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T.S. Designs Focusing on People, Planet, and Profitability

(May 2006) posted on Tue May 02, 2006

Discover why the company decided to go green and what actions it's taken to make eco-friendly screen pritning sustainable.

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By Lori Leaman

"What we agree, as a business, is when we're using cheaper electricity, we're causing damage to the environment that we're not having to pay for," Henry says. "Someone—the next generation—will be responsible for the environmental degradation that we are causing."

T.S. Designs also applies its philosophy to other utilities. The company designed and built a gray-water system for one of its toilets. Gray water, or water not up to drinking standards, is contained in a drum that is mounted in the bathroom and gravity fed into the toilet. The company also installed a Falcon water-free urinal that requires much less maintenance than conventional urinals, eliminates bacteria made airborne by flushing, and reduces sewer charges.

Instead of using plastic bags and hang tags to package printed garments, employees roll garments in recycled paper featuring printed information about T.S. Designs. Henry and Sineath even make biodiesel fuel from used cooking oil and use it to power their Volkswagen Golf and Jetta. Their dedication to alternate fuel sources has evolved into a ten-person group called Burlington Biodiesel Co-Op.

"It's important that, in the market we are in, if you're going to sell a green product, you have to walk the walk too," Henry says. "It's not just selling an organic product such as a T-shirt.... That's just one of our many commitments in our path to be more sustainable."

Sineath adds, "Our customer is someone who understands and is part of social and environmental issues. Our product makes sense to them, and our product supports their vision."

Green recognition

T.S. Designs' environmental-awareness efforts have been noted by several organizations. In 1992, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce recognized T.S. Designs with an Environmental Stewardship Award. In 1993, T.S. Designs was the subject of an EPA case study that described various environmentally friendly practices that can be used in the screen-printing industry.

The company received the Governor's Award for Excellence in Waste Reduction in 1994 and was honored in 2003 with the North Carolina Prevention Performance Award for Excellence in Business, the Save our State North Carolina Sustainability Award, and the Governor's Conservation Achievement Award. In 2004, T.S. Designs received what the company considers one of its most notable achievements—the Green Business Leadership Award presented by Co-op America.

T.S. Designs' philosophy of giving back to the community also is evident in its role as a corporate sponsor of North Carolina Green Power, a program that takes contributions from electrical users to assist people who generate wind, solar, hydroelectric, or biomass energy. A total of 10% of T.S. Designs' energy is renewable.

In the future

T.S. Designs has yet to implement any digital-imaging technology. However, Sineath and Henry plan to add direct-to-garment digital-printing equipment in the near future.

"It will be a very, very important part of our future," Henry says. "We see digital as an opportunity for us to address the fast-turning market and service those people that only need a couple dozen T-shirts. I think as digital develops and becomes better, faster, I see a time in the future where digital could replace screen printing."

Sineath explains that building a sustainable company continues to be the main goal for T.S. Designs. He urges other screen-printing businesses to become aware of their impact on everything around them and to seriously consider alternatives.

"It's about being a different kind of business," Sineath says. "If you think that we are causing environmental degradation and depleting the earth's resources faster than the earth can recover them, ask yourself how this happened. Business is quite often the culprit that caused the damage. But business usually is the most likely to fix it."


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