I occasionally dip my blogging toe into eco-design especially as I think that we should be teaching about technology that should improve design and vice-versa. I have previously reviewed shoes made from recycled materials, super-durable boots and low energy technology. In this post I turn my attention to the humble t-shirt.
What is an eco-design t-shirt?
I’ve been buying ‘ecology’ shirts since they were first available on the green marketplace back in the ’80s. I know you’ll say in the ’60s and ’70s the hippy kids were wearing hand-knitted reclaimed wool t-shirts (!) and self-made potato print designs but I was that kid too and I still have the scars. Initially I’d say eco-design shirts were predominantly of the protest/message variety. I had a “Plant a tree in ’73” when I was small which was probably a freebie and dated to maybe 1978. The first one I remember selecting for myself was after joining Greenpeace and featured a very arty illustration of a blue whale in full colour on a white cotton shirt. This was pre-Katharine Hamnett’s typography laden designs of the mid-80s with their associations of Madonna and Wham.
This was also an era before the widespread availability of unbleached and organic cotton. This has become relatively cheap to use now but how about other textiles with equally green credentials such as bamboo and hemp? How do the designs fare and what about wearability and durability? Here’s the top 5 in reverse order…
5. Patagonia Logo T-shirt
This hard wearing, durable and comfortable shirt features a prominent logo and says: ‘eco-warrior’ all over it. Made from organic and sustainable cotton with phthalate-free inks. Added bonus is that Patagonia donate 1% of sales to sustainable non-profit organisations around the world.
Comfortable and surprisingly long lasting, you’ll get sick of the logo before the shirt.
4. Friends of the Earth Crowd Pleaser
Organic cotton (Soil Association verified) with PVC free inks. Bonus: made from renewable energy from wind and solar power. Certified by the Carbon Trust, these t-shirts have achieved 90% reduction using a combination of low-impact organic farming, efficiency in manufacturing and transportation and the use of renewable energy instead of the fossil fuel based grid electricity. A single Earth Positive t-shirt saves around 7kg of CO2 in its production. – See more at: http://www.foeshop.co.uk/crowd-pleaser-grey-t-shirt-mens.html#sthash.WOS9rYp4.dpuf
3. Braintree Hemp Plain
A relaxed, basic and down to earth plain T-shirt essential for summer dressing. A mix of 55% hemp 45% organic cotton jersey.
Pro: plain and logo less.
Con: slightly itchy material. It’s hemp, what did you expect?
Added bonus: if you’re hot and sweaty don’t wear through airports as you smell like you’ve been on visit to the Body Shop or worse, to a Dutch cafe.
The perfect casual t-shirt for people who appreciate quality. There’s also a little secret in the fabric: the wicking, temperature regulating performance & antibacterial properties of bamboo t-shirts make them popular as high performance athletic base layers.
Also available without the logo.
1. Vivienne Westwood ‘Save the Arctic’ shirt
Vivienne Westwood continues to communicate the threat of climate change. “The status quo will kill us. People don’t realise how quickly we are marching towards a possible mass extinction. Once the global temperature goes up beyond two degrees, you can’t stop it. Current predictions are that we will see a rise of more like 4C or 6C, which would mean that everything below Paris would become uninhabitable.”
Profits from the ‘Save the Arctic’ t-shirt sales are donated to Greenpeace. They are made of organic, unbleached cotton (white is the natural colour as it grows) from a 20 year old cooperative in Peru. All the growing, processing and production of the t-shirts is fully certified by G.O.T.S. (Global Organic Textile Standard). Bonus: proper fashion.