From Trash to T-shirts

Renew Merchandise partners with the Office of Sustainability to promote sustainable consumerism on campus

By UO Student Lili Wagner

Most people visiting the University of Oregon stop by the Duck Store. Amidst the diverse array of green and yellow athletic apparel, a new type of “green” gear can now be found—Renew Merchandise, with its 100 percent recycled clothing, is the newest addition to the Duck Store shelves.

Ron Hawk, BS ’79, west coast account manager for Renew Merchandise and president of the University of Oregon Alumni Association’s PDX Ducks chapter, has made his career in the apparel market and is excited to see Renew’s products come to Oregon.

Renew Merchandise creates apparel in a unique closed-circle, five-step manufacturing process. First, they collect post-consumer PET bottles from specific collection locations. Second, the plastic is washed and broken down. Then, Renew Fibers are made from extrusion of plastic. Fourth, Renew Fibers are woven into yarn. Finally, the yarn is turned into fabric that is used to produce merchandise.

“Unlike our competitors, who buy the product already processed, we buy the bottles from specific collection locations,” Hawk said. “We’re selling a story of sustainability from start to finish.”

The company has worked with the 2011 US Open, 2010 World Cup, Atlanta Braves, and universities and colleges across the country. Now, they bring their products to Hawk’s alma mater, the UO.

“Oregon has a great market for sustainable products,” Hawk explained. “It’s a great gateway for us into the Pac-12. Oregon was first licensed last year, UW was recently licensed, and we have five others considering.

“Oregon is ahead of the times,” he continued. “There’s more green awareness in the Pacific Northwest. The environment is really hospitable to these products.”

The Duck Store purchased its first order in September of last year and has since placed two reorders. Renew Merchandise works closely with the University of Oregon Office of Sustainability to sell their concept and promote an attitude of sustainability on campus, and two dollars from the sale of every item of Renew Merchandise clothing goes to the Office of Sustainability to support green projects at the UO.

After more than 26 years working in promotions, Hawk is no stranger to vending. Renew Merchandise has aligned with Portland-based Drive Marketing Group, where he also serves as an account manager, and Renew and Drive are in a partnership to take Renew's apparel to corporations. Drive is also currently working on a site to promote Renew merchandise.

With spirited green and yellow apparel flying off the shelves of the Duck Store and continued expansion on the horizon, Renew Merchandise works to broaden the reach and impact of their sustainable attitude.