Ethical T Shirts

13 Sustainable T-shirts & Ethical Brands to Shop

T-shirts could easily be the most popular wardrobe staple in the world today. They are easy to wear, cheap compared to most clothing items, and work great for different occasions. Perhaps what we love most about the t-shirt is that it is a fashion staple that cuts across gender, income brackets, and countries.

Around the world, sustainable fashion is gaining acceptance. In a world full of short-lasting fast fashion choices, when you choose ethically made sustainable t-shirts you support apparel consumption that benefits not just you but other people and the planet as well.

13 Best Sustainable t-shirt Brands

Affiliate Disclosure: TRVST is a participant in various affiliate programs, including Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and its international variants. As such, we may earn an advertising fee from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

Here's a list of brands that make some of the best ethical tees. We have added key information to help you make the best choices.

Pact

Pact T Close Up
Photo Credit: Pact

From basic t-shirts to socks, underwear, and beddings, pact offers you a range of organic basics. Pact is on a mission to create a clothing company that the planet will love. Their fiber of choice is organic cotton, and they work with fair trade certified manufacturers only. Pact also partners with an eco-tech company that allows customers to purchase carbon offsets to make up for the carbon emissions resulting from shipping.

Pact sustainable cotton tees come in distinct designs and fit for men, women, and children. The designs are so versatile that you could use a wardrobe full of pact tees for different seasons in the year.

Pact uses paper and plastic packaging made from recycled materials which are recyclable and biodegradable. The brand also has a program that allows you to give back gently used clothing to charities. 

Available here

Eco Tee Co

Eco Tee Co Ethical T Shirt Prints
Credit: ecoteeco.co.uk

Enjoy steampunk and gothic style? Then you will love Eco Tee’s moon tees. The t-shirt is climate neutral, produced with renewable energy. The brand uses 100% organic cotton certified by GOTS. They ensure that their entire production procedure follows the ethics of the Fair Wear Foundation and Confidence in Textiles Certification. 

They print using water-based inks that contain no toxins or animal products and have an OEKO-TEX approval. The minimalist eco-friendly paper packaging is both recyclable and compostable. The Eco tee brand will only produce a product if you order it.

Shop on Etsy

Groceries Apparel 

Groceries Apparel Plain T
Photo Credit: Groceries Apparel

Groceries apparel uses organic and recycled materials to make ethical and sustainable tees. They use a range of sustainable materials like eucalyptus, hemp, recycled cotton, organic cotton, and recycled plastic to manufacture their products. The use of plastic implies the use of some form of recycled polyester. The Groceries Apparel factory is in Los Angeles to encourage local and traceable production. To eliminate toxic dye chemicals, the brand produces its vegetable dyes.

Groceries apparel sometimes makes pure organic cotton clothing, and sometimes they combine different fiber materials. Men and women can find unisex and gender-specific pocket tees on the groceries apparel website. You can also find hoodies, underwear, bodysuits, leggings, and tanks. 

The Good Tee

The Good Tee Eco Batwing Ethical T Shirt

As a B-certified corporation, the Good tee is working hard to establish itself as a force for good in the fashion industry. The company is also fair trade cotton & GOTS certified. The company is concerned about the welfare of cotton farmers and pays a premium directly to garment workers for every shirt sold. The brand operates slower production schedules.

They use low-impact dyes and offer customized screen printing services with low environmental impact. They pre-shrink the t-shirts and treat them to minimize future shrinkage.

The good tee offers organic basics for men and women. Their best sellers include ‘the favorite fair trade organic unisex tee’ and ‘the relaxed fit ¾ sleeve v-neck t-shirt.’ They also have a collection for children.

Know The Origin

Know The Origin Mens Salmon Stripe
Photo Credit: Know The Origin

From seed to garment, Know The Origin ensures ethical fashion through direct involvement. Taking a cue from the Rana Plaza disaster, the founder of this brand worked to build an ethical clothing brand that is fair to the cotton farmers and garment workers. The brand collaborates with Hyderabad, an Indian cooperative of organic cotton farmers and a credible manufacturer in Tirupur. 

