Wilmington, NC, May 25, 2010 --(PR.com
)-- As Kermit the frog once sang, “It’s not easy being green!”
Like it or not, it is expensive and labor intensive to be kind to Mother Nature – particularly for small businesses trying to stay profitable in a shaky economy.
Just ask Fred Meyers, president of Queensboro Shirt Company, a Wilmington, N.C. Internet-based custom logo apparel company and a pioneer in the industry. Queensboro has sold over 10 million custom logo shirts, tees, hats and bags throughout the three decades it has been in business. The company has always tried to do its part to “do the right thing” when it comes to the environment.
Meyers wants Queensboro to be an industry leader in the green movement – especially since the textiles industry has undergone harsh criticism from environmentalists for its use of harmful chemicals and synthetic, non-biodegradable fibers. He wants to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, boost morale among his 100 employees by “going green” and of course, offer customers environmentally-friendly products.
“We are based in a very beautiful coastal town and understand the importance of preserving our natural resources,” says Meyers. “As a business owner, I want to make sure that the products we offer are good for our customers and the environment, but also to our bottom line. And truth is, in our business, going green is expensive and labor intensive, so it’s something we are easing into.”
The Challenges & Why He’s “Easing into Green”
Meyers has learned there are three primary reasons it’s hard to go green, so he is slowly making the transition.
Queensboro first started its environmentally-friendly efforts when it introduced a line of eco-friendly clothing in 2007. The shirts are made from 100 percent organic cotton, the most popular organic textile, which is grown using methods with no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Organic products generally can cost more than non-organic alternatives. It costs Queensboro 30 percent more than traditional fabrics, and their customers wind up paying about 20 percent more.
Secondly, when the company added custom printed tees to its product line, it opted for a more environmentally-friendly printing process. It purchased digital printers instead of the popular screen printers, despite the fact that the digital printing machinery can cost up to ten times more than traditional screen printing equipment.
Screen printing uses thousands of gallons of water per run while digital printing requires only ounces. Screen printing also uses Plastisol, a PVC-based ink that is linked to cancer. Digital printing uses ink cartridges which eliminate toxins and cut down on waste.
2. Do Customers Really Want Green?
There is a slow adoption rate of eco-friendly apparel among the company’s customer base.
“I think a lot companies thought there would be this great customer demand for organic fabrics and they rushed into it. While the global organic textile industry is still experiencing double digit growth, I don’t see customer demand keeping up with it.”
A survey of Queensboro customers found that over the last three years only about ten percent of Queensboro’s buyers have purchased the organic items and less than half did so because it was the “green” thing to do. Sixty percent of those customers chose the organic products because of appearance or a special promotion – not because it was green.
3. Is Green Durable?
Meyers plans to test organic dyes, but wonders if they will hold up over time and has yet to find a supplier to fit their needs.
“We are not using vegetable dyes yet, but we are headed in that direction. All our apparel comes with a ten year guarantee. We need to be confident the organic dyes will hold up that long.”
In the meantime, Meyers has found other, more creative ways to go green without impacting the company’s bottom line. Queensboro has instituted basic recycling programs for plastics and paper, and is soon launching a campaign to encourage customers to recycle old tee shirts.
· Organic cotton is the most popular organic fiber.
· The green market outperformed the economy as a whole, growing more than six percent in 2008, followed by flat growth in 2009. While the report also finds that the market took a hit from tighter consumer budgets due to the recession and trading down from high-end green brands, the market still grew about 41 percent from 2004 to 2009. – 2010 Mintel research study.
· The same Mintel survey finds that at least one in three consumers consider environmental impact when choosing providers for services.
· Globally, sales of organic and eco-friendly textile are expected to expand from $1.1 billion in 2006 to $6.8 billion in 2010.