Are Cotton T-shirts Sustainable Products?

Are Cotton T-shirts Sustainable Products?

Cotton tees are an absolute summer must-have that we love wearing on any occasion, from beach days to garden parties. 

So, with the rapid growth of the sustainable fashion movement, we need to start asking the uncomfortable questions about whether even such wardrobe staples are truly sustainable for us and our planet? 

Cotton is natural and biodegradable, but how about everything else? We will investigate, but, if you need an option, you can try to look into the most sustainable t-shirts by


There are over 17 million tons of cotton produced globally every year, and it’s a big part of the fashion industry and economy.

It is evident that synthetic fibers like polyester, mainly produced from non-renewable resources like fossil fuels and do not biodegrade, are not eco-friendly. They pollute our environment with microparticles, and after they’re discarded, they rot in landfills. 

However, regular cotton takes a lot of resources to manufacture, taking almost 3000 liters (around 750 gallons) to produce only one tee. Cotton production is also contributing to sea basins drying up. 

Besides that, cotton crops are treated with massive amounts of pesticides and herbicides that end up in our waterways and soil. 

Organic cotton 

On the other hand, organic cotton is a better alternative as its cultivation does not use harmful pesticides, requires almost half the energy, and often uses rain water. 

Look for organic certifications like Oeko-Tex and GOTs when shopping for a cotton t-shirt. Organic certification means that textile and fabric products are grown according to strict guidelines and that the producers don’t use toxic fertilizers, pesticides, and various other synthetic products.

GOTS certified organic cotton means that your product has been ethically sourced and monitored closely during the production process. It also ensures the safe treatment of workers. 

Benefits of organic cotton

Besides being environmentally friendly and sustainable, organic cotton has many other benefits. 

No allergies

Since no toxic materials are used in the production of organic cotton clothing, wearing an organic tee will not cause allergies for people with sensitive skin or other conditions. It’s also perfect for babies and kids.


An organic t-shirt will last longer, meaning you won’t need to replace it, which is excellent for the environment and your wallet!


Organic cotton is also softer than regular cotton because the hand-picking process ensures that no fiber is damaged. This ensures the softness and durability of the fabric.


When organic cotton is unavailable or out of the budget, there are a few sustainable alternatives for that new t-shirt this season! 


One of the most sustainable ways to shop is to shop second-hand. It’s also more creative and gives you many more choices than everyone else’s. Because who wants to look like everybody else? 

Besides that, second-hand clothing is cheaper!


Hemp is a natural fabric that’s a great alternative to cotton because it requires fewer resources to grow and produce. 

Hemp cultivation uses much less water than cotton, and the fabric made from it has a longer lifespan and gets better with washing and not the other way around! 

Modern hemp fabric is also soft and stylish.


Linen is a fantastic fabric for summer, and it’s made from flax fiber during the process that requires much less water than cotton. 

Linen is breathable, soft, and has anti-microbial properties.

However, organic linen is a little harder to find as it is much more labor-intensive to manufacture, so you may want to look online. 

Lyocell and modal 

Lyocell and modal are made from cellulose and are 50% more water absorbent than cotton.

The production of these fabrics requires less energy and water and uses fewer chemicals in production than many synthetics. The fabrics are also biodegradable and compostable.

About the author


Steven Ly

Steven Ly is the Startup Program and Events Manager at TheNextHint Inc. She recruits rockstar startups for all TC events including Disrupt, meetups, Sessions, and more both domestically and internationally. Previously, she helped produce Dreamforce with Salesforce and Next '17 with Google. Prior to that, she was on the advertising teams at both Facebook and AdRoll, helping support advertisers in North America and helped grow those brands globally. Outside of work, Priya enjoys Flywheel, tacos, the 49ers, and adventuring around the globe.

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