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The significance of a T-shirt goes well beyond the time it spends with you. Did you know that it takes 700 gallons of water to produce one T-shirt? Or that one T-shirt can travel as far as 20,000 kilometers during its production process?
Even though the United States is one of the largest producers of cotton in the world, over 65% of the cotton produced in the U.S. gets shipped overseas to countries like Indonesia, Colombia, and Bangladesh, where it’s made into fabric. Sometimes, the fabric even gets shipped to a second country to be made into a T-shirt. Finally, the finished T-shirts travel all the way back to North America, where people drive to stores and purchase them.
All this comes with the hefty environmental price tag of around 70 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and ~400 megajoules of energy. But that’s just the beginning…
One load of laundry uses 40 gallons of water, plus the amount of energy needed to heat that water and power the machine — roughly 1000-2000 watts of energy per load. Dryers use five times as much energy, bringing the total CO2 emissions from your average load of laundry to 3.3 kg. With 200 average washes per T-shirt per year, that number adds up.
Even if you skip the landfill — piled high with an ever-growing 14 million tons per year of clothing waste — domestic second-hand stores couldn’t possibly keep up with the volume. Most your cast-offs join the one billion (yes, billion) pounds of used clothing that the United States exports each year at the cost of even more CO2 emissions. And 11% heads to the landfill anyway.Learn More
While we can’t change the world with one T-shirt, we can change our processes to do our part in working toward a better future.