Circular Economy 101: Your T-Shirt, Your Way.
Press Release – April 22, 2019
1. Back up. What’s this about?
During five+ years of printing on secondhand product for our creative reuse shop, we printed, sold, and gave away hundreds of shirts as part of our mission to make used goods even better than new ones.
Over the course of our brick & mortar adventure, many shirts also went unsold because they weren’t the right combination of size, style, color, and message for whoever happened to have walked in the door – and we sometimes let folks down because we didn’t have a specific message on a shirt they could wear.
Business problems are just *different* when you’re committed to using the most sustainable goods possible (there’s no supply chain for consistent used product), so when we started talking about how to quickly expand into the national market with a carbon-informed, climate-friendly, totally circular product solution, t-shirts were a natural place to start: by starting with someone’s preferred size, cut, and color, we could easily apply the message of their choice.
We’d also found such a wide range of comfort levels when it came to secondhand clothing that by letting customers pick their own pre-loved tees (whether thrifted or from one’s own closet) we could let people control for that, as well.
2. Why all the environmental graphics?
We’ve been listening intently to the good people of #ClimateTwitter for the last couple of years — and when we saw climate scientists snapping up new polyester, China-made clothing because it had climate messaging on it, we decided to prioritize offering better, more ethical options where there was clearly market demand.
Like everyone who’s been encouraging climate action for years – decades – now, we want to start conversations about and build social support for taking bold action on climate change. Bold action starts with conversations. Conversations start with opportunities – and nothing creates opportunity like wearing a message that people can’t miss as you go about your day.
While we’re starting with the sort of messages that prompted this product line in the first place, you may expect our options to expand quickly (some of our original swears, etc., will also soon be available for those of you who need a little #Namaste).
Want to see our offerings as they happen? Follow us on Instagram…
3. How does it work?
- Choose and purchase the graphic you want to have printed*
- Download and complete the order form.
- If you don’t already have a shirt waiting for this project, hit up the thrift shops!
- Pop your shirt and completed form into the mail using the instructions provided.
*ink colors are limited run because they’re mixed-up leftovers from other projects – if you like it, grab it!
4. But isn’t it better to shop local?
All other things being equal, yes- local is more sustainable. But when it comes to domestic goods, choosing something that already exists produces so many fewer emissions than buying a new version of the same thing that we’ve found we could ship most used goods across the country multiple times before approaching the emissions of manufacturing the same things new and locally.
Caveat: shipping things on planes eats up CO2-e savings quickly. Like, 10 times more quickly than on a truck.
5. Can I use any shirt I want?
Glad you asked! At this time, the program is set up just for t-shirts/tank tops made using 100% Cotton, 100% Polyester, or any blend of the two (Cotton/Poly). Long sleeves cost more in shipping, so we’ll be getting those listings posted once this first launch has happened.
While ribbed and waffle weave cottons can ‘take’ the transfer, the graphics may become stressed over time and via laundering. Also: some performance wear (Under Armour, for example) has been treated with a spray of some sort that gets shiny when put under the heat press… so it’s best to stick with the basics, and to wash that tee well before you send it in for printing.
6. How long will it take?
From the time you drop your package in the mail to the time it shows back up on your doorstep will be around three weeks, postal services permitting.
7. So HOW do you calculate carbon emissions?
We use publicly available data from the US EPA & the Stockholm Environment Institute to determine product- and material-based CO2-e emissions. We use US EPA data to understand and determine transit emissions (we credit Carbon Fund with having made this data set easier to understand).
While this particular campaign tells you that printing in secondhand ink on a secondhand t-shirt produces 10x fewer emissions than a new shirt, we’re comparing our worst case scenario (trucking the used shirt from Los Angeles to Minneapolis and back) with the best case scenario for a new t-shirt: Organic cotton, grown and manufactured in your back yard.
Also: since #greenwashing is absolutely out of control in the consumer market (i.e. companies trying to sell new stuff by planting trees or advertising their offset purchases), we choose to give everyone else the benefit of the doubt when calculating emissions avoidance (we know our impact is even better than we put into numbers), and we choose to give *you* credit for making better choices.
8. And WHY do you calculate carbon emissions?
As a culture, we have been so misled and confused by environmentally-themed product marketing that it’s become nearly impossible to understand which businesses and products are actually working for good instead of just making a buck on the sustainability trend.
And, since trust in for-profit companies is low (and in most cases, should be), using data not only makes it easier to communicate the extent to which reuse is environmentally superior to buying new stuff (even compared with new things made using 100% recycled materials!), but it also helps us stand out as an ethical actor in the business-to-consumer market (we hate calling people ‘consumers,’ so we’ll just call you people, ok?).
Furthermore, 40% of US emissions are attributable to the production of goods (and, um, US consumers are responsible for 25% of China’s emissions, as well), so while big retailers are still resisting the idea of mainstreaming reuse (making it normal to have fun extending the useful life of the things that already exist), it’s a socially scalable and direct path to climate mitigation that we can each undertake NOW without relying on the market or political action to save us.
And, just in case you’re wondering, thrifting someone else’s used tee (#NewToYou) is very nearly as good as sending in one of your own (maybe bike or bus to the Goodwill, tho?).
9. How can I send my shirt to you without having it go on a plane?
Great question (we had to research this, ourselves!): if you live within 500 miles of 55406, you can reasonably expect it’ll stay grounded via First Class Mail. If you live beyond a 500 mile radius of Minneapolis, choosing USPS Parcel Post will ensure that it travels with stuff deemed ‘unfit’ for air cargo. Some day, maybe USPS and other carriers will offer this option.
10. What happens if you guys mess up my shirt?
It’s rare, but it does happen — so if it happens to you, we’ll apologize profusely, return your payment, and send your shirt back to you (for better or worse). If you are emotionally attached to a shirt, please consider this possibility before sending it in for printing.
11. Would you be willing to print on something other than a t-shirt?
We look forward to rolling out more product options (and graphics) in the coming weeks and months: for all the love you guys showed our zero waste-enabling printed goods over the years, we can only imagine that printing on one of grandma’s old kitchen towels or grandpa’s hankies would make it just that much more fun & memorable to use or share… but first, let’s get this thing off the ground, ok? 😉 Thanks, lovelies!
12. Can I send in my *own* art for printing on a shirt?
So glad you asked! We love to support artists, musicians, and other creatives producing environmentally ethical apparel (we’ll gladly facilitate putting used ink on your used apparel). There’s a 25 print minimum per design because of the setup costs involved, but if you’re curious about this option, we’d love to help you make it happen! Let us know what you’re thinking…
13. Can I get a discount if I have more than one shirt printed at a time?
Yes! If we can ship them both back to you at the same time, that saves us time and effort, so it should save you money. When you arrange to have two shirts printed at the same time, enter the TWOTEES coupon code at checkout for a $5 discount.
14. I’m interested in offering these shirts at my own shop. Would you wholesale?
Absolutely! We’re glad to make the printing work for you (and we can help you think about how to go about t-shirt sourcing — you’ll know your market better than we can). Please give us a few more details if you’d like to explore this option.
15. Don’t get mad, but I’m stealing this idea.
Please do (please credit us and we’ll tag you back)! The faster we leap into the circular economy together, the better off we’ll all be. Thanks for being part of the solution!
The most sustainable goods possible are the ones that already exist.
Done reading? Great! Print yours…