Why are we using print-on-demand?

Every product you order here is an individual item, printed on demand and manufactured by hand for you. That’s what distinguishes us from other for-profit e-commerce retailers.

We only print an item once it’s been ordered, which minimizes overproduction and excess waste. Your orders are printed using our Kornit Atlas printers. These printers use absolutely water-free printing technology and 100% non-toxic biodegradable inks. This makes print-on-demand the most eco-friendly option in the industry.

Kornit Atlas is the latest and most advanced DTG printer available on the market. It can print really high-detail, high-quality designs. The hype around the Atlas is enormous. The company promises to democratize the garment-printing industry, taking power away from big printing shops and putting it in the hands of individuals.

Print-on-demand: against the commercial approach

Our activist cooperative is not a supermarket devoted to the over-consumption of t-shirts. Although we offer many different designs, we do not hold any inventory and we don’t have a storefront. We could view it as offering a service rather than selling a product – you choose your design and apparel, then we print it for you. You create your own product.

By printing on-demand only after an order is placed, we can offer virtually unlimited designs options because we don’t hold thousands of products in inventory. This production model makes it possible to offer a wide variety of designs covering a larger range of topics that represent all activist struggles and social causes, even the lesser-known ones. That’s how we manage to have such a large products range, colors options, and sizes, without risking over-production or waste.

Unlike us, traditional clothing shops usually use classic screen printing as a printing method. This method requires large investments to print batches of thousands of t-shirts, which would greatly limit the number of designs available for sale and color options. Batch screen-printing, with its minimum quantity constraints, usually puts shops in a position where they’re forced to focus only on the best-selling designs to lower the investment’s risk – and that’s exactly the mainstream capitalist logic that we want to avoid reproducing. We prefer variety and inclusivity rather than following popularity dictated by market trends.

Zero waste: The sustainability benefits of Print-on-Demand

Every purchase, big or small, has a footprint. With each purchase, you have a choice. You choose the size of the mark to leave on the planet, and we want to help you choose wisely.

By choosing print-on-demand, you choose apparel that’s created only as the order is placed, creating less fabric waste than conventional manufacturing. Producing products on-demand eliminates the need to buy and hold on to a pre-printed stock that you may or may not end up using. Zero inventory, zero waste.

Traditional printing is very polluting

Digital printing uses 95% less water and 50-60% less energy than traditional printing. The number one environmental risk factor in textiles is water pollution. The amount of water our industry currently pollutes is staggering. The movement towards digital technologies is a good first step. The move to waterless inks is even better!

  • 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment. Traditional textile processing pollutes the earth’s precious water sources, much of which is harnessed from vital freshwater tables causing social and environmental harm.
  • 87% of the total fiber input used for clothing is wasted, ending up incinerated or disposed of in a landfill. 20% of garments reach a landfill without being worn even once.
  • The fashion industry is responsible for 10 % of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 % by 2030.
  • Every year the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water — enough to meet the consumption needs of 5 million people or fill the mediterranean sea completely every 2 years.
  • If the trend continues, global consumption of apparel will rise from 62 million metric tons in 2019 to 102 million tons in 10 years.
  • Every year half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
  • Less than 1 % of used clothing is recycled into new garments.

Sources: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, World Bank, and Kornit [1] [2]

Solution: Organic Waterless Inks

Preserving the world’s resources is a responsibility that we take very seriously. Water is the very essence of life, a precious resource that must be conserved. That’s why we use technologies producing zero water waste and providing a sustainable printing process.

Digital textile printing conserves water using inkjet technology. Ink is jetted directly onto the surface of the fabric. The benefits offer a sustainable footprint with zero water waste – a seamless process saving precious resources. This technology provides an in-line print process for efficient, sustainable on-demand textile production.

Source: Kornit

Reducing energy and carbon footprint

Digital printing uses a fraction of the energy of the traditional textile print process. The earth is saturated with toxic carbon, 10% of which can be attributed to fashion industry production alone. Sustainable manufacturing processes deliver a reduced carbon footprint – in some cases, zero.

But the carbon footprint of our clothing can also be reduced in other ways, too. The way we shop has a big impact. Some research has suggested that online shopping can have a lower carbon footprint than traveling to traditional shops to buy products, particularly if consumers live far away.

Choosing print-on-demand is also a question of budget and logistic

As a small cooperative that started with a very small budget, the economic factor was the main reason that guided our choice, since on-demand printing requires no major investment and minimizes the costs associated with our operations. More importantly, it guarantees our autonomy so that we don’t have to take huge loans from the banks and pay interests with our customer’s money.

The primary purpose why this shop was started was to raise funds for donations to activist causes. If we had chosen to multiply investments and take loans, we would spend more time repaying our debts rather than raising money to make donations – which would mean turning the shop into a capitalist business just like any other.

Holding no inventory makes it possible to constantly change our catalog by adding new designs and removing those that never get sold after a while. On the other hand, screen-printing would force us to keep only the best selling t-shirts since we would have to invest large sums of money to print them in large batches.

The disadvantage of higher production cost

For us, this choice also has some disadvantages, mainly its higher than average production cost. Since each shirt is individually printed, we pay a production cost on a per-unit basis, unlike screen-printing which provides discounted wholesale price. In other words, this means that our production cost is always the same whether we produce 1 or 100 t-shirts. Smaller margins make it very challenging for us to offer competitive wholesale pricing and quantity discounts. In the long term, we plan to self-sustaining our production means by buying and operating our own digital printing machines to reduce costs.

Learn more about the printing process and environmental standards


Posted on: October 1, 2014 Last update: February 22, 2018