Sustainability in Textile Decoration

Sustainability is the order of the day and there are more and more options available on the market for obtaining a totally ecological product when decorating clothes.

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Despite the lack of information (or contradictory information), there are some certainties that we have. Promotional textiles have never been produced as sustainably as they are today.

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So which decoration method is best for those who want to create a sustainable or ecological clothing brand?

Throughout this article we will describe the differences between screen printing, direct printing and embroidery, while analysing the advantages and disadvantages of each in terms of sustainability.

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EMBROIDERY

Embroidery is a relatively sustainable and ecological method. The production machines consume little energy and all file preparation is digital, so there is no need for material-intensive preparations. Is this a sustainable production method?

At first, yes. Despite using polyester thread, a single spool can contain thousands of metres of thread and allow you to personalise dozens of items.

For us, the big problem is that there isn't yet a recyclable interlining (what you put behind the embroidery to hold it in place and not crease the garment) on the market. This means that all the leftover interlining has to go in the bin.

embroidery with sustainability
Embroidery on caps

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SCREEN PRINTING

Screen printing has come a long way in recent years. Giving screen printing a sustainability rating is very difficult because it will always vary from print shop to print shop. That's why we're going to talk about us and our practices.

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Screen printing uses a series of analogue processes that consume water, chemicals, plastics, etc. even before a single T-shirt is printed.

We've already talked about the technological changes we've implemented in recent years and how they've helped us evolve our processes. One consequence of these developments has been to make the whole process more sustainable.

  • Despite 100 per cent growth in sales over the last five years, today we use the same amount of water as we did in 2015;
  • With the introduction of a CTS (Computer to Screen) machine, we completely eliminated single-use rolls of film (transparent paper);
  • There are ecological chemicals on the market - and we use them - that can safely go into the public network;
  • Our energy consumption is now 50 per cent of what it was five years ago with the introduction of photovoltaic panels in the company and the updating of some equipment.
screen printing
Preparation for screen printing

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With these examples we can realise how much screen printing has evolved in recent years in our hands. However, it's still a method with a lot of waste and some practices that aren't very eco-friendly (or sustainable).

From high energy consumption to plastic inks, screen printing produces a considerable amount of waste that is only mitigated by economies of scale (amount of waste x amount of garments printed). Of the three methods we're talking about today, this is, in our opinion, the least sustainable.

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DIRECT TO GARMENT

Direct printing has also undergone a major evolution in the market and in our hands.

We recently updated our infrastructure with new equipment that we consider to be more sustainable.

  • Using eco-certified water-based inks, this is where it stands out from other decoration methods;
  • With all the preparation done digitally (just like embroidery and unlike screen printing), there is also zero waste and consumption;
  • With an ever-increasing production capacity, the energy cost per item produced is also lower, making it more environmentally friendly;
  • Our new greenhouse system (a mat through which the garment passes and the ink is cured) means we no longer use any paper or plastic, putting an end to any kind of waste.
Direct to Garment
Using direct printing on t-shirts

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Of course, there's little point in having an ecological production method if you then wear non-ecological clothes. We always recommend using organic t-shirts, especially from B&C and Kariban, as they combine the advantages of organic with a great selection and low cost.

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From the list above, which method is your favourite and which do you think is the most environmentally friendly?

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