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Your T-shirt's Global Journey

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by

Matthew Green

on 19 March 2015

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Transcript of Your T-shirt's Global Journey

Your T-shirt’s journey begins in a cotton field in Texas. Fueled by generous government subsidies, the U.S. is the world's third largest cotton producer (behind China and India), and the largest
(Lubbock,Texas to Shandong, China: about 7,000 miles)
(Bangladesh to San Francisco: about 7,700 miles)
(Shandong to Dhaka, Bangladesh: about 1,800 miles)
Your T-shirt's Global Journey
Total miles travelled:
Step 1: Texas Cotton
The bales of cotton are shipped to a textile mill, most likely in China or India. Here, the fiber undergoes a spinning process, where it’s twisted into yarn and woven or knit by huge machines into sheets. It's then heat-treated, washed, bleached and dyed, a process often involving the use of toxic chemicals that sometimes drain drain into local waterways.
Step 2: Milling in China
The finished T-shirt is shipped to a regional distribution center and, from there, delivered to a nearby clothing store, where it's neatly stacked and sold for what might seem like an unbelievably low price (given the massive journey).
exporter. In Texas, the largest producing state, cotton is harvested and sent to a gin, where the fluff is separated from the seeds and pressed into bales. Growing one pound of conventional cotton – enough for a single T-shirt - generally requires at least 700 gallons of water and -- for conventional crops -- a generous amount of pesticides.
(www.network23.org)
Step 4: Ready for Retail
A river contaminated with dye from discharge of untreated wastewater. (Zhang Xiaoli/ChinaFotoPress)
Total estimated miles traveled from cotton farm to clothing store rack:
16,500
The finished cloth is sent to a garment factory near Dhaka, where workers, some paid as little as $40/month, cut and sew the fabric into T-shirts (printing may happen elsewhere). Bangladesh's ready-made garment industry has grown exponentially in the last 20 years. The nation is now the second-leading exporter in the world (behind China). But lax safety regulations and oversight have led to frequent industrial accidents. In April 2013 a factory building collapsed, killing more than 1,100 garment workers. The incident sparked international demands for improved working conditions. Many popular clothing brands in the U.S., including the Gap, H&M and Walmart, rely on suppliers from this region.
Step 3: Sewn in Bangladesh
From Field to Rack:
Full transcript