Five Ways to Reduce Corporate Apparel Waste


The textile industry (including corporate apparel) discards a staggering 11 million tons every single year (source: The True Cost). Many of these textiles include plastics, like polyester, acrylic and nylon and other synthetic materials. These materials are great for the iron-shy among us, but they take around 200 years to break down (The True Cost), similar to that single use water bottle. Below, we share a few ideas on one of the most fallow grounds for change in our eyes: the fast fashion of the corporate doodad. That pullover/mug/thermos/baseball hat (etc.) with the corporate name emblazoned on it in the name of team building. While we understand the intent behind these items, we can’t help but brainstorm some alternative ideas to reduce corporate apparel waste that are more a) more useful, b) more beautiful, or c) more biodegradable (yes we’re updating William Morris in 2017; so be it!). 

Does it Spark Joy?

Maybe you’re one of the millions of Americans who bolstered Mari Kondo’s monster hit “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and you’re doing a major Spring cleaning purge. “Does this spark joy?” you wonder, holding up a backpack with the name of your workplace embroidered on it in a florescent white thread that contrasts garishly with the fabric? How about that old mug clanging around the cabinet with the horrible graphic design from corporation’s past? No? Color us not surprised.

Destined For the Landfill

These items are often visually unappealing, with a logo slapped onto an innocent object in the most slapdash manner. Because of the logo, which is seen as essential when creating corporate apparel (arguably so), the item has limited longevity outside of the employee’s tenure at that job. Sometimes, dare we say it, its life cycle only spans the length of a single corporate convention or retreat. Thrift and vintage stores often stock these sad t-shirts and sport hats by the dozen, where they may enjoy a second life as gym apparel. But unlike garments that can blend in with a new outfit in a new life, these items can never blend into the average person’s wardrobe.

Appealing Alternatives

In order to suggest some viable alternatives, let’s think about why a company creates these customized items:

  • To create a sense of connection and ownership between team members and the company
  • To commemorate a special event, convention or accomplishment
  • To foster a sense of belonging
  • To help the employee(s) feels appreciated with a free item they can use
  • To create brand awareness among employees and the public

Here are our suggestions on items that do exactly that, while curbing needless waste:

  1. A PLANT: Yes, we’re going off about plants again! A gorgeous plant for your employees is always a welcome gift, and, if cared for well, will last far longer than some silly old hat. Plus they can put it in their office and look at it every single day, whereas that travel mug may sit collecting dust in their closet. Perhaps the pot could be laser printed with the company logo (kudos if it’s in biodegradable ink!).
  2. A PICTURE SAYS 1,000 WORDS: Hire a professional photographer and make them a beautiful digital photo album, or print out photos that feature particular employees. You can hang them around the office, or hand them out! Photos, especially really nice prints, capture great memories and take up minimal space.
  3. COFFEE BEANS AND A LOCALLY MADE MUG: A lot of people drink coffee and wouldn’t say no to some fancy beans. Accompany it with a personal note and a mug from a local artisan. Hey your business is local, so it can’t hurt to support local businesses for your annual item-gifting. You never know what kind of cool partnership you might create! Supporting a local artist isn’t just fanfare, it generally means the mug is unique (shows appreciation and care), quality made, memorable, and most of all, beautiful, aka something your employees might actually use! If it’s a real conversation starter, maybe guests in your employee’s home will ask about it, and instead of saying “I felt guilty getting rid of it” they might talk about how thoughtful you are, which in our opinion is a much better legacy for a gift. Check out this gorgeous mug by ceramics artist Gopi Shah, a great alternative to a generic logo’d mug.
  4. A TOOL KIT: Bear with us, we know this sound strange. But as a pantry/garage staple, a toolkit is something that a) no one cares if every single item has a large logo on it and b) most people could use!
  5. A GLASS WATER BOTTLE: If you must print your logo onto a drink vessel, at least make it glass so it can be recycled.