You may have heard the term “upcycled” and not been sure of it’s meaning, or maybe rolled your eyes at another trendy eco-term being thrown around the clothing and furniture industries. So we’re explaining why we use this term, what it means for our products, and why we believe it’s the best choice for our line of screen printed garments.
As you can see from many of our designs, we care about the planet and believe that unless humans begin to drastically change their ways, we could be headed for some pretty tough times environmentally. The addiction the Western world has to consumer culture is really what drives a lot of the bad practices that harm the planet. There is always a new trend, a new version, a great deal, or saddest of all, boredom or emotional gaps to fill with products. This constant churn creates SO much waste. Cheap clothing isn’t valued, it’s part of “fast-fashion” to buy frivolously and discard while the item is barely worn. Not many people think about the materials and labor that went into creating that garment, they only know that it didn’t cost them much, therefore it is disposable. Even with clothing that is of decent quality, people toss just because they want something new.
Americans throw away 14 million tons of clothes each year. That’s 80 pounds per person.
With this huge demand for new clothing, the textile industry is producing much more waste and pollution, as well as supporting unethical labor practices in the factories that make these garments. Polyester is the most widely used synthetic fiber. Do you know what it’s made from? Petroleum. The process of creating polyester, which is energy-intensive and requires large amounts of crude oil, also releases dangerous emissions that put most textile manufacturing facilities on the EPA’s list of hazardous waste generators. Cotton, you may think is a better material since it is a natural fiber, but the crop accounts for a quarter of all the pesticides used in the United States. These textiles are then shipped overseas, mostly to China, where laborers work in poor conditions, making as little as 12 to 18 cents an hour, so that Westerners can buy and discard in an endless cycle of waste.
“Upcycling” is taking something that has been discarded, and giving it a second life by reusing it to make something even better so that it doesn’t go to waste. We decided that we didn’t want to support the industries that pollute the Earth and perpetuate waste, and one of the best ways to do this was source quality clothing from the piles that are tossed aside, and upcycle them. The shirts we find are still in like-new condition, probably only lightly worn before being given away. We are often blown away by the quality and brands we find, wondering why they were no longer of use to their original owner. After carefully combing racks of clothes, we make these blank shirts into unique works of art by screen printing them with our hand drawn art. Not only are we creating an eco-friendly product by reusing garments and not supporting the textile industry by purchasing all new blanks, but we are also creating a more unique product. Every one of our shirts has an individual look, since our shirts are all different styles and colors. As artists who take the time to draw our art and hand-screen our shirts, we love that we are able to give people a one-of-a-kind piece of wearable art. We hope that those who purchase our shirts will value them, feel good supporting a small artisan maker, and be proud to wear clothing that does not support the wasteful fast-fashion industry.
Here are some photos of our upcycling process, and one of the local fairs where we sell our shirts! Please follow us on Facebook or Instagram to see our newest shirts available for purchase (we ship internationally), or find out if we’ll be at an artist’s fair near you.