Having your brand or design printed onto T-shirts is exciting but can be an overwhelming process, especially if you’re a first timer.
You’ll need to find a reliable printer that can produce your T-shirts as per your specifications. It’s important that they look good and last well.
But it’s possible to make a positive statement in other ways too, by choosing an eco-friendly printing method.
So, what are the main reasons for choosing eco-friendly T-shirt printing?
1. Better for the person wearing it: less toxins in the product
Inks can contain PVC, phthalates, formaldehyde and volatile solvents. Most of this will have leached out during the heating/curing process, but it will continue to leach out of the garment during its whole lifecycle.
Plastisol inks generally contain poly vinyl chloride (PVC) The PVC life cycle results in the release of toxic, chlorine-based chemicals which end up as by-products such as carcinogenic and highly toxic dioxins and PCB.
Plastisol inks also contain phthalates. These are used in plastisol ink to make the PVC flexible, but are also carcinogenic. They are released into the environment during the printing and curing of the ink, and they will continue to release toxins when exposed to heat sources such as a dryer, or even bright sunlight.
Discharge printing is a water based printing method that uses powerful bleaching agents to bleach out the garment colour so that light colours can be printed onto dark fabrics. However, they often use formaldehyde, which can be an irritant to anyone wearing the garment. It's always best to wash garments before they are worn, to minimise exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
Eco-friendly water based inks do not contain hazardous chemicals and do not pose a threat to the wearer. Our water based inks have passed the Oekotex Class 1 standard (with 60% to spare!) and are safe to use on underwear, swimwear and even baby clothes. The Permatone range of inks (for printing onto white garments or a white underbase) are also certified organic with the Soil Association.
The DTG inks we use are also Oeko-Tex certified as to be free from toxic levels of more than 100 substances known to be harmful to human health.
2. Better for the farmers: organic cotton
Many people assume that cotton is a ‘green’ product simply because it’s natural. In actual fact, conventionally grown cotton uses large amounts of nitrogen-based synthetic fertilizers and hazardous insecticides.
Large amounts of water are required to produce a harvest, and this inevitably leads to run off of these harmful substances.
Organic cotton uses less water, puts less pressure on local resources and exposes growers to less risk.
3. Better for the planet: non-toxic inks
Water based inks do not contain PVC or phthalates. What’s more, you don’t need solvents to clean the screens down after they’ve been used – you can clean them with water.
At I Dress Myself, we use Permaset Aqua inks, which do not contain ozone-depleting chemicals such as CFC’s and HCFC’s, aromatic hydrocarbons or any volatile solvents. They’re also free from lead and all heavy metals.
In fact, Permaset Aqua inks do not contain any toxic chemicals at all! Not even white spirits (unlike some other water based inks on the market.) The result are products that are as good for the planet as for the people wearing them.
4. Better for wildlife: plastic-free packaging
Any decent eco-friendly printer worth their salt will ensure that their good work isn’t undone by sending out your products in new plastic packaging.
Plastic pollution is a huge problem, and one that the world is finally waking up to. There’s really no excuse for using plastic in your packaging these days, and at I Dress Myself we’ve gone out of our way to research eco-friendly packaging solutions. It is our policy to not purchase any plastic packaging materials. We use one of two options: (1) re-use plastic packaging that the garments have arrived in or (2) use a biodegradable box liner to protect the box of garments during transit. We've spoken to our suppliers to request that they move over to plastic-free packaging and are moving towards being plastic free.
When selecting your printer, be sure to ask how your items will be shipped, in addition to the way in which they’ll be producing them.
5. Better for animals: vegan inks and processes
It may not occur to many that the printing process could exclude a product from being classified as vegan, but there are several common pitfalls that you should be aware of if this is a concern to you.
Common pigment ingredients, such as carmine (which is extracted from the female cochineal insects to yield shades of red such as crimson and scarlet) can be direct animal byproducts. In addition, emulsions used to prepare screens for screen printing often contain gelatin.
Many garment manufacturers now have vegan certification. Opt for one of these (we love Stanley/Stella) to be sure that their manufacturing process has been certified vegan.
Finally, be sure to consider packaging. If you’ve read our article 13 Ways For Your Business To Reduce Its Environmental Impact, you may already have moved over to paper packaging tape. Take care though - often glue on tape is from animal origins.
6. Added value: your customers can feel positive about their purchase
We live in an age of increasingly conscious consumerism; people looking to buy less, investing in quality over quantity. If you’re printing T-shirts for resale, being able to market them as an eco-friendly and ethical choice helps to remove a barrier to purchase for your future customers.
The findings of a recent report, “The Battle of The Wallets,” revealed that shoppers want to reward retailers who they see as “doing the right thing” with their custom. This phenomenon even has a name; “buycotting” - the opposite of boycotting.
83% of consumer activists agreed that it was more important than ever to show support for companies by buying from them vs. participating in boycotts (59%).
7. It’s the right thing to do.
We can no longer ignore or plead ignorance when it comes to the impact that we’re having on our planet. Everyone has a role to play in lightening the load we place upon natural resources, and reducing our footprint wherever possible puts us on the right side of history.
With modern eco-friendly printing techniques producing high quality results at a great price point, the barriers to producing your custom garments in this manner have never been lower.
So, there you have it: 7 reasons for choosing eco-friendly T-shirt printing. With more than a decade of experience in eco-friendly screen printing, we’re highly aware of the positive impact that this kind of production can have across the board. From the farmers producing the cotton that creates your garments to the end-wearer, everyone benefits from environmentally responsible T-shirt printing.