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GHS grad helps turn plastic waste into uniforms

Pictured here are Nube9’s Molly Van Nostrand, partner, head of sales, Jonna Bell, partner, head of marketing, and Fig, the office dog. Not pictured are Ruth True, founder, and Dom Muren, partner.

Contributed photo
Pictured here are Nube9’s Molly Van Nostrand, partner, head of sales, Jonna Bell, partner, head of marketing, and Fig, the office dog. Not pictured are Ruth True, founder, and Dom Muren, partner.



Currently, the U.S. recycles about 32 percent of the plastic it produces. By comparison, China recycles more than 80 percent of its plastic.

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Austin Parks, GHS class of 2016, is seen here wearing a Nube9 uniform.

— 1997 Grangeville High School graduate Jonna Bell is helping change the world, one plastic water bottle at a time.

Bell is one of the founding partners of Nube9, a company that recycles plastic into athletic uniforms.

“It began as an idea between two friends of mine, Ruth True and Dominic Muren,” she said. “I joined, taking on the marketing responsibilities, shortly after Ruth’s idea started to come to life. I’ve always had a concern for our environment and our economies - especially coming from a state like Idaho. Every day is lived directly connected to our land and resources of which we’re stewards and every company that creates jobs has a direct impact on our neighbors and our families.”

Bell grew up in Grangeville and attended the University of Idaho. She moved around some, and pursued a career in marketing and communications. She worked in several fields including beauty, higher education, cancer research, film, non-profit, design and sustainability.

The mission of Nube9 is to “amplify a conversation about mindful consumption,” she explained.

“We chose sports because two of our founders are parents of youth athletes and we were all tired of seeing the mounds of plastic Gatorade bottles filling trash bins at basketball tournaments,” she explained. “At the same time, we were coming out of a recession - teams were purchasing uniforms made in China and Vietnam while sewers in Seattle couldn’t find work. We want consumers to think about a purchase: Do the dollars I put into purchasing that shirt stay here in the U.S.? And what is the environmental impact of this purchase? The chemicals used? Would it be something I want my child exposed to? Is it right to ask another person to be exposed? We knew sports and youth are powerful catalysts for change so it made sense for us to focus the start of our mission there.”

Bell said plastic is an environmental problem that is only beginning to be understood.

“Every piece of plastic ever created still exists somewhere. It will never fully decompose or disappear,” she said. Unlike glass, which is made of melted sand, or stainless steel or aluminum which are both made of raw materials, plastic is made primarily from synthetics and derived from petrochemicals.

“When sent to the landfill — or dropped into a parking lot or local waterway — plastic continually breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that eventually find their way into the places we swim and even the fish we eat. Single-use plastic water bottles are one of the worst offenders. We use once, and we discard,” she explained.

Currently, the U.S. recycles about 32 percent of the plastic it produces. By comparison, China recycles more than 80 percent of its plastic.

“Our team seeks to flip this statistic and disrupt the path of single-use plastics. Our uniforms, like most high-performance apparel, are made from a polyester-spandex blend. Any polyester is plastic. But we’re choosing to use existing plastics to make our polyester, rather than create new,” Bell explained. “We’re not only using an existing material, we’re also doing what’s called upcycling. It’s when the final product is considerably more valuable than the source. Rather than turning a recycled plastic water bottle into another single-use plastic water bottle that still has the potential to reach a landfill or backyard stream, we’re turning it into a shirt that a future NBA or NFL star wears in the game.”

“The coolest part? Our uniforms are recyclable — that means when Grangeville High School wants to order new uniforms, they simply send their Nube9 uniforms back to us and we recycle them into a new bolt of fabric,” she said. “No more bins of uniforms sitting in our coaches’ basements year after year.”

In addition to sports uniforms, Nube9 has also opened a street apparel division. Costs are comparable to other high quality sports-wear.

“Having come from a town that needed to pass levies to support sports when I was in high school, I cringed at the thought of creating a product that my own high school couldn’t afford,” Bell said. “So, without compromising our core values of made in the USA and recycled, we’re figuring out how to make it work with each uniform we engineer. Recycled materials are not more expensive than virgin materials - there’s no barrier to other companies doing what we do. And the more we here in the U.S. recycle, the more sources we’ll have to pull from!”

GHS’s boys basketball team purchased warm-up shirts for the 2015-16 season. It takes just nine plastic water bottles to make one jersey.

“I was never the most athletic in high school, in fact probably clumsy, so I was nervous making the call,” Bell laughed. “But GHS felt it was the right move for them as a high school. Admittedly there’s a bit of a friendly but fierce competition between the Nube9 team members to see who can get their former schools on board with our mission.”

Nube9 employs 15 people in Washington and California, depending on workload. They offer fair wages, provide insurance and clean, safe working conditions.

“I think we’re stewards of our environment. We can all agree that used and dirty red Solo cups at a Fish Creek camp site or plastic Pepsi bottles stuck in the brush on the side of the Lochsa River are an eyesore at minimum,” Bell said. “It’s our individual choice not to be part of that story. Recycling, buying produce and meats local - those things have always been something I leaned toward. But there’s nothing like starting a company with a mission about mindful consuming to really make one stop, and think hard about daily choices.”

Need more info.?

For further product details, log onto www.Nube9.com.

To view a video about the process of changing a plastic water bottle to fabric, log onto the internet at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RohhbBDpZ3Q&feature=youtu.be.



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