camouflage with fan-focused logos and marks, we’ve created apparel for this collection that perfectly blends performance with the ethics of the modern outdoorsperson. Teams from both of MLB’s National League and American League will be featured in the collection. Certain styles/teams pictured below include: Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies and Seattle Mariners.

New Realtree camo Cabelas option

If you’re someone who loves camo fashion, then you’ll want to be placing your purchase order today!

Begin your search through our REALTREE® Camo Tees today: Click Here to browse. 

To view/shop our shirts on Cabela’s website, Click Here.

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“Capturing the Appalachian Attitude” by Chris Yura

For our latest photo shoot, we knew that capturing the feel of SustainU’s new product line called for an iconic Appalachian setting. So, we hit the road for the confluence of culture that is Asheville, NC – one of the coolest towns in the world that represents some of the best of Appalachia.

Nestled like a gem in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Asheville has become a blueprint for Appalachian revitalization. By celebrating its rich history and integrating the latest in cuisine, entertainment and lifestyle, this is a town that, once experienced, always calls you back. We were fortunate to incorporate these treasured assets in our latest photo shoot.

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Springtime in the mountains is hard to compete with, no matter where you are from. It is a celebration of everything green and alive. It seems the mountains themselves are blooming, the rains deepen the tone of each tree and plant, people are happy, and life is good!

We had the opportunity to shoot some of our photos in the newest section of the Green Man Brewery. This location has about everything you would want from a craft beer bar. The atmosphere is awesome; a homey, modern bar mixed with a natural art gallery. Repurposed wood and piping made into furniture phonemes, an indoor river rock garden and plenty of quality, craft beer all for your Green Man enjoyment. This place is amazing and the people are even better!

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Paying tribute to the artesian culture of Asheville, we decided that the River Arts District would provide an appropriate backdrop. This section of town is a must-see. Tucked away in a corner of town, down beside the railroad track lays some pretty impressive graffiti art. This spot intuitively represents an intersection of old industry, new concepts (there is a hummus factory, Roots Hummus, across the street!) This mountain town bleeds creativity.

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The images that resulted from our weekend trip are a combination of incredible physical locations and human talent. The crew that styled, photographed and modeled for our shoot were all pros and made this experience even better than we could have planned. Thank you!

We hope you enjoy the pictures we amassed during our way-too-short trip around this Blue Ridge Mountain beauty. Please continue to support communities like Asheville, which are using its natural assets, incredible artists and rich heritage to support our incredible region.

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“A Case for Appalachia” by SustainU CEO, Chris Yura

A West Virginian Son’s Journey
As an Appalachian native, it is hard to articulate the sense of pride and protectiveness I have toward my state.

Inspiration comes to each of us differently. The soothing and addictive attributes of West Virginia have always provided an unending well of creative and spiritual nourishment. They also produced a longing in me that has called me from afar saying, “Come home.”

Initially, I left my home state for college and career opportunities, but my goal was always to come back. After a decade away, I received some entrepreneurial inspiration and decided it was time to make my way back home and start a small business.

In 2008, pitching an apparel company that would use USA Manufacturing and Recycled Textile Technology was not an easy idea. But thanks to my family and close family friends, encouragement triumphed over my trepidation and I eventually moved back home. Quite literally, I was living in Manhattan before my move back to WV. As a struggling entrepreneur, my parents’ house is all I could afford. I praise God for my amazing family and their incredible generosity and encouragement. And, as it turned out, the idea wasn’t as farfetched or out of reach as it seemed.

Fast forward seven years to today, and SustainU just launched its first line with Major League Baseball to provide millennial-focused apparel made in a unique and sustainable way. This concept (and now company) has retained and created jobs in traditional industries in both the South and Appalachia. I want to share this vision because I believe there are incredible opportunities for employment and community reinvestment in Appalachia.

Unapologetically Appalachian
I am often asked, “Why did you go back?” or “Why do you stay?” Misconceptions about Appalachia are as old as the region. National stereotypes of Appalachian people seem to have unfortunately been deemed socially acceptable, even with the rise of political correctness.

Stereotypes have forced Appalachians to stick together, creating communities that are incredibly tight-knit, loyal and selfless. But, this stigma has also given many West Virginians a false, negative self-image that has divided our thinking on the future of the state. Some have adopted a more closed off mindset to some areas of change. This stubbornness can be hurtful for future generations when we do not take steps to actively encourage entrepreneurism across various disciplines.

My hope is that this generation can help break free from this cycle with a renewed state pride around optimism and the welcoming of new ideas. The new identity of West Virginia and other Appalachian states should be one that embraces its hardworking past and encourages out-of-the box thinking from within its non-uniform borders.

Brief History of Appalachia
Timbers from Appalachian forests helped frame our country from a group of colonies to an independent nation. Once the forests had been conquered, mineral extraction became the hidden fruit of the region. Buried in beautiful canyons and along majestic ridge lines, the power source of the 20th century lay in waiting.

