Despite impressive growth and initiatives to give back and support the environment, the manufacturing of this t-shirt is very unethical and unsustainable and is undoubtedly adding to the detriment of the environment.
The garment is made of 100% heavyweight dyed cotton. After undertaking substantial research, the origins of this cotton remain unclear. However, one does not need to be known to appreciate the devastating impacts of cotton on the environment. Cotton uses 6% of the world’s pesticides and 16% of all insecticides, which is incredibly toxic to thousands of litres of drinking water which has been linked to an increase in miscarriages. This disproportionately affects those on low incomes who are unable to move from villages that have a less healthy environment. 90% of cotton farmers are in low income countries. Additionally, it takes 2700 litres of water to make a single cotton t-shirt. This extracts much of the natural water supplies among cotton growing areas; for example, the Aral Sea shrunk by 85% as a result of extreme water sequestration from cotton production. This has devastating impacts on the local communities within Kazakhstan, such as entire fishing villages no longer able to sustain themselves due to fish stocks plummeting. National Geographic x Parks Project should make the foundations of their products more compatible with their aims of environmental protection by using organic cotton, which is a fantastic sustainable alternative involving the maintenance of soil fertility and excluding the use of toxic pesticides. This also reduces the risk of allergies and is a much more ethical practice because farmers aren’t forced to deal with hazardous chemicals and are more likely to be paid a fair wage.
In 2020, Parks Project set out for ‘more efficiency, more sustainability and compostable packaging’. However, there is little information available to demonstrate these efforts made in terms of the manufacturing process of the T-shirt. In terms of how the T-shirt goes on to contribute to wider society, every purchase from the National Geographic x Parks Project collection helps support the global non-profit National Geographic Society in its work to protect and illuminate our world through exploration, research, and education. According to Nat Geo’s website, this exists in ocean projection as well as other initiatives, although it is inconclusive as to what material impact this has on the environment. It is also worth mentioning that transportation of this product will add to greenhouse gas emissions, and this is not addressed by the business.
Parks Project believe that the preservation of the USA’s national parks can be ensured by investing in advocacy and education, habitat and wildlife restoration, visitor and trail programs, and youth and next-generation initiatives. By building partnerships with organisations across the country, they’re able to fund the projects most important for the future of America’s public lands. Parks Project currently has 42 ongoing projects in conjunction with a number of prevalent NGOs such as National Park Foundation and National Park Conservation Association. Whilst these initiatives protect the environment at the forefront, they also aim to work towards social justice goals, one such being to enhance an awareness of diverse cultures at the Grand Canyon through the Grand Canyon Conservancy’s Desert View Project which provides the opportunity for 11 tribes to share their art. In 2020 they gave over $1,000,000 to national parks; much of this was committed to making the parks more equitable for all by donating to some POC organisations such as Outdoor Afro. This is an astounding environmental and social achievement for a business which only began fundraising in 2014; however, in order to be more holistically ethical, Parks Project need to take into account the environmental and social impact of the products that they sell, given the costs of using cotton in their products.