What is the environmental impact of a $10 cotton T-shirt?
It takes 2,700 litres (590 gallons) of water just to grow enough cotton for a single T-shirt. This is enough for a person to drink water for 2 years!
In order to grow cotton, farmers use huge amounts of pesticides. Pesticides deeply pollute the soil and water for local populations. Most workers in cotton fields (in India for example) do not have proper equipment to protect themselves from pesticides, and many suffer from lung, skin diseases, or cancer.
Working conditions in sewing factories are terrible, with workers earning less than $25 per month, in dangerous buildings (in Bangladesh for example).
Finally, T-shirts are soaked into toxic colorants. These colorants are not only dangerous for health, but also often end up in water (in China for example).
The production phase accounts for 70% of the environmental impact of a T-shirt.
After that, the impact is mainly the transportation and distribution carbon footprint, and finally the laundry and disposal of the t-shirt.
So what can we do?
If a T-shirt is very cheap, it is likely to have a huge environmental footprint. But not all expensive T-shirts are better! The most important is to look at the origin of the T-shirt, the materials used, and the quality. It’s better to buy less often and keep it for longer! Click here to read our article on the impact of Fast Fashion.
- Choose second hand clothing. This is the most sustainable option by far, because you are not contributing to the production of new materials, just reusing what’s already there.
- If you are not wearing a piece of clothing anymore, do not just throw it away in your bin! Choose to donate it, re-sell it, or even use it as a cleaning cloth, but don’t send it to landfill!
- Choose brands that work with natural fabrics that require less resources than cotton, like hemp, lyocell, or recycled cotton.
- Choose brands who embrace slow fashion, who work in small batches to avoid waste, and make the best quality pieces of clothes that will last forever!
Where to find good brands for sustainable clothing?
We selected a few sustainable clothing brands, have a look at our eco-brand directory ( click here)
What is the eco-brand directory?
We know there is a lot of greenwashing out there, and it is hard to know which brands to trust. That’s why we have created our eco-brand directory, where we recommend the eco brands that we have tested and that we like, so it’s easier for you to shop sustainably. ( click here)