Brian Tarte, Site Operations Manager for Merchology, loves to share the play on words – pronounced Mur-chol-uh-jee, the business focuses on the science of merch and the art or skill of preparing custom apparel and gifts. The Minnesota-based and family-owned business opened a small manufacturing facility in Sparks, Nevada in March of 2019. The facility employs 23 people that run the apparel embroidery production process and machines, receiving, packaging, and shipping.
Founded in 2014, Merchology considers itself as a co-brand partner. It brings together an organization’s logo with world-class retail brands like Patagonia. In 2017, the company expanded its purpose to build a better way to do business, a more sustainable way by joining 1% For the Planet. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, following the oil industry. Small gains can have tremendous benefits to water resources, air quality, and ecosystems.
Upon better understanding these industry problems, the Merchology team went a step further in 2019 and created their own sustainable apparel and lifestyle brand called Zusa. Zusa apparel is produced from ethical sources using environmentally-conscious practices with big benefits, including:
Merchology’s story is making a difference and is an inspiration to others. In Nevada, they were the first Small Business Manufacturing company to become a Certified Green Business at the Innovator status, the highest tier of certification.
It all started with employee volunteer engagement with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful (KTMB). Merchology selected KTMB as the local environmental nonprofit partner. Employees volunteer for cleanup events and help plant trees in our community. KTMB also benefits as one of three partner organizations that receive donations from Merchology through its membership in 1% for the Planet and commitment to give 1% of gross sales to environmental nonprofits. It was through this relationship that Brian learned about the Nevada Green Business Program.
Merchology began the green business certification during its busiest season leading up to the holidays. Because most of the staff were focused on fulfilling orders, Brian took on the responsibility of implementing green business measures with support for their corporate team and contractors, as well as KTMB’s Green Business Advisor. He also kept the Sparks team engaged through weekly updates during meetings. Everyone learned through the process and team members were excited about the ways they could contribute through behavioral changes and new practices.
Brian discovered that Merchology was already implementing many of the green business measures. One of the most significant outcomes was a renewed Environmental Policy Statement that captures the range of green business measures implemented and opportunities for continuous improvement. The policy is shared in Merchology’s first Environmental Impact Report.
In some areas, only small changes were needed. Merchology expanded its sustainable purchasing practices to source more recycled-content paper products. The facility reduced energy use by installing new LED light fixtures and motion sensors and setting computer defaults to go into sleep mode after 15 minutes of inactivity. Brian worked with the janitorial service provider to switch to certified green cleaning products and to mix concentrated cleaning products at time of use to reduce waste. And the team made better signage to improve their internal recycling program.
The Nevada Green Business Program offered a framework for measuring Merchology’s progress. Certification further demonstrates their commitment to employees and customers, and suppliers, and they hope to inspire others to join them.
Sustainability has become integral to Merchology’s DNA. In 2020, 16% of Merchology’s total sales were from eco-friendly brands, including Zusa, Patagonia, Osprey, and other brand partners. Gaining certification as a Nevada Green Business helps to bolster their recognition as a leading sustainable brand in the apparel industry.
Written by Lynne Barker, 2021.