Sustainable apparel startup localizes product line

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Staff photo by Allison Potter 

Sam Shelby sells shirts and hoodies made of recycled fabric through his startup company, Organic Lifestyle Apparel.

Sam Shelby was a volunteer for the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project, where he spent more time picking up litter from the beach strand than finding turtle nests, when he felt the urge to find a vehicle he could use to spread the idea of environmental consciousness in the community. It was from this idea that Organic Lifestyle Apparel, originally named Be Green Goods, launched. Now Shelby is close to having his line of 100 percent recycled T-shirts, hats and hoodies on the shelves of shops in Wrightsville Beach. 

“After volunteering on Wrightsville Beach for the turtle project team and cleaning bags of trash on each and every shift, I decided to do something to feel like I was making a difference and supporting a local cause,” Shelby said. “The simple goal is to generate some chatter and have some fun while doing it. I believe that if people wear the talk, they will walk the walk.” 

Finding an American company to produce the clothing was one of Shelby’s first goals, and he discovered the West Virginia-based SustainU recycled and organic clothing manufacturer through a friend. SustainU collects cotton scraps and plastic bottles from within a 200-mile radius to produce T-shirts and hoodies for its own brand or to wholesale to other eco-friendly companies like OLA with co-branding opportunities. 

Some of the printing for the shirts and hoodies is completed in house at SustainU and Shelby said the product is a hybrid of 50 percent recycled cotton and 50 percent recycled polyester. 

While he is also producing OLA hats made of 70 percent cotton and 30 percent recycled polyester, Shelby said he has yet to find an American manufacturer for recycled or organic hats. 

While most organic or recycled apparel has higher price points, Shelby said he is hoping to keep the OLA prices down with T-shirts and hats for $20 each and hoodies for $40. 

Support for OLA has been growing this summer, Shelby said, adding that other local companies like Rightleft Studio, the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Snapdragon Screen Printing, and Cape Fear Digitizing and Embroidery have all stepped up to support OLA. Adding another element to his message, Shelby said he is donating a percentage of his revenue to the Surfrider Foundation. 

“I don’t expect everyone to up and quit wearing deodorant, live in a tree house and ride their bike everywhere they go,” Shelby said. “If I can come up with some designs and products that generate a little buzz, make a positive impact, and can get my creative energy going too, it makes me feel good.”

This fall Shelby said buyers would soon be able to find his products in some Wrightsville Beach surf shops. Currently buyers can find OLA at Island Wellness Market in Carolina Beach or online at


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