You may be thinking, "wow, I can get this sweet t-shirt for only $15. Gimme two!". While this may be easy on your wallet, the cost of that shirt is actually ridiculous. To help you get your head around this, let's break down how that t-shirt was made, and what the non-monetary costs are to get that shirt to you at such a low price.
The Cost of Cotton
Cotton takes a large amount of water to grow. We're talking hundreds of gallons per t-shirt. With the amount of t-shirts currently being made, that translates into 1.4 trillion gallons of water per year. Growing cotton also requires the use of more insecticides and pesticides than any other crop.
The Cost of Color
Colors are awesome on t-shirts. The bummer is that the dying process pollutes heavily. Bleach and dye contain some pretty nasty chemicals and can seep into streams and oceans. Even the graphics placed on shirts are typically made with plastic-based ink which leaches toxins into the air and water during production. That makes for a heck of a lot of chemicals used for that new shirt.
The Cost to Workers
T-shirts are typically made in Bangladesh, China, India or Turkey in poor conditions with very low wages. In order to get the price of that shirt so low, it requires someone else to work for peanuts in conditions that would make most of us cringe.
The Cost to Air Quality
The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions because of materials being moved from developing countries to consumers by ship, train and truck. The sigh of relief you breathed when you found that bargain shirt just got a little less fresh.
The Cost to Waste
Increased consumption and low prices have boosted production of apparel by 400% between 2004 and 2014. As a result, many of those cheap shirts are not worn through their life-cycle and discarded quickly. A survey conducted a few years ago found that the average American will throw out 81 pounds of clothing in a year. Almost all of that could have been reused.
The good news is that we are changing that model. By reusing what's already made, we save water, pollution, and waste. We produce our shirts here in the States with workers paid well and in nice facilities. So while our t-shirts may have a higher price tag, the cost to the environment and to society is as close to zero as we can possibly get. We'd rather you spend your money responsibly, fashion consciously, and hey, maybe just buy one.