Image via A Lot To Say.
It seems as though it isn't hard to find an organic cotton t-shirt these days. Almost every name brand store is selling one (we are too!), touting the importance of purchasing organic cotton. And while it is a significant step in the right direction, using organic cotton is just the beginning.
The following companies are doing a lot more: From their environmental methods of manufacturing, to their social values, to keeping waste out of the landfill, these companies represent some of the greenest t-shirt companies in the business. But don't just take our word for it, check them out yourself.
1. A Lot to Say
Can t-shirts made from recycled plastic bottles actually be sexy? Apparently Justin Timberlake thinks so. A Lot to Say, a company launched to save plastic bottles from ending up in the landfill, has transformed the recycling of plastic. Every A Lot To Say tee is made of recycled PET and uses a revolutionary process that allows this discarded PET to be turned into soft, durable and highly sustainable fabrics which are amazing to the eye and touch. We hear their tees are softer than silk! You wouldn't think you'd get this from plastic bottles, right?
There's more: The tees are not only plush, but apparently have the ability to keep you warm, wick away moisture, release stains, eliminate odors, kill germs and even protect the lives of fire fighters and law enforcement. Because of this revolutionary process, A Lot to Say claims their shirts "breathe" exceptionally well, allowing moisture to escape while keeping you comfortable. Plus, Every A Lot To Say tee is now printed by a revolutionary process called AirDye. This process utilizes a no water printing procedure, which means no water is used for these shirts, thus helping to preserve our water supply.
Perhaps what made us put Anvil on our list was the fact that its goal is to make environmentally friendly t-shirts accessible to everyone. Or maybe it was their newly launched TrackMyT Web site. Either way, Anvil's carbon-neutral tee has our thumbs-up. The company takes great care to ensure that its eco collection has the same quality and performance of conventional t-shirts - and, most importantly, that its organic, recycled and sustainable lines are sold at competitive price points to regular shirts. When choosing between two t-shirts - all else being equal - wouldn't you rather pick the eco-friendly option?
Beyond its products, Anvil strives to operate a responsible business. In its cut and sew facilities, Anvil recycles everything possible (including the sewing needles!). The company has conducted an organizational assessment to determine its carbon footprint, and is working to reduce the amount of carbon emissions by more than half. From a social standpoint, we were told that Anvil once sent its Central American employees home with more than 150,000 pounds of food - enough to feed them and their families for a week - during especially dire economic times. Now that's corporate responsibility.
Known as a popular brand in the U.K., Howie's started back in the mid-90's with just a couple of t-shirt designs. Its products are made of either organic cotton or, even more impressive, recycled cotton. While many companies are taking scraps and sending them off to the landfill, Howie's takes that cotton waste from factory floors and turns them into garments. After all, there's nothing wrong with it.
The result is a t-shirt with a mix of all different grades of cotton, which gives it a comfortable washed-out look and feel. While other companies use chemicals to achieve that look, Howie's simply sweeps it from the floor. Today the company is making jeans, hoodies, and other fun hipster clothing along with the t-shirts while wearing its heart on its chest, and each design still passes the original "rocking chair test", meaning they use the best quality materials to make sure their clothing lasts longer. As Howie's Web site notes, "The longer our products last the less impact they will have on the environment."
4. TS Designs
As one of the oldest t-shirt companies,TS Designs has been in the biz since 1977. They started as a small, manual screenprinting operation and, in the mid-90s after the implementation of NAFTA, introduced a business model focused on three equally important bottom lines: people, planet, profits. We know this as the Triple-Bottom-Line.
Led by TS Designs President Eric Henry, the company's most recent collection, called TSD Carolinas, is an experiment with two things entirely foreign to the apparel market: a fully-local supply chain and complete product transparency from farm to printed t-shirt. Using the harvest label on a t-shirt, you can find who farmed, ginned, spun, knit, finished, cut, sewed, printed, and dyed it. This company's compelling story is one-of-a-kind, as it traces the garment back to the actual farmer. TSD Carolinas also supports the local economy in a way no other brand does. For example, the farmer and manufacturers involved in its first crop of shirts (known as Harvest '08), represents over 700 jobs right in its own backyard of North Carolina.