Suppliers > Apparel and Souvenirs

Your sports departments likely sells a variety of products such as apparel, souvenirs, and other merchandise that are affiliated with your athletics and recreation departments. All varsity student-athletes, and many club student-athletes, also receive some branded apparel to wear during practice and competition.

Your apparel and sports equipment can feature a variety of environmentally preferable attributes. Consider the following attributes when contracting for the production and distribution of sports equipment, team apparel, and game day merchandise:

  • Products that contain the highest percentage of postconsumer recycled content feasible (e.g. paper products like game programs, apparel made from recycled plastic bottles, or reusable bags made from recycled plastic bottles)
  • Products with minimal packaging
  • Products with sustainably harvested wood (e.g. merchandise such as playing cards made from Forest Stewardship Council certified paper or baseball bats made from FSC certified wood)
  • Products made with USDA-certified organic materials (e.g. t-shirts made from USDA certified organic cotton)
  • Products that do not contain PVC or phthalates
  • Products that do not emit high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Products with no ozone-depleting compounds
  • Products that are made using renewable energy
  • Suppliers that provide other types of certified environmentally preferable products and can document these certifications as well as the supply-chain impacts of their efforts

REUSABLE BAGS & CUPS

Many sports facilities sell or give out branded reusable bags and/or cups at games or other events in lieu of disposable ones. Work with athletics department staff, specifically within the merchandising and marketing departments, to evaluate providing the option of a reusable bag or cup when attendees make purchases at concessions or merchandise stands.  When choosing these products, consider the following attributes:

  • Products containing highest feasible recycled content (especially postconsumer recycled content)
  • Products containing materials that are organically grown and/or made from agricultural residues (byproducts of crops otherwise disposed as waste)
  • Products that are recyclable (or compostable, if that’s an option in your community) at end of life
  • Products that do not contain PVC (vinyl), which is associated with toxic emissions in production, use, and disposal
  • Products with minimal packaging

APPAREL & EQUIPMENT

Athletics departments purchase a high volume of athletic apparel and sports equipment each year to distribute to their student-athletes. Recreation departments also often distribute t-shirts and other gear to their club and intramural athletes.Your existing gear may already be made with some recycled content. For example, adidas, Under Armour, Nike, and Patagonia, among many other major athletic apparel brands, all have products made with recycled content.

Consider asking your athletics and recreation departments’ existing vendors and suppliers about the environmental features of your current apparel and equipment. You may also want to consider including environmentally preferable specifications in future contracts and requests for proposals with suppliers and vendors. To do so, work with the apparel and equipment procurement staff in both athletics and recreation to incorporate the following attributes into their sourcing practices.

  • Products that contain the highest percentage of postconsumer recycled content feasible (e.g. jerseys and all other types of athletic apparel, basketballs and other sports equipment, and athletic surfaces such as tennis courts can all be made from recycled plastic)
  • Products with minimal packaging
  • Products with sustainably harvested wood (e.g. basketball courts or baseball bats made from FSC certified wood)
  • Products made with USDA-certified organic materials (e.g. t-shirts made from USDA certified organic cotton)
  • Products that do not contain PVC or phthalates
  • Products that do not emit high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Products with no ozone-depleting compounds
  • Products that are made using renewable energy
  • Suppliers that provide other types of certified environmentally preferable products and can document these certifications as well as the supply-chain impacts of their efforts

*HELPS EARN AASHE STARS POINTS*

Composting at your sports facilities can help your institution earn points within the “Waste” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). It can directly contribute to earning 3 points for the credit “OP 23: Waste Diversion.” Work with sustainability and facilities staff on your campus to support any institutional efforts to attain or improve your institution’s STARS rating. Use the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual to learn more.

ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS

The production and disposal of single-use plastic items such as cups and bags contributes to a number of environmental impacts. Most plastic is produced from fossil fuel-derived products, which increases our consumption of nonrenewable sources. Fossil fuel drilling and exploration contributes to global warming pollution, oil spills and habitat destruction.

By purchasing recycled-content and recyclable bags, cups or bottles, and by reusing then recycling these products, your sports departments and institution can help reduce these impacts.

PROFESSIONAL SPORTS EXAMPLES

The National Basketball Association’s official outfitter, adidas, produced all official NBA jerseys, which are made from 60 percent recycled content. Adidas also provides All-Star players with shirts featuring the NBA Green logo and made from 50 percent recycled polyester each year during NBA Green Week. During nationally broadcast games throughout Green Week, players also wear NBA Green headbands, wristbands, and socks made from 45 percent organic cotton. NBA.com also holds an online auction of Spalding basketballs incorporating 40 percent recycled content and autographed by NBA players annually. The NBA Store, NBAStore.com, and select team retailers also offer organic cotton NBA Green t-shirts, hats, socks, headbands, and wristbands for purchase, along with recycled-content Spalding basketballs during NBA Green Week. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

The U.S. Tennis Association’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center features court surfaces made from 17 percent post-industrial recycled content (that required 57 percent less energy to produce than traditional surfaces).

Green products featured as part of the overall US Open Collection of merchandise have included 100 percent organic cotton t-shirts (designed by Heidi Klum and Billie Jean King), hats comprised of 50 percent post-consumer plastic (each hat containing the equivalent of two one-liter recycled plastic bottles), cinch backpacks (each containing the equivalent of six recycled plastic bottles), and reusable totes made from 80 percent post-consumer content.To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

Most paper products purchased for Major League Baseball’s All-Star events (including invitations, tickets, programs, etc.) include a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer recycled content, and tissue products in stadium restrooms are made from up to 100 percent post-consumer recycled content. Media guides are now available electronically. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

University of Washington Case Study: Apparel Purchasing & Licensing
AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)
AASHE STARS 2.0 Technical Manual
EPA – Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Database
Better Cotton Initiative
Forest Stewardship Council
EPA – Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines: Supplier Database
USDA Organic homepage