TS Designs Custom Tees for Good

TS Designs organic cotton sustainability

If you need some custom tee shirts made, we recommend you check out TS Designs. This is a company born of innovation, sustainability, and a desire to do right by everyone: their customers, their employees, and the planet.

The North Carolina company used to print for some major companies like Nike but in 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, things changed. President Eric Henry remembers, “Within two years we laid off over 80% of our staff. The brands like Nike, Polo and Adidas wanted to increase their bottom line and the customer was more interested in saving a few dollars than supporting their community.”

cotton yarn spinning for ts designsSome companies went under. TS Designs and its leadership decided to regroup. “We had to totally build a new company based on a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit,” Henry says. “That is the journey we have been on since. It has been a very tough journey, pushing against the old, single bottom line business model. Over time more companies and people are seeing the value of the triple bottom line business.”

Eric Henry, who has always been interested in environmental issues and causes, thought this would also be a chance to make the process more earth-friendly, even teaming up with the Green Movement. “I have always had an interest in our environmental impact, from the garden and greenhouse that I had growing up in downtown Burlington, to driving a car with over 300k miles using biodiesel,” says Henry. “So you can say I have been green-focused, and not the money side, almost all my life. That also gets me to one of my favorite t-shirt, printed over 10 years ago [I] still wear on a regular basis: a domestically made organic cotton t-shirt printed with our REHANCE process and with the word biodiesel on it – just like my car, sustainable and long lasting.” TS Designs even has a biodiesel station, which used to be stocked by Henry who would make the fuel, but now they get it from Piedmont Biodiesel. It’s open to employees and community members alike. Couple that with solar panels and you’ve got a very green company. 

ts designs solar panels

As for the printing, TS Designs uses water-based inks and organic cotton. “Organic cotton does have a much lighter impact on the environment, but cotton is slow growing and weeds are fast growing. North Carolina has a wet/dry/wet climate so weeds are the #1 issue. We are working with the NC State University Agriculture department to develop a cover crop that could be planted in the fall and serve as a mulch weed block in the spring,” Henry explains. The goal is to ultimately use only North Carolina cotton to create jobs in the state. “We are in year three of that trial, so in the meantime we are buying organic cotton out of Texas and organic cotton yarn from India.”

carolina cotton supply chain for ts designs

Cotton of the Carolinas supply chain

Anyone is welcome to schedule a tour of the facilities, which is pretty amazing–how many printing shops do that? But TS Designs uses it as yet another way to invest and bolster their community: lunches come from Braeburn Farm and the local co-op, Company Shops Market.

Working with TS Designs will give you a fantastic custom shirt and the peace of mind that you’re supporting a sustainable, responsible company who values people.