Tees are the foundation for most apparel brands. They’re a dime a dozen and a money-spinner for every business, even if it’s not the ‘hero’ category. But what about sustainable tees? Where do they sit?

A lot of brands are green-washing, some are out there with an initial, basic approach, while other brands are running a full package of sustainable tees across their entire company. Here, we’ve tried to highlight the brands that have either brought something new to the table (Stance with Butter Blend or Vollebak with Algae), or brands who are leading the way (Patagonia & Finisterre) with sustainability in mind.

While most tees are made from cotton, not all cotton is equal. The regular stuff is pretty shite for the environment. Compared to conventional cotton, organic cotton per 1,000 KG of fiber used in apparel results in:

  1. 46% less CO2 equivalent emissions (which are significant contributors to global warming)
  2. 70% less SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide) equivalent emissions; a driver of soil acidification and, thus acid rain
  3. 26% less PO43 (Phosphate) equivalent; a measure of eutrophication potential (the potential for the creation of aquatic dead-zones)
  4. 62% less primary energy demand (PED), measured in MJ, from non-renewable sources like petroleum and natural gas that depend on fossil resources
  5. The consumption of up to 91% less non-rain water (blue water) while typically requiring less irrigation

And so, our search for a run of sustainable tees from brands we’d like to buy from started. I’ve most likely missed some, and maybe included some you don’t agree with – which is the ideal situation as I’d love this to spark more discussion. Email us here if you want to add something to the article, in the meantime I hope you get to the end and have a new outlook when going to buy your next batch of sustainable tees.


This lightweight organic cotton (sourced from member farms of the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative) T-shirt from Patagonia uses no GMO seeds or toxic pesticides, benefits soil quality and biodiversity, and saves 27 gallons of water compared to a conventional cotton T-shirt. And is also Fair Trade Certified™ sewn – meaning: Patagonia pay a premium for every Fair Trade Certified™ item that carries their label. That extra money goes directly to the workers at the factory, and they decide how to spend it. But that’s not all. The program also promotes worker health and safety and social and environmental compliance, and encourages dialog between workers and management.

There’s a bunch of styles in the organic cotton/fair trade tee’s, but I dig this one the best. It’s an easy wear, and is a collaboration of sorts with the art being done by Geoff McFetridge and screen-printed with inks that are PVC- and phthalate-free. Available now on the Patagonia site for $60 AUD.


This is a favourite – both product and brand. I sploosh over Outlier all day, every day and when I have enough cash in the bank, I’ll be head to toe in the stuff. But for now, this simple straight cut t-shirt cut in a softly stunning 15.5 micron single origin merino is feeling good on my chubby little body right now.

From a sustainable point of view, making the best possible product requires using the best raw materials, and ultimately that means being able to trace those materials back to their source. Gostwyck Single Origin Merino is a softly stunning 15.5 micron merino that comes exclusively from Gostwyck in New South Wales, Australia. Gostwyck has been home to some of the world’s most premium sheep herds in the world for over two centuries, but it’s in the last two decades that they’ve doubled down to create some truly stunning product.

The best merino requires healthy and well cared for sheep, and that in turn requires a deep commitment to the environment of the land they graze on. Not only does this make for some of the most beautiful merino you’ll ever have the pleasure to wear, it also represents Outlier’s goal for all the materials they use: a deeply traceable commitment to making the world a healthier place throughout the whole the supply chain. From the soil and water, to the air we breathe, and the conditions that we work in, it is only by assuring quality in all dimensions that we can build a truly healthy economic ecosystem.

You can read all about Gostwyck on their website, but in the end the best way to experience it is to wear it. At $150 USD that might be a little hard for most of us, which I understand, but we’re here to tell you about brands and tees that are – in our opinion – getting made in a sustainable fashion, not give you a guide on fast fashion $8 tees. Pick up the Gostwyck Single Origin Cut One tee from Outlier direct here.


