Garment decorators (screen printers and direct-to-garment printers) concerned about their impact on the environment face a conundrum in three questions. And those are: “Aside from obviously not putting chemicals and ink into the sewer system, what can I do to minimize my impact on the environment by being discerning about the type of fabric I print on? And do I have any choice at all considering that I don’t control the manufacturing process or the fabric choices that my customers make? And even if I did have some control, which fabrics are worse for the environment than other fabrics?”

For example, I have in front of me an article with the title, “You polyester sweater is destroying the environment.” It discusses how all fabrics release microfibers but polyester’s microfibers are the worst because they’re essentially plastic and so add to the microplastic problem in our waterways and oceans. But I also have a file full of articles on how natural fabrics, like cotton in particular, are bad for the environment because of the water it consumes and contaminates. So, unfortunately, it’s a case of six of one and a half dozen of the other.

This then brings us to having to figure out what an environmentally-responsible garment decorator can do? Well, aside from the things that are within your control, like not using glitter (nasty microplastic) and not dumping contaminants into the sewer system, there’s not much you can do about the substrates you’re asked to print on. But if you’re aware of these issues you can at least advise customers if the topic comes up and do what you can to be ecologically responsible when you have the option.