The carbon footprint of a T-shirt

This T-shirt is A-okay.

Fairware’s top-selling organic T-shirt is manufactured by Anvil Knitwear. We’re glad; we like their work and their line of apparel.

One of the really interesting things Anvil has done was to commission a third-party life-cycle assessment (LCA) a few years back on their full line of sustainable textiles. It revealed that, on average, one of their organic T-shirts would generate 4.07 kg of CO2 over the course of its life.

Interestingly, about 60% of that environmental impact was accounted for by post-consumer care – things like washing and drying (we’ve seen that percentage range from 40% to 70% in other studies). The link to the report is here, and we think it’s worth a look.

By comparison, a study conducted by the UK’s Carbon Trust found that “a typical t-shirt [of conventionally produced cotton] sold today is expected to be responsible for around 15kg of CO2 over its lifetime”. The Trust’s in-depth study on the carbon impact of various kinds of clothing can be found here.

A few years ago, Fairware worked on a project on the post-consumer issue for Eileen Fisher. Everyone who bought something in their stores during April (Earth Month) got an organic cotton ditty bag containing five clothes pegs, a sample of Seventh Generation detergent, and a little info card on five steps people can take to reduce the footprint of their wardrobes.

A future dream project of ours? We’d love to work with a client whose target market is university students and make laundry bags with a “Laundry Manifesto” printed on the side. We think it would be a great way to highlight the issue that how you take care of your clothes has even greater impact than their manufacture and shipping. Until then, we hope the information here gives us all something to think about.