Keeping It GREEN! – How To Be Earth Friendly With Your Clothing Line

I firmly believe that if we don’t all start making an effort to reduce our impact on the Earth’s health, that the Earth won’t be around much longer.  Tons of people already are applying new methods to their lives to help save on paper, plastic, and energy use.  So why not find ways to apply this to your own business?  I’ve noticed that a lot of the people who don’t try to make a difference simply just don’t know how.  So I’ve compiled this short list of easy and simple ways that you can make your clothing line more earth friendly, without sacrificing quality.

1- Packaging – We all know that a ton of plastic and paper gets used when it comes to packing and shipping out our orders.  There’s the boxes, poly mailers, clear poly bags, address labels or shipping labels, plus any invoices or extra materials that you might include inside the package for your customers.  It doesn’t seem like a lot when it’s just one package but when you start shipping orders everyday, things really start to add up.  Here are a few methods of changing up your packaging to make it easier on mother nature:

A- Stop including an invoice/receipt.  It’s really not needed these days, almost all e-commerce shopping carts send a receipt in an email with their order confirmation.  If you include another receipt in with their order it’ll most likely just get thrown away.  Think of the poor trees that are being wasted.

Eco Friendly PackagingB- Switch to a different mailer/box.  There are tons of options when it comes to eco-friendly mailers.  You probably won’t even have to change the way your packaging looks because a lot of the recycled/bio-degradeable options don’t look any different than the regular ones.  I strongly recommend the eBay store U-Pak-N-Ship, they have super affordable eco-friendly poly mailers.  They only have one color option but there are tons of sizes available.  If you aren’t a fan of poly mailers then check out Uline for all kinds of of boxes, padded mailers and envelopes made out of recycled materials.

C- Think about the extras you include.  It’s become pretty standard for clothing companies to throw in extras to thank their customers, but have you ever thought about the materials you’re using to make that stuff?  it’s definitely a good idea to give coupon codes, business cards, or even post cards with your brand info on it.  But much like receipts, people throw them away after they expire, or when they just don’t want them anymore.  Consider switching to a recycled paper(some of it actually has some really cool textures or patterns) and ask around to find a printer who uses waterbased inks that are safer for us and the planet.  Additionally, you can always make these extras smaller, which uses less paper and less trees.

2- Your T-Shirts – Yes, this is the most important part of your clothing line, obvisouly, but take a step back and look at what it takes to make them.  As all of us in the industry know full well, cotton prices are pretty crazy, this is because there isn’t a lot of it to go around right now.  Simply put, the easiest way to get around this, and help the Earth, is to find shirts that don’t use cotton, or at least not as much of it.  Need some ideas?  Here are some ways to make your products leave less of an impact on our planet:

Avil Recycled Cotton TeeA-  Change the materials you use.  Like mentioned above, t-shirts generally use a lot of cotton, and dyes that might not be as safe for the Earth as they are for us.  It’s worth looking into switching to a different brand of blanks.  Tons of shirt blank brands offer organic cotton shirts as an option, this is a possibility but it still uses cotton, more expensive cotton.  There are even better ways to make a change.  American Apparel and most other brands offer lots of different blends of t-shirts, mostly with rayon or polyester, though these are synthetic materials that are sometimes made with plastic, they do help cut down on a lot of cotton use.  Anvil has gone one step further with this and produced a post-consumer recycled t-shirt that is made with 50% cotton and 50% recycled polyester made out of plastic bottles, in my opinion that’s going above and beyond as it’s cutting down on cotton AND reusing old plastic that would otherwise be sitting in a big pile in a dump.

B- Look at your printing methods.  Screen printing uses lots of harsh chemicals that are pretty bad for the environment and the standard inks like Plastisol are all plastic based.  The easiest way to make your printing more eco-friendly is to ask your printer if they can use waterbased inks for your t-shirts.  This might cost a little bit more but it does make a difference, and on the plus side, your shirts will be SUPER soft because after one wash you can’t even feel the ink on the shirt when these inks are used.

3- Your behind-the-scenes – I’m talking about your record keeping.  It’s definitely a smart idea to keep a hard copy of all of your important information like tax returns, receipts, and legal forms.  But, how can you keep your business running smoothly and still make some changes to help the Earth?

Lets be real here, everyone keeps stuff that they don’t really need, including paper work.  Take a look at your filing cabinet(or whatever you keep your papers in) and think about what you actually NEED to keep in there.  Tax forms, legal forms, and receipts are all things that should be kept, but other than that what do you need?  Nothing, anything else can be backed up on an external hard drive.  The papers you don’t need, recycle them, or use them for sketching or brainstorming, and then recycle them.  And from now on, don’t print out or keep papers that you don’t really need!

So there you have it, a handful of super easy ways to clean up after your clothing line and keep our planet smiling on us.  This is something that I truly feel strongly about and I hope that you guys take something from this and apply it to your own brands.  I don’t expect you all to do everything listed here, but if everyone at least tries a few things, then maybe we’ll be on the road to recovery.  Don’t forget, share this with your fellow clothing line owners so they can reap the benefits too!

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Posted on December 21, 2011, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great post! I know we try our best to be green whenever possible. I often collect small boxes either from past gifts recieved or from my other work. I have a room just stashed of little boxes that I re-use again to ship out shirts. I also printed several of my newest designs on the Anvil Sustainable shirt. The post consumer fibers made from plastic bottles, now that is just plain cool!

    Anvil is also really starting to step up their game when it comes to the enviroment. Producing shirts with proceeds going directly to helping American farmers change from regular cotton to organic cotton. Best thing about it is that these shirts are by far some of the softest shirts you’ll ever wear too!

    Alot of other clothing lines don’t necessary want to change the way they do things partly because they see all of the other big shot lines coming out with new shirts and they see that this line has custom made boxes and they think that must be the norm. I like that there are options out there for indie brands to do the same things as the bigger brands, but can have the option of choosing to more green. I’m just not sure if they don’t pay attention these other options or if they simply don’t care.

    I know for me it’s always a constant struggle on what to do. Do I make 1,000 more stickers to hand out and plaster all over downtown or not? Do I get custom made hang tags to attach to each shirt or is my logo printed somewhere on the shirt enough? What branding does it take to really make a name for yourself? Do you have send your shirts in gigantic custom made pizza box?

    What do people really remember most about your brand? Is it the awesome packaging or is it the awesome design and t-shirt they just bought?

    Alternate Decision Clothing

    • So many great points you made, Dan! I know a lot of indie brands out there shoot to be just like the big dogs when it comes to their branding and the methods they use, but I agree with you that a lot of them just don’t realize these other options are there. Which is why I wrote this post in an effort to reach out to anyone who might be interested in trying to make a difference.

      I totally get that custom packaging makes a difference, but you can still do that and stay green. If you use recycled paper mailers or boxes and print on them with waterbased inks, you’re all gravy with mother nature right there. Hang tags aren’t something that’s needed, most times they get thrown away unless you do something really awesome with them. But if you DO feel the need to include them, go recycled paper, go waterbased ink. It will look the same but the Earth will live on for us for at least a few more years.

      Thanks for the comment! It’s refreshing to see another brand owner with the same concerns about running their brand =) Oh and PS – I actually learned about that Anvil recycled shirt from AD, so props for that my friend!


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