From Shirt to Tree — How a Print Shop Has Made Their Mission to Give Back to the Environment a Reality
Forests cover 30% of the world (1). According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, about 18 million acres of forests are lost each year (2). World Resources Institute says that the loss of forests contributes 12%–17% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions (3). Trees are incredibly important for our earth and our livelihood. A local print shop has made it part of their mission and business to combat deforestation and give back to the environment.
Jackson Berger and his girlfriend Skye Rainey own and run Symmetree Clothing, an apparel brand that celebrates nature and shines a light on protecting the environment. The duo designs, screen prints, embroiders, and sews. They offer t-shirts, hoodies, long-sleeves, patches, hats, and beanies. Like every screen printer, they have a story to how they have gotten to where they are today.
HOW IT STARTED
Jackson's screen printing journey began back in 2013. He worked for a clothing company called Flomotion in Florida. He designed the shirts, but they contracted the screen printing services, so he didn't have much of a hand in the physical process.
"I was always around the industry, but was pretty clueless to how it worked," Jackson said.
Two years later, Jackson and Skye were ready for a new adventure. He quit his job, bought a van, and the two hit the road. For a year they drove around the US, making their way to the West Coast.
During the trip, the idea of creating their own apparel line began to brew. They wanted to create art for a living. Skye has a screen printing background, both of them went to school for graphic design, and they had switched out their van for an RV. There would be a learning curve, but they could do it themselves. The desire to create a high-quality apparel line grew strong enough that they began screen printing while on the road. With Ryonet videos to help them hone in their skills, they took the plunge.
"We printed a couple of shirts, but it didn't really work that well," Jackson said.
Using the RV bathroom as a darkroom and the sun for screen exposure proved to be difficult. From the RV shop experience, they learned that if they wanted to get serious about their brand, they would need to settle down in a location so they'd have space to screen print.
With their surfing background, Skye and Jackson made Manzanita, Oregon, a coastal town, their new home. Jackson bought a press off of Amazon and got to work in their apartment.
Developing a clothing brand is no easy feat. First step, coming up with a name. They didn't have a name until recently, only operating under their personal names. The name Symmetree came from Jackson's father. In the 70's, his father owned a woodworking shop called Symmetree. Not only does the name hold importance because of its family ties, the name is important to both Jackson and Skye because of its meaning — balanced by nature.
"We focused around natural inspiration and conservation of the planet, which is something both of us have believed in for forever," Jackson said. "We figured it would be cool to spread that message."
Their apparel reflects the natural vibe and drive to protect the environment. With shirts that say, "more trees, less bullshit," to "respect the locals" with an image of a fish. Their apparel line captures the beauty and essence of the Pacific North West. They outline what makes this area special, and why it's important we do what we can to protect it.
WHERE THEY ARE NOW
To share the brand with others, the pair attended local farmer's markets along the coast. As their popularity grew, they quickly realized that they needed a better press. So, they invested in a Riley Hopkins Jr. 4x2 Press.
"All of our visions took off as soon as we got the press," Jackson said.
At the farmer's markets, they met a ton of people. Because of the connections, they were able to grow into wholesale. Skye was able to quit her position at a local winery so she could help Jackson with the brand.
Recently, the young couple has moved into a shop with a Riley 300 6x4 Press, a Riley Cure Conveyor Dryer, and a X-Vactor Exposure Unit. Jackson is in charge of screen printing while Skye handles the embroidery.
Knowing screen printing leaves a footprint on the environment, they implement as much eco-friendly practices and products as they can. They use water-based ink for the soft feel and eco-friendliness. They print on recycled garments. In their darkroom, they use Sgreen chemistry.
THE TREE CAMPAIGN
In February, the team started a campaign to help the environment. It was something that they always wanted to do, but did not have the funds for it. Last year was their biggest year yet, which Jackson took as a sign to start an environmental campaign.
"We draw so much inspiration from trees, from the natural world," Jackson said. "It was a no-brainer for us to find something in that space."
They thoroughly researched organizations when they found Eden Reforestation Projects. This nonprofit won their hearts for several reasons. First, they're planting trees. Planting trees provides more habitats for animals. Trees help combat climate change. Trees make the planet healthier.
"Part of the reason we chose them was that they're not planting just in America, they're planting all around the world." Jackson said. "They pick areas that really need the reforestation."
The organization also employs impoverished, local villagers, giving them fair wage employment as they plant trees to help save the environment.
"It's a pretty cool campaign all around and we immediately knew that they were the one that we wanted to partner with," Jackson said.
For every shirt or hat they sell, whether it's from wholesale or retail, they set aside the funds to plant eight trees. In three months, they have donated funds to plant 6,556 trees. Trees have been planted in Nepal, Madagascar, Haiti, Indonesia, and Mozambique.
"It's pretty amazing to look at a huge stack of shirts, multiply each shirt by eight, and visualize the amount of trees that'll be planted," Jackson said. "It gives more meaning to our products."
Customers have resonated with Symmetree's new tree campaign. One of Symmetree's wholesale partners, Made In Oregon, absolutely loves the campaign they started. In April alone, Symmetree planted 4,968 trees, and big driver for that accomplishment was due to Made In Oregon.
"Skye and I grew up spending time outdoors," Jackson said. "We both surf. Being surfers, it's in our blood to protect the environment."
Due to the pandemic, Jackson and Skye will not able to attend farmer's markets this summer because they cannot be hosted. Instead, they'll focus on their wholesale partners and e-commerce. The last two months were their biggest months for e-commerce, so they're feeling good about it. They'll continue to try new things in their shop and hone their craft. The dream is to have a retail store with a surf vibe on the coast. One day.
"We're open to anything," Jackson said.
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