Gage Mruz can’t imagine a better foundation for his future than the one he’s built as a Husker, but as an environmental studies major and avid outdoor adventurer, he can imagine a better future for the earth.
Mruz, of Blair, Nebraska, will graduate May 4 from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and jump headfirst into making positive environmental change through his fledgling sustainable apparel business, Greenstain.
Greenstain boasts T-shirts made from recycled plastics and printed with water-based ink. Each shirt saves six plastic bottles from the landfill, according to Greenstain’s manufacturing partner, Allmade. Greenstain is also a partner with One Tree Planted and plants a tree for each shirt sold.
Mruz worked with fellow students at Nebraska to create engaging designs of natural environments, and began screen printing at Nebraska Innovation Studio, but soon had too many orders to continue the printing by himself.
The company launched officially in March, but Mruz has been feeding his passion for discovering eco-friendly alternatives the last four years, thanks to the many opportunities he had on campus.
“I have always loved being outside, and have a respect for the environment and the natural world,” Mruz said. “It wasn’t until I got to college, though, that I started to understand the problems and environmental issues and ways to mitigate those with my own decisions.”
While at Nebraska, Mruz joined the Environmental Leadership Program as a freshman and then interned for the Office of Sustainability under Prabhakar “Prabs” Shrestha. In the role, Mruz worked with fellow students on their own sustainability projects and worked with the Chancellor’s leadership team to set sustainability goals for the university.
“That was an awesome experience,” Mruz said. “I got to hone my skills and knowledge in the sustainability sector from a university level, and Prabs has been one of my biggest influences in cultivating that passion and knowledge of sustainability across many areas.”
In the summer of 2018, Mruz interned for the Green Building Council in New Zealand. It was there that he came up with the idea for Greenstain apparel.
“I was able to do research on the most polluting industries and apparel is at or near the top of that list,” Mruz said. “But eco-friendly apparel is also a great way to build a brand and cultivate a culture, going along with my mission of providing environmentally sustainable solutions.”
Knowing he’d need some business acumen, Mruz set up a practicum course with Kyle Gibson, assistant director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, which Mruz credits with helping him build out his business plan.
Mruz said the totality of his college experience – from classroom studies to his internship and time in New Zealand – has prepared him for the challenges ahead.
“It’s been a ride and a lot of work and I’m excited to put all of my mental focus on it after graduation and I’m hopeful things will scale very quickly and exponentially,” he said. “Everything worked out for the best. All the friends I’ve made and the connections and the opportunities that popped up here made it the best possible scenario for me.
“I’ve found Nebraska was one of the best places to start a business, especially one like this. The culture here is so unique, with ethical, friendly people.”