This brand sells its own branded organic cotton t-shirts and shares its platform with other ethical t-shirt brands. Apart from t-shirts, you can get other ethical fashion products made from eco friendly materials on their website.

Classic T-shirt Company

Classic T Shirt Company White Tee
Photo Credit: Classic T-shirt Company

This is one of the notable luxury organic t-shirt brands that manufacture their products in the USA. The classic t-shirt company operates out of a family-owned factory in Los Angeles.

They have the crew and v-neck designs in neutral and cool earth colors. You have different sleeve options to choose from. The design range for men and women looks the same, but they cut to fit differently. The company recommends cold washing and warns against bleaching. 

The Classic T-shirt Company makes all its products from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, and they come packaged in recycled materials. 

The company also donates a percentage of its profits to support causes that provide clean water, plant trees, and clean up oceans worldwide.

Shop on Amazon

Oldie Bazaar

Oldie Bazaar Moon Print
Photo Credit: Oldie Bazaar

The moon fairy t-shirt is a vintage-styled product. The t-shirt is hand-printed and has a luxurious homemade feel to it. Woven from organic ring-spun cotton, the product has vegan approval and a Fair Wear certification. 

It also has an OEKO-TEX certification to prove that its water-based printing ink is non-toxic. The products are usually white shirts with artistic silhouette prints. Oldie Bazaar t-shirts may run large so double-check the size chart before you order. Also, note that the packaging may not be completely plastic-free.

Shop on Etsy

Dusk Shop

Dusk Shop Dinosaur Print
Photo Credit: Dusk Shop

This eco-friendly t-shirt is made from organic cotton and made fairly. The t-shirt has funny dinosaur inscriptions, and if you are a fan of Jurassic Park, you will find it appealing.

Apart from humor, the brand tries to offer the highest standards of ethical production. They get their organic cotton from an Indian region with excess water supply thanks to monsoons. They are one of the few brands that power their manufacturing process with green renewable energy to reduce their carbon footprint. Dusk shop produces its t-shirts in line with PETA, GOTS, and FWF guidelines. 

Dusk Shop organic t-shirts come in compostable packaging. The company says it reduces the carbon footprints of its t-shirts by 90% using calculations certified under PAS2050 standard. They stock a variety of colors for men and women.

Shop on Etsy

The Organic Apparel

Organic Apparel Love Ethical T Shirt
Photo Credit: Organic Apparel

How about a clothing brand that combines natural cork and organic cotton? The organic apparel’s love t-shirt is a loose-fit tunic with ¾ sleeves for women. Instead of prints or embroidery, the shirt features an applique made of cork. This unique combination of materials makes the LOVE tees a must-have in the search for fashion-forward apparel.

The tees come in white and purple. The brand designs and manufactures its products in Portugal. They use low-impact non-toxic dyes and plastic-free packaging. The high-quality crew neck t-shirt comes in s-xl sizes.

Shop on Etsy

Open Roads Goods

This store offers basic t-shirts, with no frills or fuss. The tees are made from GOTS certified 100% organic cotton. These fair trade tees have a traceable production and supply chain- and they give a portion of their profit directly to the workers.

The company tracks and audits its suppliers to ensure that they adhere to the standards of the Fair Labor Association.

Open Road tees are soft and have a bit of extra length. They come tailored to a slight, slim fit. The tees are true to size, so you don't have to worry about ordering a size up or down. 

Shop on Amazon

UNI-T

Crafted especially for women, UNI-T makes every shirt from a mix of bamboo and organic cotton fibers. This brand is OEKO-TEX certified and practices a socially responsible manufacturing process. They do all the prints on the t-shirts using eco-friendly water-based ink. 

All UNI-T’ designs are hand-drawn and printed by Eujin Kim Neilan. They also offer you the choice to customize your t-shirt color and design. What's more, the brand pre-washes the t-shirts are to prevent shrinkage.

Shop on Amazon

Organic Signatures

Crew neck or v-neck, whichever is your preference, organic signatures have got ethical basic cotton tees for you. The t-shirts are made from organic cotton, and they are cool and breathable. The plain t-shirts are entirely free of latex, chemical, and synthetic fibers. They source their organic cotton responsibly only from fair trade farms.

