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One week ago yesterday, I returned from the trip of a lifetime.
I will never look at a blank t-shirt the same again.
The process from start to finish is amazing. The number of hands involved and lives affected is even more amazing.
I am excited to share the highlights of the trip with you today.
Going into the trip I knew Allmade was an environmentally and socially conscious company. What I didn’t realize was everything it takes to turn a discarded plastic water bottle into a t-shirt.
Once a recycled water bottle gets turned into a polyester pellet, that pellet has to be spun into the yarn used to make t-shirt fabric. It was cool to tour the UTEXA spinning facility to see this process first hand.
We also toured CASW where we got to see natural yarn being spun from cotton.
As you might expect, both of these plants were automated with state of the art machines continuously spinning yarn. Even with all this automation, humans still play a huge part in the manufacturing process. Especially in quality control.
It felt like there was an inspector or technician checking consistency or quality at every turn.
I was fascinated by the different kinds of quality control tests companies like ELCATEX use to monitor what is happening on the plant floor. My favorite was this medieval looking snag test.
Making a great t-shirt is a long and difficult process so I was excited to see the effort these companies put into creating a great team culture and taking care of their employees.
Almost every factory we visited had balloons flying above multiple workstations to indicate workers having a birthday. Many played music to keep the floor energized and the pregnant workers at Hanes wear a pink smock to let everyone know they are expecting.
Workers take group stretch break designed to help reduce fatigue and minimize overuse injuries.
Because health care is not very accessible in Honduras, many of the factories provide clinics where employees can be seen during work.
We also got to hear employees tell stories about their kids getting scholarships to private grade schools, earning their high school and even college diplomas through continuing education programs, and starting their own business with the help of company assistance programs.
In addition to caring for their employees, these companies are making huge strides in the industry to reduce negative impacts on the environment. We toured a sugar cane factory where the agricultural waste from the sugar production is being turned into electricity at Honduras Green Energy.
We watched Gildan burn waste to generate steam that is used to provide heat used in the dye process.
We even climbed on top of the factories to get a birds eye view of the rooftop solar panels generating power for the plants.
Everything these companies do for their people and the environment is truly inspiring.
As great as it was visiting the factories and meeting the workers, the most moving experience of the trip was visiting a boys’ orphanage started by Elcatex owner Jesus Canahuati.
We played soccer with the boys. We ate dinner with them. Best of all, we screen printed with them.
Just like you and me, these boys were amazed to see a blank t-shirt turn into their very own customized soccer jersey right in front of their eyes. This is where I really felt the impact of what we all do. I am humbled to have experienced it.
I will never look at a blank t-shirt the same again. They really are changing the world.