In recent times T-shirts seem like one of the most accessible products to design, manufacture and retail. However, long processing times, labor-intensive efforts, and energy usage in the fashion industry have led to a significant eco-footprint.
Producing eco-friendly T-shirts on demand reduces the high costs incurred during bulk production. Therefore print on demand is sustainable producing sufficient T-shirts, little returns, a shorter supply chain, eliminates waste, and carbon emissions, and uses environmentally products from inks to packaging.
Whether you are passionate about protecting your natural environment and reducing your carbon footprint, or you just want to learn more about sustainable clothing — we’ve got you covered.
Why Use Eco-Friendly Print On Demand T-Shirts?
Eco-friendly, sustainable clothing fast fashion may seem like jargon being bandied around by both designers and clothing manufacturers wanting to impress the consumers. It makes sense, though, since the search for eco-friendly products on the World Wide Web has increased by 71% over the last five years and is set to grow further in the future.
The reasons for choosing to go the route of eco-friendly print on demand may be both personal and professional. Either way, your choice has a positive effect on the environment.
The average person in Europe and the United States purchases between 60-80 items of new clothing per year. Nationally that averages out to around 5.2 billion items, of which the Greenpeace Organization estimates approximately 2 billion are either never or rarely worn.
Clothing companies are setting up shops overseas in developing countries to produce clothing cheaply, which can lead to poor working conditions and issues with pollution.
With the enormous quantities of natural resources being depleted, air pollution and rising fuel costs all affect the costs of textiles, labor, and other raw materials. It is no surprise there has been such an increase in demand for eco—friendly print on demand T-shirts.
Eco-Friendly Print On Demand T-Shirts Are More Sustainable
Most eco-friendly T-shirts are produced using sustainable fabrics such as cotton, wool, linen, bamboo, or hemp. This is because natural fabrics decompose quickly, are bio-degradable, and are not harmful to the environment.
For example, with some of these fabrics, cotton production is labor-intensive and utilizes a high number of natural resources such as water. This is why many followers of the sustainable clothing movement are against using cotton fabric in clothing.
Unless the cotton is organically grown, making it free from chemical pesticides and insecticides, which are harmful to the environment and the laborers, the fabric produced is not recognized as sustainable or eco-friendly.
For a more eco-friendly, sustainable T-shirt, I suggest you choose organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, Tencel, or econyl. Some textile companies are engaged in the manufacture of fabric for T-shirts from plastic (PETA) bottles, which have become an enormous problem in many countries, polluting the oceans and killing sea life.
The only issue with these types of fabrics is the release of harmful chemicals into the environment during the wash cycle. These chemicals enter through the water table and pollute the soil and water.
Companies such as District Lines, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and Reformation are all aware of the problems that can arise from using unethical materials and are taking measures to fix it.
Eco-Friendly Inks Used On Print On Demand T-shirts
An eco-friendly T-shirt cannot be deemed eco-friendly if the inks or dyes used are chemical-based and harmful to the environment. Therefore, numerous print companies are investing in eco-friendly inks that are non-toxic and vegan.
For this reason, print on demand is gaining popularity because of the various print techniques they offer to customers with no waste or damage to the environment.
Print On Demand Reduces Production
One of the essential reasons many small businesses are moving towards print on demand is because of the high production costs of manufacturing garments, products, and printing. The other reason is to reduce waste, time, energy, money, and resources on all fronts.
Large retailers across the globe destroy unsold items, merchandise, and textiles. The garments, accessories, fabrics, etc., are burned or thrown into ever-increasing landfill sites, which in the end contributes to the problem. Print on demand counteracts the adverse effects of overproduction.
Alternatively, print on demand produces the exact quantity, with higher quality as requested by the customer. Print-on-demand stores also purchase stock as needed, so there is no storage needed for extra stock and no wastage when stock is unused.
Another unique feature print on demand offers its customers is the customization of the T-shirt. The customer is given the opportunity to design the T-shirts with their needs in mind, whether it is for a bridal or baby shower, a school dance, or personalized office wear. These personalized garments have longer life cycles than those purchased from any retail store.
Customization and personalization of garments also mean fewer returns and second to none off-cuts in the production process. In the unfortunate case, T-shirts are returned and sorted. Those with personalized designs, brand names, or logos are deconstructed, recycled, and used to make insulation, maintaining the thread of no waste.
Print On Demand Reduces Waste
The textile and clothing industries are unmatched as waste producers. There are approximately 92 million tons of textiles going to waste yearly that end up on landfill sites or in our oceans.
Choosing a print-on-demand shop for your eco-friendly T-shirts is a wise and more holistic of running your business. You manufacture, design, and retail only what your customers require. This also creates a demand for your brand and should boost sales.
The wastage that prints on-demand shops incurs falls within the industry’s acceptable standards. To maintain the eco-friendly standards, a few print-on-demand stores offer the damaged goods to local charities or animal shelters, which they use to supplement their day-to-day expenses.
That is the essence of sustainable living… recycle, reuse and reduce and the reason print on demand is an excellent model to promote eco-friendly sustainability.
Eco-Friendly Print On Demand T-shirts Save Water
As mentioned more than once, the clothing and textile industries utilize the highest amounts of water, from production, weaving, dyeing, printing, etc. All these use water at almost every stage. That water contains large quantities of chemicals, eventually finding their way into the seas, harming sea life.
The chosen method of printing in many print-on-demand stores is digital direct. So, the designs are transferred onto T-shirts either by DTG or Heat transfer vinyl. Screen-printing, unfortunately, uses more significant amounts of water than digital printing.
