T-shirts can be found in just about every closet, but the production of these garments has a significant impact on the environment. While many t-shirts are made from cotton, some are made from synthetic materials such as polyester or nylon. In this blog post, we will delve into the reasons why it takes so much water – often cited as 2700 liters per single t-shirt, and energy to produce a single t-shirt, regardless of the material it is made from.
Raw Material Production is Water and Energy Intensive
The first step in t-shirt production is obtaining the raw materials – either cotton, polyester or nylon. Cotton is a thirsty crop, requiring large amounts of water to grow and thrive. In fact, it takes about 8,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of cotton. This means that it takes a considerable amount of water just to produce the materials for a t-shirt.
The water usage doesn’t stop there. Once the cotton has been harvested, it needs to be cleaned and processed, which also requires a significant amount of water. This water is used to remove dirt and impurities from the cotton fibers and to create the thread that will be used to weave the fabric for the t-shirt.
Polyester or Nylon on the other hand, are synthetic fibers made from petroleum-based chemicals, a non-renewable resource. Synthetic fiber production requires a significant amount of energy, as it involves a chemical process that converts petroleum into polymers that make up the fibers. Nylon production is also further detrimental to the environment as its production releases nitrous oxide into the air.
Once the cotton or synthetic fibers have been produced, they are then spun into yarn, which is used to weave the fabric for the t-shirt. This process requires energy in the form of electricity to power the spinning machines.
Adding Designs and Color Requires More Energy and Water
In addition to the energy required to produce the raw materials, t-shirts also require a large amount of energy to manufacture. The fabric needs to be dyed, printed, cut, and sewn, which are all energy-intensive processes. Dyeing and printing, in particular, require the use of chemicals that will eventually be discharged into the environment and further large amounts of water to achieve the desired colors and patterns. This is an area where a process such as NTX® Cooltrans® can help lower the carbon footprint of your T-shirt, and achieve the color level with a good hand feel.
After the fabric has been transformed into a t-shirt, it is shipped to stores and warehouses, which requires energy in the form of transportation. And once the t-shirts reach their final destination, they often need to be stored in warehouses or shipped to individual stores, adding to the energy usage.
What Can We Do to Help Lower the Carbon Footprint of T-shirts
One solution is to choose sustainable and ethically-produced t-shirts. Many companies are now starting to look closer at their entire supply chain to ensure that they are as environmentally friendly as possible. They offer t-shirts made from organic cotton or recycled materials, they make sure that the dyeing and coloring processes are implemented using state-of-the-art low carbon technologies like NTX® Cooltrans®. Some of these t-shirts may cost a bit more upfront, but they can help to reduce the environmental and social impact of t-shirt production.
Another solution is to buy fewer t-shirts. Instead of constantly buying new t-shirts, we can choose to wear the ones we already have more often, or invest in higher-quality t-shirts that will last longer. This can help to reduce the demand for t-shirts, ultimately the environmental and social impact of their production.
The production of t-shirts has a significant impact on the environment and on the lives of the people who make them. By choosing sustainable and ethically-produced t-shirts and reducing our overall consumption, we can help to minimize this impact.