As usual, we start with these reminders:
-The most ethical t-shirt is most often the one that we don't buy. :)
-When we find ourselves in need of a new-to-us t-shirt, a thrift store is a great place to start the search for a sturdy 100% cotton one.
The most common fibers used in tees today are polyester + cotton. Even recycled polyester is non-biodegradable plastic which sheds plastic microfibers with each wash. Cotton is often sprayed with chemicals that directly effect the land + the farmers that grow it. Thankfully organic cotton has grown in popularity. Growing organic cotton, however, is not easy...and it demands a lot of water.
Organic cotton can be sourced in one country, spun in another + milled in a third. By the time an organic tee is sewn, transported to the warehouse + shipped to the store or our house...it is probably better travelled than we are. It's exciting to see people care about how + where the fibers in the clothing they design are grown, processed + sewn. It's hard work to trace the journey, since the bulk of the industry has moved overseas. Many brands just don't seem that in touch with the fluctuations in the supply chain. Harvest + Mill is a great example of a brand who takes the time to know the places, people + conditions a tee comes from...from seed to finished product.
Growing new, organic cotton for each new tee is a resource-heavy endeavor involving water, land + labor resources. Innovations in recycled cotton are exciting...and the fact that a tee can be made with 100% recycled cotton (no new fibers added) is a breakthrough. Everybody World offers these innovative tees.
Hemp is another fiber focus for sustainable t-shirt makers. Hemp is a more naturally resilient crop than cotton requiring less water, chemicals + fertilizers. Hemp restores soil health rather than depleting it. It makes a sturdy, long-lasting fiber as well. Jungmaven makes hemp/organic cotton tees.
The working conditions of the garment workers who put together our clothing are of great importance. We know that our purchases factor into the paychecks of all the hands who touched that t-shirt. It's exciting to know that there are people designing clothes with the entire process in focus. Fair-trade certifications bring credibility to ethical labor claims.
While all of these factors are wonderful, we can't lose sight of the fact that even organic cotton, hemp + recycled cotton require land + power + water + transportation + human resources. These processes create waste too. Just how many t-shirts does one person need? Can we wear the ones we have longer + wash them less? Can we borrow or trade? Can we find a secondhand tee instead? Just a few things to consider before going any further. :)
The tees collected here:
- are fair-trade certified or made in the USA
- are made from organic or recycled cotton
- cost less than $50
- are mostly from brands that offer "women's" + "men's" tees which, as always, refers more to sizing than gender
christy dawn :: organic cotton, made in los angeles
coyuchi :: organic cotton, fair-trade certified
everybody world :: 100% recycled cotton, made in the usa
harvest + mill :: USA grown organic cotton, made in usa
industry standard :: organic cotton, made in los angeles
jungmaven :: hemp/organic cotton, made in usa
known supply :: organic cotton, fair-trade certified
outerknown :: organic cotton, made in usa
pact :: organic cotton, fair-trade certified
I neglected to check if I'd already written a fair tees post until I was finished with this one. (I had.) Anyway...reading over my previous (now deleted) post let me know that this is indeed an update. Some of the brands listed in the previous post no longer make their tees with fair wages in mind, some have raised their prices + this time I decided to use fair-trade certification as my measure of working conditions. So...I'm posting this update with gratitude to the humans who run these brands with farmers, garment workers + the environment in mind.
All lovely images via links.