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January 14, 2019 4 min read

How we print and ship our organic tees

If you are one of those awesome people who have chosen to order one of our organic tees (which you should, because they rock!), you might be surprised to find that they are shipped separately from our towels. If you order both a tee and a towel, you will in fact receive two separate packages in the mail.

"How can that be!?" I hear you ask. "Aren't you supposed to be an eco friendly and environmentally forward company? Is this a big fat lie?? Fake news??"

On the face of it, it may seem like this is wasteful and unnecessary, but rest assured, we've put a great deal of thought and research into the best way to produce our tees in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

Allow us to explain.

Real Time Printing
We don't print your tee until you order it. Each tee you receive in the mail is hot off the presses, so to speak. We've chosen this because it cuts down on waste at all stages of the supply chain, in particular the amount of ink used, and the amount of garments that are made and never reach an end consumer. We believe this is the future of t-shirt production, especially from an environmental standpoint, and we're excited to be onboard with the movement.

A Better Printing Method
Traditionally, T-shirts are printed using screen-printing methods, which involves a series of screens thick ink is passed through, creating the image on the shirt.  Instead, we use a new technology called direct to garment (DTG) printing, which works much like a typical inkjet printer you would find in a home or office. DTG printing uses water based ink rather than the typical plastic based inks used in screen printing. Not only are the inks better for the environment, but this new technology allows us to achieve superb print quality on all of our colourful designs, surpassing what is possible with screen printing. The catch is that it is also quite expensive, but we feel that the ecological savings are worth sacrificing our margins a little! 

Direct to Customer Shipping
To facilitate this process, we use a dedicated printing company, who then sends the finished shirt out to you from their own warehouse, immediately after printing. This cuts down on the amount of warehouse space needed, further reducing the carbon footprint by cutting out emissions from lighting and heating/cooling, because your tee isn't sitting in storage for 3 - 6 months waiting to be sold.
If we were to batch print shirts like most traditional clothing manufacturers do, then the tees that are printed have to be shipped in bulk from the printers warehouse to our own warehouse, which would involve shipping a container load by truck and an extra dose of carbon emissions. By cutting out that extra delivery leg, we are further reducing the carbon footprint of your tee.

To summarise, our printing process reduces the environmental impact of your tee by:
1. Using organic cotton, which means no chemicals or pesticides polluting our soil or waterways
2. Using water based, rather than plastic based ink
3. Reducing wasted ink and textiles at the printing stage through real time printing
4. Minimising the carbon footprint of warehousing stock
5. Reducing the total delivery distance, further cutting down on carbon emissions

Necessary Packaging
The trade off is the need for a second delivery and additional packaging. Packaging is a necessary evil, because we have to protect the goods before they reach you. It's a rough journey from manufacturer to customer, and if your goods weren't protected adequately they would arrive stained and/or torn. They would then need to be replaced with a new item, and the majority of pollution and carbon emissions associated with an item of clothing occurs during the manufacturing stage. Essentially, this would double the environmental impact of the tee, and result in a far greater impact than the packaging we currently use. The best way to reduce your impact is to love your tee and ensure it has a long and happy life. If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of packaging in reducing the overall environmental impact of a product, Patagonia has conducted considerable research and published their results here.


The Future

We're actively working on developing a more environmentally friendly packaging method, but it's still in development at this stage. Our towels are currently protected by a reusable carry bag, without the need for the usual transparent plastic bag. We are currently working with our printing partner to evaluate potential solutions for our tees.

While we would love to cut down on our packaging even more, we think our current process is the best compromise we can make. We're able to reduce the pollution and carbon emissions associated with our tees at almost every stage of the supply chain, making the most informed choices we possibly can. The end result is a tee that costs us 2 - 3 times as much to produce as what a typical printed t-shirt would cost, but with a significantly smaller impact. For us, we consider that a win and money well spent!

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