The Environmental Impacts of SustainU Tees vs. Conventional Cotton

Recently, we had a client reach out to us and ask us for more information on the types of materials we use for the fabric of our clothing. This tends to be a typical question from many of our potential customers, so we thought we could provide a little more information on why you should choose SustainU Tees.

First and foremost, the current production of creating conventional cotton is not sustainable. According to The True Cost film, it’s estimated that Americans consume nearly 80 billion pieces of clothing annually. landfills

Producing this high volume of clothing has significant environmental impacts. Conventional cotton requires a hefty amount of water, mostly for irrigation. For T-shirts made with conventional cotton, it is estimated that approximately over 700 gallons of water is needed per shirt. To put it into a more measurable term, that many gallons of water amounts to about 40 showers [just for (1) T-shirt!]

Aside from the water over usage, there are also issues with the land it is grown on, as well as the petroleum-based, fossil fuels that are used to grow it. Many different pesticides and fertilizers are used in conventional cotton production. These can do a number of things to the planet, such as contamination of the soil, air and water systems. These pesticides and foreign fertilizers typically end up in the groundwater and/or nearby rivers. The production of conventional cotton is also often grown through genetically modified (GMO) seeds. In 2014, the US Department of Agriculture estimated that 96% of cotton growth in the United States was genetically modified. This not only further contaminates the soil and water, but also more seriously can have an affect on the overall biodiversity and ecosystems.

By using 50% of recycled cotton waste in the fabric of our tees, we’re helping save hundreds of gallons of water and decreasing reliance of fossil fuels for production. Additionally, being an American made company makes us that much more sustainable, as all of our factory-to-print transportation is based on the East Coast in Appalachia. Thus, reducing our CO2 footprint of our apparel since we don’t have to travel massive distances.

But what about organic cotton, you may ask.

Well, while organic cotton is knowingly better for our environment due to the absence of pesticides, fertilizers and GMO seeds. Also, a significant amount of water is still needed to produce the cotton. According to Triple Pundit, only 1% of total cotton production is organic cotton, and it’s also estimated that 75% of that organic cotton is produced in India. So, while harmful pollution is avoided through no added chemicals, the majority of organic cotton being produced overseas means that transportation over large distances is taking place, thus potentially increasing CO2 emissions. So, while organic cotton can obviously be a better choice, it doesn’t seem to help decrease water usage or transportation costs.

Our T-shirts are also made of 50% recycled polyester (PET) from plastic bottles. While some may argue that no form of polyester is good for the environment, others also say that polyester “has become indispensable to the modern wardrobe.” This is why we’ve found that using 50% recycled polyester (PET) is a sustainable solution for our garments. On average, using two pounds of recycled polyester yarn conserves the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, which is almost enough to make two new T-shirts. Up to (5) recycled plastic (PET) bottles can provide enough polyester fiber to make one new, extra large T-shirt. Thus, we’re helping fewer plastic bottles end up at landfills and conserving energy.

This is why we choose to use recycled cotton waste AND recycled polyester (PET) in our clothing. We’re using innovative and recycled materials, local transportation, and manufacturing in the USA. This helps us decrease our overall carbon footprint. Because of this, we’re able to help have a significant impact on both the environment and sustainability, and ultimately, that is what sets our clothing apart.



  • TriplePundit
  • Man Repeller
  • True Cost (film)
  • Eco Cult
  • US Department of Agriculture – Economic Research Service
  • SustainU – The Future of Clothing