If I could give this t-shirt a 4 out of 3 planets, I would. However, at a stunning $35 for a t-shirt, this is very inaccessible to communities who don’t have the privilege to invest in sustainable clothing pieces. This is a common problem for sustainable companies, but I don’t blame them. I blame the fashion industry that set the standards so low to produce cheap and harmful items that make sustainable practices a rare and expensive thing. It is pretty expensive, but you get what you pay for when buying from CHNGE in terms of quality, sustainability, and social responsibility. If you have the means in investing in CHNGE items, go for it! Nonetheless, CHNGE is a transformative company willing to do the work many traditional companies dread. They recognize their privilege of being in an elevated position and utilize that in a way to emphasize their mission of being ethical for the environment and humanity. They get into the nitty gritty of products’ life cycles, employee working conditions, and putting their money where their mouth is. They confront issues the traditional fashion industry ignore by being that change to show that this business model is possible and still successful. They want to be more than a fashion brand and contribute to the world in a meaningful aspect, not strip it of its resources, much like what fast fashion does. CHNGE is overall doing a great job of how they produce their items, treat their workers, and utilize their funds. With a company emphasizing the need for their customers to acknowledge how their clothing item is made, who makes it, and how, it is empowering to see. They set the standards high for being an ethical and transparent company, inspiring their consumers to expect this as a normal thing in order to make a huge difference. They strive to serve as a leading business model, which sets the bar high for large companies that have even greater means to follow this structure.
This t-shirt is made out of 100% GOTS certified organic cotton fabric. The GOTS certification is a world leading standard that verifies organic fabrics and ensures environmental and human safety. CHNGE also only uses Oeko-Tex and GOTS certified dyes which are again free of any harmful chemicals to protect the consumer and factory workers. This specific shirt saved 500 gallons of water, prevented 48.5 pounds of CO2 being emitted, and avoided 305 harmful pesticides being used. I really value any numeric data provided by sustainable companies showing what was avoided in producing their item because it puts into perspective what you COULD have contributed exactly if you purchased an ordinary item.
Organic cotton is more sustainable because it’s free of any chemical pesticides or fertilizer which reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, polluted water waste, and protects farmers and wearers. It overall takes less water to grow organic cotton too, which is a plus since one un-organic cotton t-shirt may take around 2,700 liters to produce. In terms of it’s afterlife, organic cotton is biodegradable (this is beneficial since it won’t end up in some landfill pile and can reabsorb into the land without any harmful toxins being seeped in because of its organic quality).
As for packaging, CHNGE uses a 90% recycled paper material, vegetable ink for printing, and 100% recycled poly bags. CHNGE vouches for the importance of making sure they’re keeping customers in check for every step of the process- from the farm all the way down to the landfill. They acknowledge this is still never ideal, but are doing their best while being honest because some unsustainable practices are just inevitable. They are committed to informing their customers in their environmental and social impact to empower this continuous consciousness of what your money really supports when buying from any company. This is reassuring since you know there are actual authentic people driving this company to truly make a change for its employees and consumers.
CHNGE recognizes the major importance of transparency and sticks to their word by including a step by step informative guide that shows how their clothing pieces are made, with photos of their factories. There is nothing to hide when it comes to CHNGE’s working conditions and the production process, which they show that. Traditional cotton has a complex and problematic production process as it reveals the close connection of climate change and social inequalities. Environmental injustice is very much real, especially in less developed countries where many industries exploit marginalized communities to get cheap labor and large profits. India is one example where this occurs too frequently; cotton farmers often use many pesticides and have to meet outrageous demands (which is already harmful in itself), causing an enormous amount of stress that may even cause some to commit suicide. However, CHNGE lets you know in their visual guide that their cotton is grown pesticide and chemical free to protect the health of farmers, the customer, and the environment. Their cotton is then taken to a spinning facility to produce yarn that meets their quality and production standards. Next in the assembly line, dyeing their fabrics: They use only Oeko-Tex and GOTS certified dye to ensure no one ever touches a chemical. These processes adhere to strict European regulations. Can it get even better? It does. The waste water that comes from these processes are recycled by being filtered and used again for irrigation. Their hot wastewater can even be used as heat recovery for energy (In basic terms, this means the heat coming from their waste water can be transferred as energy to function some other part of their production process). Finally, they cut and sew these fabrics in a GOTS certified facility to form your perfect ethically made social justice inspired garment. Again, reinforcing their all around mission of protecting workers’ rights and keeping a far distance from chemicals.
