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For Christopher Loch, making eco-friendly t-shirts began as an art project. He had been involved in activist work for years and wanted to make important messages catchy and easy to share.
“I was politically active in college when I was going to political science school,” says Christopher. “I saw this huge world of activism that needed to be done. I felt like I could be involved directly instead of sitting on the sidelines feeling scared.”
After the events of 9/11, Christopher started making t-shirts to call out problems with the war in Iraq. One read ‘will kill for oil’ that was of President George W. Bush holding a cardboard sign next to a gas station.
“I did stuff like that,” says Christopher. “It was all intended to raise awareness and get people to realize what was happening wasn’t good and then hopefully get involved with activism, progressively. So that’s how I started my company. It was all just an art project.”
At first, Christopher had his shirts made at a printer, but after a few batches, he realized that it would be cheaper for him to make them himself. Along the way, he realized how the printing industry contributes to pollution.
“I had learned from you guys, actually, when you were Co-op America, that there were all types of problems within the printing industry,” he says. He bought screen printers and began printing t-shirts with water-based inks.
Nearly 20 years after the first batch of t-shirts, Christopher is still in business in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and has sold t-shirts across the country. The name, Contempl8, came from his desire to make shirts that inspired critical thinking, but with a catchy twist.
Nowadays, Contempl8 T-shirts specializes in eco-friendly, custom order t-shirts. While Christopher no longer prints political t-shirts (unless custom ordered), he is still dedicated to social change and strives to balance the business’s environmental approach with social responsibility.
“As far as sourcing, I try to steer everyone to organic cotton and bamboo and hemp products,” he says, adding that recycled polyester clothing shed microplastics that pollute the ocean. Contempl8 T-shirts also aims to use as many materials that are made in the USA and/or by workers who are treated fairly via Fairtrade certification, are sweatshop-free, or are union made. The business also runs 100 percent on wind power and Christopher keeps the environmentally-conscious mentality in all other aspects of his operations.
“Even on my screens I will save the tape I use and reapply that tape to another screen,” he says. “Some people would say ‘aw, that’s peanuts, it doesn’t amount to anything.’ But it does, over the course of time, and if everybody does stuff like that it can really go a long way.”
Contempl8 T-shirts is a truly small business as Christopher is the only one running the operation. And he believes it is well worth the time, effort, and dedication.
“It’s been a great rewarding journey figuring that stuff out, even if I’ve never gotten close to rich doing it,” he says. “It’s still something I can look back on and feel proud of that I was figuring this stuff out and doing it the right way.”
Contempl8 T-shirts is a Green Business Network at Green America certified business member. Support this small business by ordering your next round of eco-friendly, custom t-shirts from Contempl8 T-shirts.