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Did you know that one T-shirt guzzles over 700 gallons of water?

T-shirts appear innocent. But it actually takes a lot of resources to create them. Learn the impact of your tees in this post. This will help you value it for its true environmental worth, so you'll wear it longer and embrace the importance of second-hand clothing.  

When you look through your wardrobe, math is probably the last thing on your mind. But you can probably estimate the total value of your wardrobe based on your shopping receipts. 

You probably can’t estimate its environmental impact, though. One of the reasons is that it’s difficult to tally up all of the precise environmental damages done by our clothing. 

For a cotton T-shirt, its footprint starts at the farm, where the cotton is grown. If it’s conventional cotton, the pesticides are the first thing to take a toll. Then you have to add up the water, the GHGs emitted during the production, transportation, washing, and wasting of our clothes. You should also consider the chemicals. In fact, 23% of all industrial chemicals used in the world are used for clothing. 

Basically, we should view our clothing with the same disdain as we view smoke stacks or garbage dumps, because clothes pollute. Here are some simple metrics to help you understand how our clothes have an unseen environmental cost.  


To make one cotton T-Shirt, it takes:

To make one pair of jeans, it takes:

  • 998 gallons of water, enough for a U.S. household to consume in 3 days
  • 74lbs of carbon dioxide emissions, as much as a typical car driving about 70 miles in the U.S.
  • 48.9g excess phosphorus in the environment (eutrophication), the same as 1700 tomatoes 

To make one pair of leather shoes, it takes:

  • Roughly 3,626 gallons of water, depending on the country

To make one pair of synthetic shoes, it takes: 

So, the next time you want to shop for a T-shirt, why not buy second hand? When you buy pre-worn clothing, its environmental impact gets halved or even quartered, simply because you’re extending its lifespan. 

The mathematical beauty of a thrifted wardrobe is two-fold. Not only are thrifted clothes cheaper, they reduce the negative environmental cost of clothes at the same time. 

Shop our low-impact Save the Earth Bundle. You and the environment will both gain back some dignity.


Article Written by Erica Eller

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