The Vollebak Plant and Algae T Shirt doesn’t start life like any other piece of clothing. It’s built from pulped eucalyptus and beech from sustainably managed forests and algae grown in bioreactors. You can think of algae as a space age material that just happens to be 1.5 billion years old.

As the original source of all plant life on the planet it consumes carbon dioxide, produces up to 80% of the oxygen on Earth, and even holds the key to our survival on other planets. As the Plant and Algae T Shirt is made from nature it doesn’t end its life like any other piece of clothing either. When you’ve finished with the t shirt it biodegrades in the earth in 12 weeks and turns into worm food – you can either bury it in your garden or put it out with the compost.

Also a high cost tee, coming in at $110 USD but when you’re buying for the environment prices are premium. I’d love to see a surf brand line up with these guys and make some headway into decreasing the price and making it more widely available.


California-based sock and underwear brand, Stance, uses a propriety Butter Blend yarn made from casein, a protein byproduct of milk and cheese. The result is super-soft material that is thermoregulating, elastic, and so comfortable you can’t tell you’re wearing them. But the best thing? It’s a sustainably sourced fibre innovation that the delivers the softness…

The casein comes from a waste stream, not a food supply, and is therefore eco-friendly. Stance then mixed the casein with Modal, a partially synthetic cellulose fibre, to create the final formulation for Butter Blend.

In 2015, Stance ran their Butter Blend through the Kawabata evaluation method to test for surface friction and roughness of the fabric and Butter Blend came out on top with the softest hand feel out of any organic or semi-organic fabric.

So you’re getting comfort and sustainability feel good vibes when you grab anything Butter Blend from Stance. If you went the whole hog, a guy can get underwear (these ones), socks (these ones) and of course tees which we’re talking about it – get the Iverson one. Ladies can also get in on the Butter Blend vibes too.


Volcom, in partnership with the social enterprise COTTONCONNECT, has launched Farm to Yarn– a socially conscious raw materials initiative in India that features certified organic cotton that’s traceable back to the farm and that provides social and professional education programs for the farmers and the women in the farming villages of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, where the cotton was sourced.

In addition to the social impact benefits, the program features integrity components as well, such as:

  • GMO testing to ensure seeds are GMO-free
  • Tracking of tested seed to farmer, ensuring tested seeds are planted
  • Linking of farmers to the ginner, ginner to the spinner, spinner to the fabric mill for supply chain transparency

There’s a WHOLE BUNCH MORE INFO to read up about Volcom’s direction with all this, which I encourage you to read and get behind where you can (with your dollars if you can). The sustainable tees they’re making with this ‘Farm to Yarn’ campaign are priced affordably coming in at around $30 USD. For me, the one shown is the lead tee I’d be chasing, love the stone logo in the oval (no idea what they call it internally). Simple, easy to wear and easy on the planet. Get one now.


Finisterre is a brand that’s been around for a while, but only on the edges of my radar for a few years. I need to change that as the deeper I dig, the more I like what I see – from clothes, to wetsuits, to brand messaging and to their environmental/planet approach (B Corp Certified!).

These guys take sustainability seriously, their material selection focusses on choosing the right fabrics to create the best possible product, which is lasting, fit for purpose and has the least environmental impact. Central to this mission is circular sourcing, which includes renewable and recyclable textiles and biodegradable natural fibres and finishes.

Their sustainable tees are premium 155g/m² midweight cotton jersey made from GOTS accredited 100% organic Turkish Aegean cotton. GOTS means that it has been approved by the Global Organic Textile Standard, an organisation which aims to ensure the validity of organic materials – from the harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling.

Hard to go past the blank sustainable tees that Finisterre are offering up, which at $60 is priced nicely for what you’re getting. But if you need some graphics on your chest there’s plenty to choose from as well. While you’re over there, peek their wetsuits and read up about their factories, fabrics and all the other amazing things this brand is doing.