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ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT - How Better Thinking intend to create the Perfect T-Shirt, with the Smallest Ecological Footprint.

Some of you may already have heard about Better Thinking's Perfect T-Shirt Project. It's our attempt to take a universal symbol of consumer society, something that pretty much every person in every country in the world can relate to, and then find the most socially positive and environmentally responsible way to produce it. To be completely honest, we don't normally make t-shirts, or any other type of clothing for that matter. We're an ethical branding consultancy formed in June 2005 and based in Spitalfields, East London. We believe that the number of people who care about how the things they buy are made, is growing fast enough for companies to finally sit up and take notice. We want not only to help companies embrace this shift, by changing the way they do things, but also to create and champion new ways of doing things ourselves. Basically, we didn't want to sit on the sidelines, advising other people on how to change, without being prepared to roll up our sleeves and deal with all the practical challenges ourselves as well. Hence the Perfect T-Shirt Project was born.

Frankly, if we had known from the outset how many challenges would be involved, and how little support would be available, we might have never have started. And we've got it easy, because unlike a 'proper' clothing company, no-one's expecting anything from us. Having lived through the experiences of the last six months, we can really understand how difficult it is for businesses with customer expectations, lead times, supply chains and tight margins to make any headway in becoming more sustainable. For the most part, the level and quality of support available from Government departments and NGO's is laughable.

We're glad that we did start the project though and it feels as if we've now got enough momentum and learning to see us through to the end in good shape. We're hoping to have at least some Perfect T-Shirts available by December 2006, but we're not prepared to compromise on quality, impacts or ethics to achieve this - so it's probably to early to put it on your Christmas list just yet.

Four Potentially Perfect T-Shirts

We always knew that the Perfect T-Shirt would involve not one, but several different possible approaches to minimising the footprint of the world's most universal garment. Thanks to all the vibrant debate on our forum, we've been able to map out four very different types of Perfect T-Shirt, all with various pros and cons.

The Socially Responsible T-Shirt
Made with West African, organic, rain-fed cotton. Then woven and stitched locally, with a percentage of profits going to local education projects.

The Recycled T-Shirt
Made of old t-shirts, which have been unravelled and respun into new fabric. Can be brightly coloured without the need for additional dyes.

The Disposable T-Shirt
Wear it once, then compost it! This t-shirt avoids the environmental impact caused by washing, which is responsible for 85% of a t-shirt's typical footprint.

The Local T-Shirt
Made from organic linen and yarn made from ethically-harvested wood pulp. All sourcing and production takes place within 20km of a solar-powered factory in Western Europe.

Take a look at each one's pros and cons, then CAST YOUR VOTE and join in the discussion to show why your favourite is the best and how to make each one even better. The full poll results will be online on Tuesday 18 April 2006 check back to see which design is winning!

Click Here To VOTE! >>

Thank you for joining us on our quest to champion the Perfect T-Shirt, we will keep you posted with another update in Pecha Kucha next month.

All the best, Mark, Mike, Cate and Richard (the Better Thinking Team)

So Who Are Better Thinking?
They're a unique team of thinkers and doers, creating dramatic and impactful ways for businesses to become more inspirational, ethical and successful. They formed in June 2005, bringing a wealth of experience in global brand identity and communication projects for clients which include:Nokia, American Express, IBM, Apple, Reuters, Schroders, RAC, Land Registry, Egg. They like to put theirselves in thei clients' shoes. Their self-initiated projects give them hands-on experience and insight into the challenges their clients face, such as their current project to create the perfect t-shirt, aiming to provide the clothing industry with a blueprint in ethical and viable production.

From products to brands to behaviour
We believe that the most powerful means of differentiation in the next 20 years will be organisational purpose and behaviour. In fact, we believe that companies who ignore it will increasingly be left behind in terms of revenue, profit and customer loyalty.

We're all searching for meaning
There is a new economic model emerging, of progressive companies that care as much about making a positive contribution as they do about making money. Because increasingly people would rather buy products from a company with real purpose than a bland commercial brand with an 'attitude' dreamt up by an external agency. These days there is so much information competing for our attention that we feel bombarded on a daily basis. Amidst all of this, a little positivity and genuine meaning is a rare jewel.

Difference pays dividends
Smart companies are already starting to listen and anticipate. American Apparel has publicly committed to 'sweatshop free clothes'. And it's not just a slogan to sell the product, it's pivotal to the business model of the company. Customers believe in it, they buy, go back and enthuse about it to everyone they know.
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