Editorial: Sustainability and Decorated Apparel

Though a major polluter, the fashion, T-shirt, heat-pressing and embroidery sectors are also making efforts to clean up their act

By Adam Cort, Content Director

While the fashion and apparel industry may have its heart in the right place, there’s no denying the fact the industry is also a major polluter. Image by UMR – Adobe Stock

April 4, 2024

Environmental awareness and a sensitivity to social justice in general has long been integral to much of the decorated-apparel industry. Domestically sourced cotton, recycled polyester, fair-trade practices, you name it, the industry is in many ways doing its part; which is only right given the fashion and apparel industry is also a major polluter, currently responsible for The fashion industry is currently estimated to be responsible for 10 percent of global carbon emissions–more than international flights and maritime shipping combined. With that in mind, and in light of the QR codes and near-field-communication (NFC) chips now appearing on or in an increasing number of garments (features that allow consumers to download a garment’s entire manufacturing history), wouldn’t it be great to see the industry take its commitment to the environment and social justice to a whole new level. Specifically, wouldn’t it be great to see the industry to not just make an effort to reduce the amount of waste it produces internally, but actively engage with consumers in these areas as well.

Environmental Best Practices: Decorated Apparel

Granted, this is already being done by a number of companies. However, the industry as a whole could do better. Checking in with the equipment and apparel companies that exhibit at Impressions Expo these days, sustainability and social justice is often front and center. However, this is all too often not the case when it comes to the industry’s interactions with the public as a whole, including those same companies already making great strides internally. To them, I would say, “Wear you environmental bona fides on your sleeves! Don’t be afraid to brag! Don’t just discuss your commitment to corporate responsibility on the ‘about us’ page Fof your web page, put it right there at the top of every page.”

Wouldn’t it be great to also see the industry as a whole taking advantage of today’s QR codes NFC chips to educate consumers as to where exactly the clothes they’re buying comes from, how their clothes are being made and the importance of their thinking globally when it comes to their buying decisions. Poll after poll shows today’s consumers really do care about these things, so let’s help them out by ensuring they have easy access to the information they both want and need.

Bottom line: in the same way decorated apparel is expressive of the beliefs of the industry’s customers, the industry needs to be equally expressive with respect to its commitment to social justice and sustainability. Only by taking its commitment to the next level can the decorated apparel business—and business in general—truly help make the world a better place, not only in the present, but for future generations as well.