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Wednesday December 7th

UNC partners with upcycle company, providing sustainable products on campus

<p>Photo courtesy of Becky Tanenbaum, the PR Rep for Reborn Clothing Co.</p>
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Photo courtesy of Becky Tanenbaum, the PR Rep for Reborn Clothing Co.

UNC has partnered with Reborn Clothing Co., a Raleigh-based upcycling company, to reuse and upcycle unwanted or outdated textiles into new products.

Reborn’s goal is to give used textiles a second life by transforming them into new products. Emily Neville, the founder of the company, said this process is particularly important at universities, which consistently have a surplus of unused products.

Neville, a senior at North Carolina State University, started the company as a sophomore in 2017. In the past year, Reborn has formed numerous partnerships with universities across North Carolina, including N.C. State, East Carolina University, Duke University, Appalachian State University and UNC-Wilmington.

“There are thousands of surplus event shirts, athletic uniforms, promotional banners at every university that essentially get abandoned, and we’re able to turn that would-be waste into a resource, into a useful product in our hands," Neville said. "What we're doing at UNC is creating a closed-loop system, turning UNC surplus materials, surplus textiles into new products for the University."

Reborn's current products, available on the company's website, include blankets, bags and keychains.

Amy Cooke, professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Environment, Ecology and Energy Program in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she believes the partnership with Reborn is one of the first steps the University has taken to reduce textile waste.

“I don’t know what exactly it will look like, but it's the first that I’ve heard on the side of the environmental sustainability push going on in UNC clothing,” Cooke said.

Cooke said that while Reborn might be the first step toward sustainable UNC merchandise, students have historically hoped the University would associate itself with socially-conscious products and brands. Cooke said UNC students have previously been concerned with the labor conditions under which University-affiliated products are made.

“We have really put the time and effort into making sure that our label goes onto clothing that is not made by people under really horrible conditions," Cooke said. "But we don’t do that with the environmental side of our clothing line."

Neville also said that, while there has been a major cultural push for food sustainability, there has been a delay in efforts to reduce textile waste.

“Now, we can buy local or organic food options at our average Harris Teeter or Trader Joe's or Food Lion. But to me, textiles and sustainable or ethical products have been lagging behind for a long time," Neville said. "Really only in the past couple of years have we seen where it's more accessible, and you can go be able to buy a sustainable or ethical product. For UNC apparel or products, I think this is a relatively new thing."

The partnership is an opportunity for the University to support local businesses, Neville said. 

“All products are made in a cut-and-sew facility in Raleigh," Neville said. "They’re providing jobs and employment for people in the area. Because the material is generally free or given to Reborn at a reduced cost, people are truly paying for the labor and the upcycling process."

Deborah Gray, regional sales manager at Reborn, said the company received licensing to make UNC-affiliated products just a few weeks ago. They are already working on initial items for Chapel Hill Sportswear, a retail shop on Franklin Street. 

The company is also working on obtaining its Barnes and Noble vendor status, which will allow it to sell products in the Student Stores. 

“We have submitted products and pricing," Gray said. "There are multiple Barnes and Nobles across the state that would like to carry the Reborn product, so we’re just trying to get a yes on that."

Once Reborn has its products on campus, students can expect to see everything from duffel bags and laptop sleeves to teddy bears, Koozies and dog beds at retail locations. 

Reborn will also be looking for student ambassadors at UNC, who will receive a few free products each semester, in exchange for their promotion of the company. The company also hopes to host events on campus, in order to meet students and explain how their products are made.

Neville hopes that Reborn will eventually have a large presence on campus.

“My hope, because it's a cross campus effort, is that you can buy a Reborn product at one of our retail locations or on our website, but you also might get a Reborn product as a giveaway from one of your departments, or as a thank you, or as a graduation gift," Neville said.

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