Musicians and music fans have long wanted two things which usually conflict. They want merch (support and promote the artist) and a healthier planet. Clothing and fashion have a horrendous impact on the environment. The industry is slowly coming around to improving.
Here’s some info on how have better t-shirt merch.
Four components of minimizing the impact your sustainable t-shirts:
- The clothing
- The ink
- The packaging
- The delivery
There are a few directions for the actual shirts and other apparel. You can re-use shirts, and stay out of adding more stuff to the planet (check out this quick inspiration from Dane and the Ink Bros). Resourcing shirts from thrift stores or your/your friends’ closets reduces some of the impact. If you need to have new shirts, look for ones made of organic cotton, or one of the eco-hybrid shirts on the market.
Eco-hybrid shirts might be a combination of cotton and Lenzing Modal, Lenzing modal is a fiber made from (renewable) wood pulp. There are shirts made from hemp, bamboo, and other natural materials. When shopping, examine the process for gathering materials as well as manufacturing, to understand the whole chain.
Water and soy based inks have long been considered the most ecologically friendly inks, though nothing is 100% perfect. A lot depends on what is being printed on and how that is being done. Efforts to create a black ink decoupled from fossil fuels (carbon) for the blackness have turned to using algae.
Let’s face it. Right now, there’s no good plastic widely available, so any type of packaging eschews plastic. Even plastic made of recycled plastic continues the cycle of harmful materials. Using hemp twine to wrap product and plain paper to separate rows of product in boxes works well, though it does take a little more effort. This article has more suggestions for non-plastic, sustainable packaging. Keeping the package as small and free of extra materials is best.
Selling merch at your shows and handing a shirt right over the fan is the most sustainable delivery. But people from far away might want one too. Choosing/reusing recycled envelopes or boxes to send them in is great. It isn’t super easy to ship sustainably, but you can check out what UPS, FedEx, and USPS are doing to be better.