Carbon in Clothing

With organic materials, using wind-powered factories and innovative use of camels, our Co2 per product is around 80% lower than the average t-shirt

Behind these headline figures there's a range of measures at Rapanui that have intentionally and unintentionally reduced our carbon footprint. DEFRAs SCAP tool helps us keep track of our co2, and as a company we're now well ahead of the 20:20 EU carbon targets.

Carbon and Clothing in 10 seconds
  • At Rapanui we have reduced our Co2 per product by 80% compared to the average t-shirt. Organic fabrics mean less carbon-intensive nitrogen fertiliser, and less machinery. Renewable energy powers the factory in India and our one in the UK. And our new print technology reduces waste massively. There's much more to be done post-purchase as 80% of the Co2 from clothes comes from washing and drying. Browse our low-carbon Mens T-shirts or Womens Tops for more.

90% of consumers worldwide want more renewable energy use in manufacturing - Global Consumer Wind Study, 2011.

Carbon Footprint of a product is the total amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that are emitted as part of its manufacture, distribution, use and disposal. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are so called because they trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and keep the planet warm: too much GHG in the atmosphere causes climate change.

Making low carbon clothing: How is that even possible?
"It's important to remember that greenhouse gas emissions aren't just transport fumes. They come from all over the supply chain. To make one tonne of nitrogen fertiliser takes one tonne of oil, one hundred tonnes of water and creates seven tonnes of Co2. Going organic could do more good than electric transport."

Our t-shirts start life as organic cotton, planted in fields in northern India. Less fertiliser, pesticides and machinery means less carbon. The cotton is often transported from the fields to the ginning plant by camel.

The dye, cut and sew factory has it's own array of Vestas V52 wind turbines. Excess is sold to the Indian grid, which is predominanty coal fired.

Our clothing is shipped to the UK, and we print everything using low-waste print technology in our factory in the UK, which is powered by Good Energy.

The biggest area of work is post-purchase, as 80% of the carbon emissions from a t-shirt come from washing and drying. We changed our washcare instructions to wash cool, hang dry. At the end of life we recover old products for recycling.

Post Purchase Environmental impact
Energy Profile for a T-shirt
Up to 80% of the impact of a t-shirt occurs after purchase.

This means the water, chemical toxicity, energy use and emissions from washing and drying your clothing. This means that if every clothing manufacturer in the world halved their eco-footprint of their supply chain, it would still only make 10% difference over the whole product life cycle. We are working towards a circular economy with our incentivised material recovery program. Our next big challenge involves the in-use phase.

  • Our brand must transcend the product and influence the post-purchase care
  • We must inform our customers about the need to Wash Cool, Hang Dry
  • And help them choose the right stuff to wash with

For now, throughout our marketing, our products, wash care labels and our site, don't be surprised if we remind you to Wash Cool, Hang Dry.

Why do we need to bother with Carbon in clothing?

Greenhouse gases change our weather, our eco systems and our economies. The UK government funded Stern review was the biggest study of it's kind assessing the economic cost of climate change to the UK. The Review states that climate change is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen, presenting a unique challenge for economics. It found the benefits of strong, early action on climate change far outweigh the costs of not acting. Without action, the overall costs of climate change, including a wider range of risks and impacts could cost 20% of GDP or more each year indefinitely.

According to a May 2011 study by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global potential for renewable energy is substantially higher than the current and future projected global demand for energy. In other words, we can develop enough renewable sources (wind, sun and waves) to meet all of the world’s energy needs.

It's a problem that can be solved if we take action now. Luckily, according to the Global Consumer Wind Study which polled 31,000 consumers in 26 countries, the people understand: Consumers worldwide see climate change as the greatest single global challenge. 90% are to a great degree willing to buy more, pay more for, and recommend climate-friendly brands produced using renewable energy. Yet in order for them to make informed purchasing decisions, they also want more information about the use of renewable energy in the production of the brands they purchase. Brands need to use renewable energy, and communicate it, and the people will respond.

Browse some of our Low Carbon Clothing

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