We Don’t Need Another “Save the Planet” T-Shirt or Tote

Last Updated on December 28, 2023

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. 🤷‍♀️

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.

"There is no Planet B" slogan bag

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.

If you want to print custom t shirts and merchandise we’ve also collected some businesses that do it in a more sustainable way.

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!

Follow Verena Erin:
Verena Erin Polowy has been advocating for sustainable and slow fashion practices for over 10 years. With a Bachelor's in Fashion Design & Technology and unique experience in the industry Erin has created 500+ videos and articles educating and supporting conscious consumers, students, business owners, and industry members. Erin volunteers on the executive team of Fashion Revolution Canada and offers digital marketing consulting to triple-bottom-line small businesses.

7 Responses

  1. ecofashionlabels
    | Reply

    Really interesting take! It can sometimes be confusing when it comes to supporting sustainable fashion, where while you do want to support ethical and sustainable brands, you also don’t want to be simultaneously contributing to more waste in landfills, so conscious and mindful purchasing is best! Thanks for writing about this 🙂

  2. HWalker
    | Reply

    This is great information and I agree – many of the slogan tees mean well but are mass produced in factories without concern of environmental impact. I have been guilty of buying a shirt to help a cause only to find out the shirt was made with no regard to carbon footprint. If I do buy a slogan shirt these days, I research the vendor to find out if the materials are sustainable and produced with little environmental impact. I have just discovered this blog – great information here!

  3. Jody Flores
    | Reply

    Wow! I never ever thought about clothing in this way. Never was a big fan of the slogan Tee’s but my husband is a big fan of them. guess what? After reading this post, my hubbie is definitely slowing down on the purchase of slogan tee’s!

  4. Ky
    | Reply

    I’m with you on your last point. : ) I would way rather buy an ethical garment that will last years than a “eco-promo” tee. I find people are much more likely to ask about, abs then seek out or research the brand of, a gorgeous and classic ethical piece than a random slogan tee. : ) I definitely acknowledge that I may also be biased—I already look about 5-7 years younger than I actually am, so wearing things like slogan tees really doesn’t help me look more like an adult. 😀

  5. Sapna Sehgal
    | Reply

    I agree that we need to buy less (I’ve been doing a capsule wardrobe for about a year and a half now). I do find, though, that cheap, non-eco brands of tees (with or without slogans!) tend to have cheap quality fabric that falls apart within a year or so (having been used a lot as part of 2 or more capsules). I recently bought a couple items (t-shirt, tank) with No Planet B and Herbivore slogans that are printed on water based ink, organic cotton, ethically produced and only printed when ordered to avoid excess inventory (A store called Wholesome Tees and Vegan Outfitters). So I like those initiatives as long as people aren’t overconsuming!

  6. L'Antre Au Lilas
    | Reply

    Personnaly, I just hate wearing slogan t-shirts all together, no matter the slogan. I just don’t find it stylish and don’t match my style at all. Plus, I am bombarded with advertisements of those t-shirts and totes, but I’ve also noticed that a lot of influencers that wear and promote those tees are followiny the “trend of eco-friendly” and talk about one or two simple good actions for the planet that look cute on Instagram like glass mason jars for bulk or whatever but still have some partnerships with brands such as H&M or toxic and highly polluting cosmetics like L’oréal for exemple. I don’t find it cohesive at all and tooooootally share your point of vew! However for the tote bag, I might eventually consider it but only if I really need a new one and find the tote bag cute with a message not agressive and truly meaningful. Thank you so much for sharing. I love that real eco-friendly content creators speak up about those kind of derives that end up being more harmful for the environment.

  7. Jailyn Dyer
    | Reply

    I really like getting recycled garments and bags *if*I need them and can’t find them used. I’ve started using PCR trash bags for trash. It’s still plastic in the landfill, but they’re made from old plastic pipes, so at least that’s getting another use. Logos don’t really matter to me, and they don’t keep me from wearing them.

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