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Why You Don’t Need Another Free T-Shirt

It’s undeniable; one of the best parts of being a college student is all the free stuff. Every time you walk across campus things are practically thrown at you. Everything from frisbees, koozies, cups and, best of all, t-shirts.


It’s very likely that your closet is already stuffed full of them. Some shirts you’ve probably even had since high school. However, every year you get more and more and, eventually, you have to make space in your closet. So what do you do with all your old shirts?


It seems like you have two options: to give away or to throw away.


Cost of Production:


  • According to National Geographic it takes 2,700 liters of water to make ONE T-SHIRT. That’s enough water for a person to survive for 900 days.
  • 1.7 million tons of hazardous chemicals containing PFCs (which can resist decomposition for hundreds of years after being released) are used to dye clothing.
  • Of the 60 billion squares of scrap material that remains after cloth cutting, only a quarter are recycled.
  • The pressure to produce massive amounts of clothing cheaply often leads to hazardous work conditions.


When You Donate Clothes:


  • Of all the apparel you donate, only about 1/5 is sold as merchandise in stores. The rest is either resold or recycled. 45% of textiles are exported in large quantities to other countries. Some are dispensed to textile companies for about five to seven cents a pound. Others are turned into raw material for fabric manufacturing companies.
  • American exports of used clothing have TRIPLED to seven billion pounds per year.

When You Throw Out Clothes:

  • On average, Americans throw out 82lbs of cloth a year.
  • The rest of your garments that are not recycled or resold, go to landfills or flood markets in developing countries.
  • In 2011 the EPA reported that landfills contained 13.1 million tons of textiles.

What You Can Do:

  • Rethink unnecessary purchases and avoid shopping from “fast fashion retailers”
  • “Upcycle” clothing you don’t want anymore. Old shirts can be used as dishrags, made into a reusable grocery bags, etc. There’s a plethora of ideas out there on the Internet!


For More Info:



International Trade Commission

True Cost Documentary



Hi, I'm Abigail Wetzel, a Sophomore from Greenville, SC. I am majoring in Environmental and Natural Resources and I love nature, books, coffee, and ice cream!
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