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Sustainable Strands: Meet Recover Brands

Recover Brands Sport Polo

Western North Carolina is home to some of the most innovative brands in the outdoor industry—including Recover Brands, a company that is raising the bar for sustainability in outdoor apparel.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Johnston, co-founder of Recover Brands in April at an event hosted by the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC. We got to chatting about mountain biking, the outdoor industry, and of course, his 100% recycled apparel company. Flash forward a couple months, and I’m wearing my favorite (and only) polo shirt.

Recover Sport Polo
The Recover Sport Polo regularly accompanies me on rides to the office.

Made For Work And Play

I’m on mile 4 of my daily routine during the work week. The Blue Ridge Outdoors office is quick, 1.1-mile bike ride from my house. Unless I’m out on assignment, it’s usually the same story: Bike to the office, home for lunch, back to the office, and then back home again. I do this as much as the weather will allow me. Four trips, 4.4 miles, and  552 feet in elevation. The only difference in today’s routine is the Sport Polo I’m wearing from Recover Brands.

Summertime in Asheville, while it might not be the Florida I’m used to, gets pretty damn hot. The lunchtime rides catch up to you quickly, especially today. It’s in the upper 80’s, it just rained, and there is no breeze. Thankfully, this shirt is light, comfortable, and breathes extremely well. I love it.

Try not to get caught up in those calves. Their socks are refreshingly comfortable too!

Wearing Plastic Is So In Right Now

You might think I’m just another Asheville hipster in recycled clothes on a single-speed bike, but I feel like a model citizen—a modern-day John Muir meets Derek Zoolander— just promoting sustainability and looking good while doing it. In all seriousness, their process is remarkable and fascinating.

After collecting and sorting post-consumer plastic bottles, they are shredded into flakes, melted into pellets, extruded into yarn, and knitted into a “first quality” shirt. If you ever catch the Recover Brands Team at an event, you can get a hands-on demonstration of how it all works.

See Them For Yourself

I’ve run into Recover Brands at just about every event I’ve attended in Southern Appalachia.They are a great group of folks who are beyond friendly and are always transparent about their process. Coming up, you can find them at the Moon River Festival in Chattanooga, Go Fest in Roanoke, the NWC Outdoor Market, and the Blue Ridge Relay.

Recover Brands at Floyd Fest
Of course, I ran into Recover Brands at Floyd Fest.

Giving Back (Beyond Recycling)

Recover works with several different non-profit organizations, giving back to both the environment and community beyond their sustainability efforts. They developed the Protect Our Parks Campaign, donating proceeds to the National Parks Foundation. The Carbon Offset Program donates 20% of all proceeds to, educating the world about climate change.

“Working with non-profits is a big part of our DNA,” says Recover Brands Co-Founder, Bill Johnston. “It’s a great way for us to support environmental organizations that are doing a lot of good.”

Of course, Recover works with a number of local organizations as well, like MountainTrue and the riverkeepers affiliated with them. Johnston adds, “Protecting these watersheds is really important to our way of life.”

New for this year, Recover is working with Protect Our Winters, creating shirts that are helping raise funds for the organization and awareness on climate change. The campaign will launch in collaboration with Recover Co-Brand partner Teton Gravity Research with their worldwide film tour this fall.

And in North Carolina, Recover is designing and printing shirts for I Heart Pisgah, a coalition of over 100 businesses and organizations—and thousands of citizens—supporting more protected areas for the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest.

A co-branded tee for Forecastle Festival

New Products and the Co-Brand Program

Through their Co-Brand Program, Recover has opened up their unique manufacturing process to other companies interested in promoting sustainable apparel. Companies like National Geographic, Sierra Nevada, The PGA Tour, and even the NBA have co-branded apparel with Recover.

“I’m a big believer in collaboration. Through our co-brand program, we’re able to work with other companies and ultimately reach a much larger audience,” Said Johnston on the Co-Brand Program.

Additionally, they are looking to open up more of their existing product line to their co-branding program.

“We’re staying true to the core products we make best,” says Johnston. “We really believe in making our products cross-functional for multiple sports, rather than making them sport-specific. We don’t want to focus on too many additional products.”

From a sustainability standpoint, this makes perfect sense.

The Protect Our Parks shirt by Recover Brands

Looking To The Future

Formed in 2009, and with almost a decade of experience under their belt, the Recover Brands team isn’t slowing down anytime soon. While working to better their existing product line and expanding their co-branding program, they are still focusing on making the world around them a better place.

Recover Brands currently has customers in all 50 states and multiple countries. As they venture into other markets, they’re continuing to invest more time in growing the brand while helping the areas around them.

Justin Forrest is an outdoor writer, fly fishing addict, and co-founder of Narrative North—based in Asheville, N.C. He posts pictures of cats and fishing on Instagram sometimes.

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