Like jeans, T-shirts are a staple of almost everyone’s wardrobe – men, women and children. Unfortunately, most T-shirts are made in the cheapest way possible and are quite bad for the environment and your health. The average T-shirt is made from pesticide-sprayed cotton, in a sweatshop in a third world country, dyed with chemical dyes and printed with harmful PVC plastics – all before it makes it onto your back. Happily, a small company in North Carolina called T.S. Designs is looking to change all of this with their ambitiously environmental mission to produce and screenprint high quality apparel in a local, organic and environmentally sustainable way.

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Think of your favorite old printed T-shirt.. Has the ink gotten cracky after repeated washings? Ever been able to peel bits of the printed plastic paint off with your fingers? The reason for all of this is plastisol. Most traditional cheap T-shirts are printed with this PVC-based – a chemical that is not only bad for the environment, but also bad for your health.

The U. S. screenprinting industry uses an estimated 1.5 million gallons of plastisol ink every year, and between 30% to 50% of that ink contains PVCs & phthalates. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) — often referred to as “‘vinyl” — is one of the most versatile of the plastic materials and yet most hazardous for the environment – releasing dioxins, one of the most toxic chemicals and potent carcinogens known to science. Phthalates are no better – Greenpeace claims that phthalates are suspected cancer-causing agents, could damage the liver and kidneys, might damage the development of reproductive organs, and might interfere with development by acting as a mimic of the sex hormone estrogen. Not something you necessarily want wrapped around you or your childrens’ bodies.

The solution to all this is a new water based dying process called REHANCE. Working with Burlington Chemical, T.S. Designs has pioneered a new screenprinting technology that utilizes water-based chemistry instead of plastic inks. REHANCEis much safer for the environment and human health as it has no PVC (polyvinyl chloride), phthalates, and leaves no environmentally hazardous residues. It also last longer, looks better and allows printed shirts to ‘breathe” in the way that Plastisol coated shirts cannot.

TSDesigns exemplifies a commitment to doing things better in almost every facet of the company. They produce their own organic cotton T-shirts in North Carolina – promoting local manufacturing, social responsibility and local economies as well organic textiles.

And if this weren’t enough, these guys have a solar powered factory, a co-op garden at the factory, and a biodiesel project as well. A shining example of integrity and idealism – we’d like to see all companies striving to be as positive and future-forward as this one. We’d also like to encourage anyone thinking about printing T-shirts to make a beeline over to the T.S. Designs website, and learn about why REHANCE is the only way to go for high quality T-shirts.

+ TS Designs


Treehugger recently did a great interview with TSDesigns founder Eric Henry – check it out here >

ADDENDUM – I just got a bunch of samples in the mail from T.S. Designs, and I’ve posted some photos of them below. To the people who think REHANCE doesn’t look good, I can assure you it looks much better than plastisol screen-printing. The colors are just as strong and crisp, only the shirts are breatheable and there is no weird plasticy feeling. I honestly think REHANCE is the future of apparel printing. And I’m not just saying this because T.S. Designs is sponsoring our T-Shirt contest. In fact, its the opposite – I went out of my way to track these guys down and make sure they would work with us for the T-Shirt contest because the work is so far superior to any other screenprinting.