Why does a T-shirt made with organic cotton grown in the U.S.A. have a low carbon footprint?

U.S.A.-grown organic cotton has the lowest carbon footprint of all the major fibers (cotton, hemp and polyester) used for making shirts.  Its carbon footprint is 61% lower than conventionally grown cotton, 35% lower than imported organic cotton and 76% lower than polyester1. However, even U.S.A.-grown organic cotton still generates a small carbon footprint. This carbon footprint is offset completely by Zero Carbon®LLC by purchasing verified, incremental carbon offsets2. The total lifetime carbon footprint of a T-shirt is about twice that of making it. This extra carbon footprint is caused by washing and drying the shirt over its lifetime3. This entire lifetime carbon footprint is completely offset by the carbon offsets purchased by Zero Carbon®LLC.

So you can feel great about buying this T-shirt because it has a zero carbon footprint over its entire lifetime! We believe it is the world’s first zero carbon clothing.

Zero dyes. Zero bleach. Zero carbon.

All cotton. All organic. All made in the USA.

Soft on your skin

Soft on your planet™

Zero Carbon®Clothing Co.

1. Ecological Footprint and Water Analysis of Cotton, Hemp and Polyester. Nia Cherrett, John Barrett, Alexandra Clemett, Matthew Chadwick, and M.J. Chadwick, 2005. Study conducted by the Stockholm Environmental Institut.

2. These carbon offsets fund a project to capture methane gas that would otherwise leak into the atmosphere from exposed coal seams on the Southern Ute Indian reservations in Utah. Even the carbon offsets support American jobs and communities! Methane gas is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide in causing global warming. These carbon offsets are audited and verified to be real and incremental by Cool Effects™.  Verified incremental means that the carbon offset would not have happened without this program. This is in contrast to many carbon offsets that rely on planting trees in rainforests to capture carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Reforestation programs are often not truly incremental because trees naturally seed and regrow, especially in a rainforest. So planting trees does not necessarily result in capturing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than would happen naturally. The Southern Ute Indian methane capture project is 100% incremental because if the Tribe did not capture the methane it would leak into the atmosphere and cause global warming.

3.  Mapping of Evidence on Sustainable Development Impacts that Occur in the Lifecycles of Clothing.Carbon Trust and BCG Analysis, DEFRA, 2007. Institute for Sustainable Resources, Queensland University of Technology. 

What is a secondary carbon footprint?

How to cut your secondary carbon footprint.

If you want to reduce your secondary carbon footprint (in other words the carbon footprint caused by the products you buy rather than the carbon footprint caused by heating your home or driving your car) then you need to start buying products with a zero-carbon footprint, or at least ones with the lowest possible carbon footprint that still get the job done for you. 

The secondary footprint comes in two parts: 

  • Part 1 is the carbon footprint of making, selling and delivering the product to you, and
  • Part 2 is the carbon footprint of using the product over its lifetime

You may think that part 2 is so small as to be ignored. Surely the biggest carbon footprint is in making the product, right? Sometimes yes, but often no. For instance, building a house is expensive and it creates a high carbon footprint from making concrete for the foundation, glass for the windows and copper for the wiring. Building scientists have estimated that the embodied carbon footprint of a house (i.e., how much carbon dioxide is emitted by building the house) is approximately equal to the carbon footprint caused by heating and cooling the house over its lifetime. At the other end of the spectrum, scientists have estimated that the carbon footprint caused by washing and drying a T-shirt over its lifetime is approximately equal to that of making the T-shirt. What we really care about is the lifetime carbon footprint.

There are very few products today that have a zero-carbon footprint. Zero Carbon LLC has introduced one, a T-shirt with a lifetime carbon footprint of zero. Since everyone needs T-shirts, buying one of these instead of buying a “fast-fashion” T-shirt is a great way to reduce your secondary carbon footprint. However, the first priority is to cut your primary carbon footprint and the best way to do that is to implement the fab four on your house. I.e., install 12” of fiberglass insulation in your attic and in the ceiling of your basement, replace your AC units with heat pumps, install single or double-glazed windows with triple-glazed windows when you are replacing your windows and install solar panels on your roof. 

You can see the Zero Carbon™ T-shirt by clicking here