This brand says its t-shirt emits 46% less greenhouse gas than a non-organic t-shirt. They design the casual tees for men, and it comes in a range of small to double extra-large sizes. If you like a ‘no-nonsense’ yet casual look, then check out this store's basic t-shirts. 

Shop on Amazon

Bare Turtle

Bare Turtle Yellow Ethical T Sheep Print
Photo Credit: Bare Turtle

This brand offers you unrivaled softness in an ethically made t-shirt. Made from ring-spun organic cotton grown and supplied sustainably under GOTS, the t-shirts are great ethical options. The brand subscribes to Fair Wear’s social responsibility conditions and has also got PETA vegan approval.

The packaging contains no plastic; it is entirely recyclable and biodegradable. The t-shirt comes in yellow, burgundy, and white unisex fits with simple graphic prints. You can choose from a size range of extra small to double extra-large, all in the mid-tier price range.

Shop on Etsy

Why choose ethical & sustainable t-shirts?

A t-shirt does not seem like much, sometimes it's plain other times they come adorned with graphic prints. In all sorts of fabrics, shapes, and sizes the t-shirt really is one of the more versatile clothing items. It's also usually the cheapest item in-store but clothes cost much more than money. The environmental cost of clothes outweighs the value we get from them most of the time. 

The fashion industry is the second-largest environment polluter, the industry is responsible for 10% of annual human-caused carbon emissions2. It is also the second-largest consumer of the planet’s water supply. Further, production processes also use toxic chemicals that can end up in rivers and oceans, making them unsafe for wildlife and humans. 

Environmental and Human Cost of the Standard T

Environmentally, t-shirts are not cheap; purchasing one white cotton t-shirt results in the same amount of greenhouse gas emission as a 35-mile car drive. If cotton tees are so problematic, imagine the damage polyester t-shirts can cause. You probably wear tees more times than other kinds of apparel, and as a result, wash them more. Washing a load of synthetic clothing sheds over 700,000 microplastics. 

There is also the issue of poor working conditions and human rights violations. Some top fashion brands source labor from countries like China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Cambodia. They do this because the economic situation in those countries created the condition for cheap labor. Factory owners often exploit garment workers. For every 29 euro t-shirt you buy, they earn about 18 cents.

Earning so little, they are unable to afford basic needs like comfortable housing. Many garment workers barely make enough to send their children to school. In 2013, 1,100 workers died when the Rana Plaza collapsed, and many others sustained injuries. There have also been numerous factory fires that resulted in the loss of lives. There are even reports of child labor in cotton farms3.

In the US alone, textile waste amounts to 4% of municipal solid waste1. Consumers worldwide seem not to do a great deal better than fashion companies as 80% of all textiles end up in landfills or incinerators every year. Waste like this pollutes the environment and results in wasted financial resources. One factor that may be responsible for such waste is fast fashion, which is infamous for inferior quality apparel. 

Getting maximum value for the money you spend on clothing begins with buying high-quality clothing. Proper care of your t-shirts is also essential, but poor-quality t-shirts may not be worth the effort. One important quality of eco-friendly t-shirts is that they make them with quality materials and processes that ensure durability. This quality helps ensure that they don't end up in landfills a few months post-purchase.

What makes a t-shirt ethical?

To be ethical simply means prescribing to a code of conduct or standard. When applied to fashion, ethics cover production practices that are eco-friendly, humane, and value-oriented. Here are some things to watch out for before classifying a t-shirt as ethical or not.

Fiber Material

When buying your sustainable t-shirt, the first thing to consider is the materials it is made from. Natural fibers are always a better choice as they will decompose into organic matter when in a landfill, unlike synthetic fibers made out of fossil fuels which are plastic and don’t biodegrade.

Of all natural fibers, cotton is the most used, but it is not without some downsides. A quarter of pesticides used in the United States result from cotton farming. Cotton is a water-consuming crop. It adversely affects the water supply when cultivated commercially.