Many eco-friendly print-on-demand stores also use printers like Kornit or Brother, which have a unique selection of water-saving sustainable ink. The inks are vegan and are given the stamp of approval from the OEKO-TEX Eco (The International Association for Research and Testing in the fields of Textile and Leather Ecology).
Eco-Friendly Print On Demand Supply Chains
The significant concerns to environmentalists are the carbon emissions from transport vehicles, which are causing the diminishment of the ozone layer and air pollution around the world.
One of the fascinating advantages of eco-friendly print-on-demand stores is their ability to process orders to stores closest to the customer. This way, distribution across distances is eliminated, and the customer receives their order close to their business or home. A win-win situation!
If customers place orders elsewhere in the world, the shortest shipping route is selected, leaving the most negligible carbon footprint.
Packaging For Eco-Friendly Print On Demand T-shirts
Another beneficial feature of eco-friendly print-on-demand stores is the packaging options they offer customers. We all are aware of what a significant issue plastic has become, and it is public enemy Number One to the environment. Many print-on-demand stores offer customers alternative packaging.
When shipping across the seas, T-shirts are placed into recycled boxes or packaging made from other recycled materials, recycled paper is also used, but plastic is avoided at all costs.
Eco-Friendly Print On Demand Goes Digital
In the quest to reduce carbon emissions and carbon footprint, numerous print-on-demand stores are digital, and I am not referring just to the printing methods. From the point customers place their orders, track their orders and finally collect, the entire process is digital and online. There is no in-person contact at all unless absolutely necessary.
Working digitally and online has proved to be a significant advantage for print-on-demand stores and customers.
Ethical And Fair Print On Demand
We all are aware of many well-known clothing designers and manufacturers whose manufacturing process can be questioned, where workers are underpaid or overworked under deplorable and demeaning conditions.
For a print-on-demand supplier to be considered sustainable and eco-friendly, you also have to consider whether workers are paid a fair wage with correct working conditions. It does not help if workers are exploited for the sake of garment production and ultimately for the sake of monetary means.
Top 5 Eco-Friendly Print On Demand Stores
With this article, I hope it has sparked your interest if you are considering using a print-on-demand store for your eco-friendly T-shirts. Here are suggestions for the top 5 eco-friendly print-on-demand stores.
My reasons for selecting these particular stores over others out there are based on some of the abovementioned guidelines. I hope these companies will make your choice easier.
1) Printful Print On Demand
Like many of the other print-on-demand shops, Printful also offers customers a made-to-order production option. Customers place the exact number of T-shirts they require and Printful prints and deliver as requested.
Printful is also one of the few print-on-demand companies that offer recycled plastic for packaging. There are Printful centers across the US and Canada, reaching out to Australia, Japan, and Latvia.
What makes this print on demand stand out from some of the others is its donation of damaged and returned products to charities like the Red Cross, the American Kidney Fund, and Goodwill. This, for me, is special because they don’t just talk about sustainability but put it into practice.
An eco-friendly T-shirt from Printful will cost you approximately $15, 26.
2) Printify Print On Demand
Printify is another example of an eco-friendly, ethical print-on-demand company. Printify offers customers organic cotton T-shirts, printed with inks approved by OEKO-Tex, and T-shirts from Stanley Stella, an approved PETA manufacturer.
Printify also has centers spread out in over 100 locations with worldwide delivery.
An eco-friendly T-shirt from Printify costs $13,30.
3) Gelato Print On Demand
This particular print-on-demand company assists customers with their T-shirts and any issues they may have with customs, cross-border invoices, taxes, etc.
Gelato has production centers in 33 countries that guarantee that garments are ethically manufactured with negligible carbon emissions.
An eco-friendly T-shirt from Gelato will cost you €12,95.
4. Shirtee Print On Demand
Another excellent example of a print-on-demand company, Shirtee, offers its customers green and cheaper options. This print-on-demand supplier is based in Germany, offering T-shirts produced from textiles sourced from sustainable manufacturers.
Shirtees can also guarantee their customers the T-shirts are printed with eco-friendly, non-toxic, chemical-free inks. Along with these, their packaging is also made from recycled paper and cardboard.
Shirtee offers its customers distribution services. They will store the T-shirts at their warehouse until you are ready to distribute them around worldwide.
An eco-friendly T-shirt from Shirtee sets you back €8.36.
5. Shirtigo Print On Demand
Shirtigo is another print-on-demand supplier based in Germany. They also supply eco-friendly, sustainable T-shirts.
Shirtigo also makes use of renewable electricity and green inks from Kornit. They also source textiles from Stanley Stella, renowned for producing sustainable and ethical fabrics.
An eco-friendly T-shirt from this print-on-demand supplier costs you €10.65.
My top 5 eco-friendly print-on-demand t-shirt suppliers are genuine to be admired, and companies like these make the future of sustainable fashion look bright. There will always be challenges to the sustainability supply chain, but companies are also determined to overcome them with passion and innovation.
My wish is that we can all play our part in this transition toward a more sustainable global economy, and it’s essential to encourage organizations like those featured here to continue their journey.
Bryan E. Robinson is the former owner of TshirtGrowth. He has sold t-shirts since 2006 through dropshipping, screen printing, vinyl printing, DTG, Print on Demand, and more. Bryan has created his own t-shirt designs through Photoshop, Canva, and other platforms, as well as worked with freelancers to create many of his designs. Besides t-shirts, Bryan has over 18 years of experience in online marketing with eCommerce, B2B SaaS, B2C products, and more.