To grow the cotton for just one non-organic t-shirt takes a cupful of pesticide – 150g. The three million annual pesticide poisonings cause 20,000 deaths among agricultural workers, according to the World Health Organization. At least 8,000 chemicals are then used to turn raw materials into clothes – many of these are toxic and cause irreversible damage to people and the environment alike.
These eco t-shirts (below) have a much lower environmental impact. Made of organic cotton and other sustainable fibres – bamboo, hemp and recycled polyester – and dyed with non AZO, non-heavy metal, low-impact dyes, their slogans and logos mean you can wear the change you want to see.
‘The aim of Ekonoiz is to spread awareness,’ says Ekonoiz co-founder Marianne Soisalo. Using water-based ink, she hand-prints the designs to order in her conservatory in London’s West Hampstead. Slogans range from Plant Power to Future Extinction. The t-shirts are made from recycled plastic bottle fibre, hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton. A biologist by profession, Soisalo spent six years working in Brazil on jaguar conservation projects and wants the t-shirts to help fund the project and others like it – £2 from selected designs goes to various charities and organisations that relate to the logo.
Women’s No Clear Future organic cotton t-shirt, £23
Katharine E Hamnett
Emblazoned with bold slogans such as Save Our Seas, Stop Acid Rain and No More Fashion Victims, these t-shirts are hard-hitting, in-your-face protest-wear – and about as eco and ethically correct as it gets. Katharine E Hamnett clothes (E stands for ethical and environmental) are unqualifiedly ethical – the cotton is 100 per cent organic and made using fair labour conditions even if not Fairtrade-certified. With a focus on the preservation of traditional skills, many of the clothes in the range are produced in the UK. All processing aids, dyestuffs and printing must comply with Katharine’s environmental policy.
Men’s Save The Rainforest organic cotton t-shirt, £40
Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF)
The EJF is a registered charity that campaigns to defend human rights and environmental security. EJF works with internationally renowned fashion designers creating exclusive, fairly traded and organic cotton t-shirts in support of its ‘Pick Your Cotton Carefully’ campaign. Sales support the charity’s work putting an end to forced child labour and the use of highly toxic pesticides in cotton production, as well as promoting ethical and sustainable alternatives. The t-shirts are 100 per cent organic cotton and are printed in the UK using water-based and PVC-free ink.
Women’s Christian Lacroix for EJF organic cotton t-shirt, £30
The Hemp Trading Company (THTC )
THTC have been making hoodies and t-shirts from hemp for nearly 10 years. All its hemp is grown organically on small family farms in north-eastern China. The hemp is blended with cotton (most t-shirts are 55 per cent hemp, 45 per cent organic cotton) and the clothes are made in ethically audited factories in eastern China. The minimum age of employees is 19, the maximum age 54. They work eight-hour shifts, have weekends off, receive full safety training and belong to a labour union. THTC now uses water-based inks for the printing process for almost all new designs.
Men’s Climate Change organic hemp cotton mix t-shirt, £22
‘100 per cent Fairtrade throughout manufacture’ is what makes People Tree a Fairtrade pioneer. Founded by Safia Minney, People Tree works with 70 Fairtrade producer groups in 18 developing countries (you can find out more about each group on the company’s website). This particular organic cotton t-shirt was made by Assisi Garments, in India, one of the first groups People Tree worked with. Set up by Franciscan nuns, it provides employment for deaf, mute and poor women who were considered by their families to be unfit for marriage. Thanks to support and regular orders, its staff has grown from five to 150.
Women’s Authentic organic cotton ‘Tree Tee’, £20
For more information:
Pesticide Action Network (PAN)
Environmental Justice Foundation
This article first appeared in the Ecologist May 2008
For ethical and sustainable suppliers of Clothing goods and services check out the Ecologist Green Directory here