At least a couple times a month I get an email from a brand asking if they can send me their slogan tee or tote bag. These brands have good intentions – they’re trying to spread awareness and many also donate a portion of sales from the product to organisations and charities working for the cause. However I always refuse – there are just so many tees and totes in the world.
I don’t think the environmental benefit of awareness or donation actually outweighs the impact of making the item in the first place.
So what is the impact of a tee or tote bag?
It’s hard to get exact numbers because production and use of clothing is quite complex, but one study by Carbon Trust of the impact of a conventional cotton tee found that the average t-shirt is responsible for about 15kg of CO2. However use plays a HUGE role because this amount of emissions is based on 50 wears of the t-shirt, if the tee is only used 4 times the impact skyrockets around 550% to 98kg of CO2.
Also important to note is this carbon footprint doesn’t include a slogan/graphic printed on, which usually is some form of plastic. So a printed slogan tee not only has a greater impact to make but likely also affects end-of-life recycling and biodegradability.
There are different studies that use different metrics which makes it hard to compare, but for the tote, since a cotton t-shirt and tote bag are roughly a similar size, I think it’s fair to say they have roughly a similar impact. Although I would estimate a tote bag gets more use than a t-shirt.
Do they get worn?
I am all for proudly making a statement with your clothing, but I’m curious how often people actually wear these slogan garments since I typically only see them come out of the closet for protests and environmental rallies. I also only seem to see social media influencers wearing them for the one image promoting the tee and then never again. 🤷♀️
The My Green Closet Facebook group weighed in on a poll about what kind of t-shirt they would rather have and wear (between a tee with a slogan they believed in or a solid colour tee) and 97% said they would want the solid, classic tee with less than 3% opting for the slogan tee.
Slogan tote bags do seem to be used more, but again do we really need more tote bags in the world?
I own one item with a slogan, my “There is no Planet B” bag from Remember Me Green, and for me a slogan bag is more practical and gets way more use than a slogan tee. However it’s also very important to point out that this bag is not another simple cotton tote – it’s a super durable bag made from recycled billboards that I use to go to the gym, beach, or on small trips and I got it knowing it will last me years, likely decades! The same cannot be said of most fabric shopping totes.
Is this really an effective way to support a cause?
In my experience and from chatting with others, a great, plain classic tee is a go-to wardrobe staple, while anything with a slogan tends to gather dust in the closet, or becomes a pj or gym shirt.
I also have seen brands that definitely aren’t producing their environmental or social justice slogan t-shirts and totes as sustainably and ethically as they could be, they’re basically buying pre-made items and printing on them. If you’re trying to support a cause, making sure your product is as sustainable and ethical as possible should be a top priority.
A better option
Forget the slogan and focus on making stylish, wearable, inclusive, and long-lasting garments as sustainably and ethically as you can. They will get way more wear/use which reduces their environmental impact and people will still want to talk about and share the cool conscious fashion they have, they don’t need it printed across their chest. Plus you can also still have a charity element to your product without a slogan.
What do you think?
Do you love wearing slogan tees? Do they collect dust in your closet? I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic and if they’re something you think conscious brands should keep making!