Organic Cotton Clothing: The Truth About Tees

Let your clothing reflect your views with these organic cotton t-shirt designs.

| March/April 2004

  • An organic cotton T-shirt contains no pesticides, plastics, or sweatshop labor.
  • An organic cotton T-shirt contains no pesticides, plastics, or sweatshop labor.
    Photo Courtesy T.S. Designs

The bad news

When we want to make a statement, many of us reach for a T-shirt in support of a cause. But do “Save the Rainforest” shirts really make the planet a better place? In most cases, no. The typical T-shirt is printed with harmful solvents and PVC plastic. To make matters worse, that cuddly cotton tee was doused with about a third of a pound of chemicals before it made it to your wardrobe. According to the Sustainable Cotton Project, conventional cotton—showered with pesticides, defoliants, and fertilizer—is no friend to the earth.

The good news

T.S. Designs, a North Carolina screen printer, and Maggie’s Functional Organics, a Michigan organic clothing company, create a greener garment using a water-based printing method and 100 percent organic cotton T-shirts. The printing process, called Rehance, uses biodegradable dyes instead of PVC-containing plastic prints. Shirts are sewn at a worker-owned cooperative in Nicaragua and dyed in the United States. Corporate customers include Ben and Jerry’s, Greenpeace, Harley-Davidson, Krispy Kreme, and Whole Foods.

Wearing of the green

Purchase an organic T-shirt from, which donates 5 percent to a social justice cause. You can order bulk quantities of eco-chic shirts printed with your own art.

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