Published on June 15th, 2010 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg2
sustainablog Approved: HumanWear Organic Tees
Editor’s note: sustainablog Approved is an occasional series of posts profiling vendors in our Green Choices product comparison engine, and the stories behind their products and green business practices. We’ve already featured recycled paper furnishings maker Way Basics.
Entrepreneurs find their inspiration and motivation through a variety of influences: the simple desire to make some money, belief in a particular product or concept, or even a wish to serve others.
For Jellie Stanton, the founder of Florida-based eco t-shirt company HumanWear, inspiration came through film: the company’s “About” page notes that documentary Go Further, featuring Woody Harrelson, pushed her towards creating more sustainable shirts that the average person could still afford.
After communicating with Jellie via email and Twitter, I decided that this is company that we wanted to profile… and sent her some questions about HumanWear, their products, and how they do business.
Jeff McIntire-Strasburg: You discuss local sourcing on your “About” page… that’s got to be difficult in the apparel industry! Can you tell us a little more about how you source locally, and how this affects your cost of doing business?
Jellie Stanton: We were able to find companies in our area of the country, the southeast, as well as the northeast, which was a true challenge. We consider our apparel provider to be a medium sized-company with our other suppliers (printer, paper products, etc.) being indie and family-owned businesses. Our printers started out as vegetarian grocers who printed for bands on the side, eventually morphing into a forward-thinking indie business. They totally rock.
We believe our cost of making a product we would actually buy is the best it can be and will improve as we grow. If we were simply about the money, we would have taken a totally different approach.
JM-S: Your shirts all have short phrases (“communal evolution,” “human being,” “off this grid”) on them. How do you go about choosing these phrases? What purpose do you hope they serve? Communication? Starting conversations? “Personal branding” for your customers?
JS: HumanWear was inspired by the documentary Go Further with Woody Harrelson and his wife Laurie Louie. They tour the west coast in this tricked out bus with the idea of educating people about the benefits of biodiesel, organic foods, sustainable materials and yoga. One of the things that Woody talks about is Communal Evolution which really struck me to the core. We have made a shirt with this saying to include our definition “a collective push towards a higher state.” I encourage everyone to watch this movie or read the book – it will turn your mind upside down.
The idea of using phrases such as this or “Greenlicious,” “environmentally good,” etc., is so people can brand themselves as someone who is part of the green movement; they’re striving to make a difference. We believe t-shirts with radical messages are turn-offs. We like to keep it light-hearted, intelligent and thought-provoking.
JS: Yes, we are primarily a t-shirt company wanting to show a green t-shirt can be hip and affordable. We wanted to provide extra value so we included eco stickers made by Sean at the print shop and incredible recycled gift wrap made by a total Eco Chic in Jacksonville, along with a personalized note card made from old paper bags. We ship in recyclable boxes and our customers get to pick their designer packaging tape made by a different trail blazer at no extra charge – just because we think it feels good to get a cool package versus a white a plastic bag like you get from GAP.
JM-S: Beyond sourcing from local and independent companies, what other practices do you employ to keep your company “green?”
JS: We are green misers in the office using both sides of the paper, never printing unless absolutely necessary and only buying what is required. We ship is small recyclable boxes to reduce waste and keep shipping costs down for our customers. This is very important to me because I won’t buy something if the shipping is out of line. And we use USPS exclusively because they’re committed to reducing their environmental impact by 30% by 2015.
We give back a portion of our sales to GREY2K USA, a national organization dedicated to stop greyhound racing. I own a greyhound so the cruelty of dog racing is very personal to me.
JM-S: Why vinyl for the stickers? Ever take any flack for that?
JS: We searched for something other than vinyl, but could not find a substitute. I like to make a statement with stickers on my Honda Fit and so we decided to make them. We’ve only taken flack from one eco blogger who also wrote us off for not strictly carrying organic shirts. I believe people like this do more harm than good. There are many shades of green and by supporting HumanWear, you support our suppliers who have done the heavy lifting and taken the financial risks. To discount them is in direct contraction to what we are crying for – sustainable practices and products. It is like saying you’re not shopping at Whole Foods because all of their products are not organic.
We’re still working on getting HumanWear products listed in the product comparison engine… always technical issues to handle — but keep an eye out for them… we’re really impressed with the work they’re doing. You can connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.
Summer is t-shirt season, and we’ve got a full range of organic t-shirts available through our Green Choices product comparison engine… for men, women, and kids. Also check out the offerings of Life is Good t-shirts from our partners at AppOutdoors.
Image credits: HumanWear