The coal mines of Appalachia fed the steel mills of the North, creating incredible public works and critical infrastructure across the nation. These bridges, buildings and tunnels connected people previously separated by natural barriers throughout the country and helped an economic food chain create some of the more diverse communities in the United States within the mountains and hollows of the coalfields.

Exploitation of both human and environmental capital has been too common of a practice for the residents and resources of Appalachia.  Environmental barriers  first isolated this region but since the Civil War it has been economic isolation that has since afflicted WV.

Coal companies owned towns and communities, from homes to the currency used by worker residents. Some coal operators employed the cheapest, fastest method for extraction, no matter the environmental and social impact. Many of these communities were used for their natural gifts, and then left for cheaper labor and cleaner coal without a contingency plan for its residents. As this exodus of industry continues to play out in West Virginia, more than ever, these communities are in need of hope and a renewed spirit.

A Case for Appalachia and SustainU
I believe that there are inherent advantages and strategic opportunities waiting to be uncovered in the towns and communities of West Virginia. I believe Appalachia can lead in ways not yet fully realized.

My hope is that businesses like SustainU can help shed light on the potential of Appalachia. In the 21st century, places like WV will become vital to the needs of a growing country and world population.

Our state possesses assets that will continue to increase in value in the global market. Here are three very brief examples:

  • FOOD – Family farms that have been left behind can become agricultural incubators for the dietary needs of the United States and the world. Agricultural Innovation can be a game changer for Appalachia and we have the farms to do it. Land that once was mined can be repurposed through innovative reclamation practices. West Virginians are accustomed to providing critical resources to our nation, and in the next fifty years this skill could be applied to food.
  • LOCATION – Many places in WV are located within nine driving hours of two-thirds of the US population. From a distribution and manufacturing prospective, WV could be the most ideal hub of the 21st Century for fast fulfillment. In addition, the access to major waterways and the close proximity to major harbors allows this region to be ideal for exportation to global destinations.
  • WATER – 40 out of 50 state water managers expect water shortages in some portion of their states over the next decade. WV contains major rivers and headwaters, and the incredible importance of water cannot be overstated. Watersheds in WV that can be rejuvenated will reap both economic and incredible social benefit.

Today, we should not abandon the natural gifts we have been given (including coal and natural gas), but the days of exploitation have to end.

Stewardship for the residents, landscape and waterways of Appalachia can no longer be a secondary thought. We should lead with holistic sustainability as this services both the needs of today and those of our future generations.

As we transition into new industries we need to be extremely sensitive to the social, economic and environmental needs of the communities that first molded our state. How we respond to the problems and prospects of the coming years will be remembered by future generations.

We take incredible pride in our lineage because of its legacy of hard work, resiliency and service to our communities and our nation. With the encroachment of the unknown, we should stay.

Instead of retreating to an easier path of the immediate, I urge Appalachian residents to rethink their region. The attributes you admire are available to you now and in this generation. It could be time for you stay where you are or come back home to be part of the solution.

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SustainU and MLB Launch Line of Sports-Licensed Apparel, “MLB by SustainU”

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We are thrilled to officially announce our licensed partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB) for our 2016 line of official sports-licensed apparel, MLB by SustainU.

We’ve been excited about this for quite some time, so keeping the official announcement under wraps has been difficult!

MLB by SustainU is now available on our Online Store and MLB.com/Shop.

This collection was designed for a generation of fans that advocate sustainability, outdoor conservation and other related social issues. Millennials tend to shop for clothing that reflects their ideals and individuality. Apparel can be an identifier of values, and team allegiances are shown in many colors and logos.

Graphics for all teams in both the National League and American League embody inspiration from fashion, millennials and outdoor adventure. A wide variation of styles are represented in the line’s following collections:

  • BRAND
  • ELEMENTS
  • CONSERVE/NATION (featuring REALTREE® camo)
  • IPA (Intentionally Produced Apparel)
  • MUSIC 

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Whether you’re a hardcore fan, casual fan or want to show off regional pride by wearing your team’s colors and logo – we’ve made styles suited for you.

In our initial research, we found that eco-friendly and/or sustainable options already out there were either too expensive or inaccessible to most sports fans. Furthermore, we discovered there are untapped retail distribution opportunities within the traditional sales channels for sports-licensed products, (for example, outdoor/adventure).

In 2011, MLB was already being green. MLB Green Teams collected recyclables during the World Series in Arlington, Texas. Therefore, we felt that sustainable product lines were needed within the professional sports industry.

Our MLB partnership to produce sustainable apparel further supplies an authentic canvas for their commitment to social and environmental innovation. Through the SustainU and MLB licensed partnership, fans will now have an option to purchase an affordable, accessible and tangible product, while also being able to embody their favorite team(s).

“MLB by SustainU” shirts are currently available for sale with vendors at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Wrigley Field, Busch StadiumBelow is an example of a display at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ.

SustainU-Fixture 2The video below of Cardinals Merchandise at Busch Stadium showcases the SustainU collection within their store (starting around 0:38).

To follow our story or see some of the upcoming designs, other teams we’re working with and more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, or like us on Facebook! Give us a call at (304) 413-0416 with any questions you may have.