Organic cotton is the most favored ethical fiber. This is because they grow it without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Other sustainable natural fibers include bamboo lyocell and hemp

Transparent production process

In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission sued several fashion companies for the false representation of bamboo rayon as natural bamboo textile. The reason for this was that although the production started with bamboo, the chemical-intensive production process produced an entirely synthetic fabric. Up until that time, these companies successfully hid the truth about their production process from consumers.

Sustainable and ethical fashion producers have a transparent production process that allows auditing and certification. Some ethical certifications include fair trade, global organic textile standard, and fair wear. PETA and OEKO-TEX also give certifications to brands that are vegan and eco-friendly. 

Durability

Buying poor-quality t-shirts that wear out too soon results in a waste of resources, some of them not renewable. Brands make ethical t-shirts to last, ensuring optimum use of resources. High-quality tees stay in excellent condition for a long time with proper care. This makes it possible to donate or resale it via a thrift store in the event it’s at the end of its useful life for you.

Supply chain

Ethically sourced materials are essential in sustainable clothing. An ethical supply chain should ensure that the environment does not suffer damage while raw material is being taken from it. Also, an ethical supply chain ensures fair trade. This means that go-betweens do not get to cheat farmers out of appropriate payment for their fiber. 

Labor practices

One problem with the fast-fashion supply chain is the unfair treatment of garment workers. Garment workers suffer everything from delayed wages, underpayment, extortion, physical abuse, hazardous working conditions, and even death. Socially responsible organizations like the fair trade association work to make the lives of these workers better. And they ensure the payment of fair wages.

Buying fair trade certified products assures you that the workers who stitch your tees not having their human rights trampled on and your t's are made by people benefitting from ethical working conditions.

Recycling

What’s better than ethically made t-shirts? Ones that we can recycle! We can repurpose a t-shirt or recycle it into another product to extend its life and service, making it an ethical option. 

Also, ethical tees get bonus points if they are pre-loved. The entire essence of sustainability is to preserve what we already have rather than getting a new one. 

Conclusion

The basic tee is a clothing item that has become so commonplace that we overlook its environmental and social costs. People who care about the environment are already practicing sustainable fashion, but the apparel industry needs more than eco-friendly manufacturing. It needs to care about people too, garment workers deserve a better work environment, and farmers need fair trade to make a profit.

Buy sustainable t-shirts, and you can have a wardrobe full of high-quality t-shirts without a guilty conscience.

1Luz Claudio, 2007, Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry, Environmental Health Perspectives 115:9 CID: https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.115-a449
2Ellen MacArthur Foundation, A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashions future. 2017.
3

List of goods produced by child labor or forced labor. Bureau of International Labor Affairs. U.S. Department of Labor.

Featured in Sustainable Fashion
Sign Up for Updates
SIGN UP
You Might Also Like
Finding stores full of worthwhile second-hand fashion has become the go-to for obtaining all manner of merchandise at a price you can afford. There is even a new hip name for shopping at the bargain store: “thrifting.” If you go thrifting, you’re a thrifter. However, to get the most out of thrifting, there are some basic […]
In today’s world, silk is one of the most high-valued and luxurious fabrics for clothing, bedding, or upholstery. People admire this natural fiber for its strength, shine, resilience, and softness. Also, its elegant appearance and feel position it as a luxury material within the fashion industry. Here we explore the question: is silk a sustainable […]
It is a good thing that we can recycle fabric, this means you can stay in style and get rid of your fashion waste in ways that help the planet. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about fabric recycling.
When choosing ethical clothing, it’s important we consider our underwear choices as well. These items are personal everyday essentials. So ideally, we should feel comfortable in them. Ethical & sustainable underwear brands show us that we can enjoy this comfort while also respecting both people and the planet. From their eco-conscious practices to ensuring their […]
With the increasing need for sustainability in fashion, fabrics like linen have become of great importance. From its natural color and aesthetic to its sustainable and functional properties, linen is here to stay. Moreover, organic linen fabric serves as an even better eco-friendly fabric option compared to the regular type. In this article, we explore […]
TRVST
ABOUT  ·  THE TEAM  ·  CONTACT  ·  PRIVACY  ·  COOKIES  ·  T&Cs
Copyright © 2021 TRVST LTD. All Rights Reserved