VERDICT: Talking T’s could substantially improve with different partnerships and improved shipping practices
Talking T’s is a UK company that does custom prints on apparel and are certified to sell Cambridge-branded merchandise. Being one of the biggest users of this service, Cambridge has its own page on the Talking T’s website. This company is primarily unsustainable because of its partnering companies that provide garments for Talking T’s to customize.
It appears that the only sustainability efforts that the company has implemented are the “sustainable and organic” section in the website’s product catalog; I would encourage them to work with more sustainable and local companies and progrms to get products customized. One option is to introduce a program where customers can bring in their own clothing to be customized!
A more sustainable alternative to a custom printing company such as Talking T’s is a custom embroidering company.
The website links to numerous types of products, specifically providing options for t-shirts, sweatshirts, sportswear, polo shirts, and an “organic & sustainable”. In these categories, garments are sourced from companies including Gildan, Bella + Canvas, Fruit of the Loom, Sol’s, ProRTX, Russell (also a part of Fruit of the Loom inc.), and many more. Many of these companies have already been reviewed by Voiz, and have a lot of improving to do, whether it is in the materials they use, social implications, or their production and manufacturing processes. Partnerships with these companies keeps Talking T’s from receiving a better review.
Additionally, the product material makeup by such partnership companies previously listed need improving. Most of the products listed contain first generation synthetic materials, which are sourced from fossil fuels; inorganic cotton, which consumes more water and pesticides in production than organic cotton; or blends of both, which makes recycling the garments after use very difficult.
In the “sustainable and organic” section of the catalog, there is a variety of products made from recycled cotton or recycled polyester. While these options are significantly better than the others listed in all other sections of the catalog, having one section of sustainable options is not enough.
As for the actual ink that goes onto the clothing (the primary service of this company), the materials can vary significantly. While I was unable to find the materials used in Talking T’s ink, I was able to learn about the ink-making process externally. Requiring many machines and chemicals to produce it, ink is an energy and toxin-heavy commodity.
When ordering one of their products, the customer goes online to their main site, picks an article of clothing to customize, submits a design, and waits for their product to be made and delivered. Since the company outsources all of its garments from other big companies (listed in the product catalog), there is high energy usage from the transport of these articles of clothing from its initial facility to Talking T’s.
Once Talking T’s receives the article of clothing to be customized, they use the customer’s preference of the following printing options: color cut, print and cut, laser printing, or direct to garment (these are different in the way that the ink from the design sits on the shirt). Once the order is filled, it is then shipped off to the customer.
The primary sources of energy here are through transportation of materials and products and through the use of printing machinery. The amount of energy consumption that the company uses is therefore heavily related to how many garments Talking T’s has on hand in the store to use, and whether or not finished products are being shipped in bulk by order, or to each individual.
It would be much more sustainable to have a custom embroidery company rather than printing, but Talking T’s no longer does embroidery directly; they connect the customer to a separate embroidery company.
Talking T’s started as a family owned and operated business that designed and sold shirts in outdoor craft markets. As the business grew, so did the staff. They currently have one central location where customers can see shirts and designs in person, but they seem to primarily use their online presence to take orders which are then shipped out.
However, there is no statement standing for human rights and against things like modern slavery, sweatshops, or child labor, strategies that some of their partners listed in the catalogue likely utilize.
To improve, I recommend that the company makes a statement releasing more information to increase transparency, to help customers get an idea of how sustainable the company actually is, and to communicate efforts to become more sustainable. This statement could include information about materials– such as what their ink is made of– and some of the company’s attitudes towards human rights issues in the apparel industry.