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The Impact of a Cotton T-shirt

Tina Sucevic

Okay, remember the cotton t-shirt video? Well here it is!
Let's actually break it down. Constantly producing new clothing is honestly horrible for the planet. In reality where are we supposed to fit all the clothing that is unsold, unwanted, unused, ripped, and torn? What are we supposed to do with the clothing items that just don't belong in closets anymore OR just never made it to a closet in the first place? Throw them out, right? OR some people might donate. Which is good, but then they'll just go and buy another new item, and then donate it again, and it becomes a whole cycle of producing more new clothing only to then throw it away. I want to tell you that we have to break this cycle.
Donate your unwanted clothing, YES but then THINK ABOUT SHOPPING SECOND HAND. There are so many beautiful pre-loved pieces that STILL NEED LOVE. And here at Le Prix we have so many beautiful pieces and so much variety of whatever you might need. Whether it's casual wear, workout attire or just some cute pajamas, WE HAVE IT ALL!
 
But let's talk cotton t-shirt. Why is this video so important? And why
does it matter? Well producing clothing requires many different steps like you heard in the video. There's the actual cotton farming. Then there's the production of the t-shirt which happens in a couple different stages. And then there's the transport of these t-shirts from the factory to your local fast fashion retailer. And of all this requires LOTS and LOTS of energy, space, and resources, many of which we are running out of.
 
Farming
Farming cotton requires SO MUCH WATER. It requires about 20,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of cotton... not to mention the harsh pesticides and insecticides that are required in order to "protect" the crop. It is said that the production of cotton accounts for 18% of the world's pesticide use and 25% of insecticide use. And the scary part is that a lot of the farmers that work with cotton actually develop severe side effects.
About 20,000 farmers from developing countries die from pesticide positioning each year. The runoff from heavy chemicals ends up contaminating lakes, rivers and underground aquifers and eventually have the ability to make it into our drinking water. So, so far, NO good.
 
Production
Production occurs in a couple of steps.
  1. First, the cotton is put through a gin which essentially separates the usable cotton from the seeds and chaff. Then bales of cotton are processed at a mill where they are spun into yarn and woven or they are knit into large sheets.
  2. Next the cotton fabric goes through heat-treatment and bleaching where the fabric is dyed and treated to the desired colour and texture. The fabric essentially goes through a process of preparation, colouration and then finishing which is what gets it to the desired texture.
  3. The fabric is shipped to yet another location for it to be cut and sewn. The shirt may also get sent to a screen-printing facility where they will add additional colours and graphic designs.
Now the issue with production is that it happens in many different places which means that this t-shirt travels more than you and I. For example the cotton might be grown in Texas and then shipped to China to be processed and knit into sheets and then sent to Bangladesh in order to be sewn. Keep in mind that many Chinese and Bangladeshi workers are actually extremely underpaid and work in horrendous environments. Hence why the t-shirt ends up being so cheap because the individuals working to create it get paid next to nothing.
This is an ongoing human rights issue because it's completely immoral and unethical. So not only is the 20,000 km trip an issue but the actual labour behind the t-shirt is unethical. So why buy it? Why not buy something that already exists so as not to contribute to this cycle.
 
Transportation
Okay, so I mentioned that the t-shirt travels around 20,000 km. Let's break THAT down. If the cotton is grown somewhere warm in the US, then sent to China for it to be processed into sheets that's already 12,058 km. Now the fabric needs to be cut and sewn, and most clothing is produced in Bangladesh. So from China to Bangladesh is 1,897 km. And now the t-shirt needs to be sent to a warehouse, and then shipped to a retailer, so from Bangladesh to North America is approx. 11,184 km. So now the t-shirt has traveled about 25,000km. Let's just think about how much energy all this travel requires. It's fossil fuels galore.
 
All in All
All in all, this t-shirt is just hectic. It seriously has travelled more than me. I am high key VERY jealous. But in reality it's actually extremely sad that one dang t-shirt requires this much time and effort.
Ask yourself, is it worth it? Is it really worth having that new t-shirt when you can find an already existing one that's just as beautiful and has WAY less of an impact on our beautiful planet.
 
Head over to our website and look through our gorgeous selection of pre-loved lovable pieces. Thank you for being environmentally conscious and choosing Le Prix!

 

 

Sources 

Boone, Amy (2016). Cotton: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Retrieved February 17, 2021, from http://www.thistailoredlife.com/blog/2016/1/28/cotton-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly

 

Dietz, David (2013). Protecting Our Planet and Protecting Ourselves: The Importance of Organic Cotton. Retrieved February 17, 2021 from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/organic-cotton-sustainable-fashion_b_3562788

 

WWF. Cotton. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton

 

Thetan A (2019). What Are The Negative Effects of Cotton Farming? Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.thefutonshop.com/blog/negative-effects-of-cotton-farming/

 

Green, Matthew (2015). Where Does Your T-Shirt Come From? Follow Its Epic Global Journey [Visualization]. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.kqed.org/lowdown/7943/making-your-t-shirt-a-journey-around-the-world

 

Lundstrom, Cole (2015). From Cotton to Customer: Hot Your T-Shirt is Made. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://makersrow.com/blog/2015/03/from-cotton-to-customer-how-your-t-shirt-is-made/


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