As if it doesn’t get any better, CHNGE has a philanthropic model of donating 50% of their net profits to charity. The organizations are focused on education, equality, or climate change. They promise to always continue donating 50%, no matter what. By doing so, they hope to inspire other companies to take on this business model as well. Specifically for the Mittens Sanders shirt, 100% of the profits from the sale are being directly donated to Feeding America, which is an organization providing meals to families in need. Much like Bernie Sanders’ meme inspired merchandise being donated to Meals on Wheels Vermont, CHNGE does something similar. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people take advantage of capitalism only to help redistribute valuable sources where they’re needed. It almost feels like this t-shirt is a gift since you get a quality shirt made ethically and sustainably so you’re supporting an awesome company, but you’re also able to provide 200 meals to families in need just from one pre-ordered shirt. Despite not being able to find any public information regarding donation proof because they mention they have already donated over $280,000 from other sales, I am sure there has to be a way that they would probably get in some sort of legal trouble if these were false statements (hopefully). However, I do wish to see companies being more transparent when it comes to proving donations they claim to contribute to, like posting receipts, because there really is no way to validate it unless you see it for yourself.
It seriously cannot get any more transparent. CHNGE provides detailed information about their factories’ exact name, address, number of workers, certifications, and more. They have three located in India, China, and Turkey. CHNGE produces their t-shirts, long sleeves, and hoodies in Continental Clothing, a Turkish factory experienced in working with sustainable materials ethically and considered one of the best in the industry. The factory’s certifications are: Global Organic Textile Standard, Oeko-Tex, REACH, Fair Wear Foundation, and BSCI. This all reinforces their commitment to being a socially and environmentally responsible company that ensures to meet strict regulations to protect their workers and our planet. Turks, Kurds, and Syrians work in this factory if you want to know the specifics. They have a workers’ committee made up of peers to address issues that may arise and is then brought to management. Overall, their facilities and certifications guarantee that CHNGE is not using any forced or child labor, paying fair wages, and implementing eco friendly practices, which is beyond superb compared to what the conventional fashion industry is accustomed to.
The Mittens Sanders t-shirt is made to order, which means when you order this product online, you’re actually putting in a pre-order and won’t receive it until after a certain date when CHNGE stops accepting orders. This is intentionally done to reduce waste and prevent leftover pieces from just laying around if they don’t sell out. This is something I don’t see enough companies doing because they’re stuck in that fast fashion mindset where everything has to be instantaneous for the sake of customer service. However, this results in being an incredibly wasteful practice because there ends up being a surplus of leftover clothes that can’t just disappear, especially when trying to keep up with these never ending trends. They end up in landfills, which many privileged people never see and thus don’t understand and care about its tremendous impact. I appreciate this pre-ordering system because it shows CHNGE is really focused on doing their best to minimize waste, even if it may drive customers away from the long wait. Although this may be annoying to some people because it means they don’t get to have their product soon, I appreciate the effort that CHNGE is making as a genuine business trying to make a positive impact.
However, I would like to know if CHNGE really practices what they preach about uplifting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of color) and LGBTQ+ voices by having a more transparent look into their internal team that helps design, marketing, and the rest of the company’s backbone. I could not find public information about their team or an inside look of who is being put into positions of power, which is kind of disappointing. This would be valuable information to see whether they are hiring BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals and not just participating in performative activism. CHNGE is extremely active on Instagram posting social justice content to keep their audience informed so, I would really hope they are hiring BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks to make space for these communities to hold, and not just using these topics lightly to gain social responsibility points. A ‘meet the team’ blog post or page introducing their internal team would have been nice and a way to hold them accountable as a company who centers their identity on focusing on social and environmental justice. You can’t have environmentalism without addressing its intersections with race, gender, and class, which I’m sure CHNGE is aware of, but are they really keeping their word in EVERY aspect of the company?