My sister in law refuses to buy birthday cards. She’d rather give someone an envelope with $3. I always thought that was funny, and I’ve sent her a piece of scrap paper that said Happy Birthday and folded it around $3. Her big beef is that cards are a waste of money. She’s right, and zillions of cards are also a pre-forgiven and forgotten no-big-deal contributor to waste and environmental impact. My big beef is the gazillion t-shirts that are given out every day, and NO ONE wears them. Let’s start with the “I’m at a Camp” t-shirt. My kid is already at your camp whether I paid $100 a week for babysitting or $2500 for lacrosse lessons in VA. When we leave, guess who will never wear it again? Guess where that t-shirt goes? Guess how many camps are raising their hands right now across the globe with how many campers plus last year and the year before.
Next up, we have the “I Played a Sport” recreation shirt that kids wear during a few rec games, instead of colorful pennies to be shared repeatedly. Adults also have the "free" road race, triatholon or marathon t-shirts. I am proud to have raised $2500 for BigBrothers BigSisters when I ran the NYC marathon in 2008, but I wish it was $4 less to produce one less t-shirt I will never wear. I loved my band, my band of runners, but I'm not ever going to wear it to my own concert. Or the one next year. If half of the marathon runners in 2019 didn't receive a t-shirt, that would save 530 lbs of waste. Keep multiplying....
My boys have drawers overloaded with t-shirts they will never wear. You can not consign cheap unwanted promotional t-shirts, and it’s rude to donate a camp-holiday shirt to another kid who can’t afford to go to camp. Sure, you can find ways to recycle these t-shirts. H&M has a great program, but I would bet all of my road-race t-shirts that they will still be in your attic when you die.
We throw away or recycle 5 bazillion gallons of clothes a year. I certainly created that number, but fast fashion includes promotional t-shirts. The camp and/or team t-shirts that are sitting in attics, basements and landfills across the USA has an environmental impact worse than the cows passing gas across the globe.
People need to start considering promotional t-shirts, clothes or anything that they do not want, need or plan to use the same way as many of us are starting to view a small plastic water bottle. Businesses need promotional materials, but nobody wears the rec league basketball shirt as soon as the game is over. They need to find a more responsible and sustainable way to promote. Let's brainstorm!