Controversy about the Extra

In 2011, the work of World Vision caused a stir in the international aid community. The group announced they would be sending 100,000 Super Bowl champion t-shirts (emblazoned with the insignia of the Steelers, the losing team) abroad, and bloggers and prominent figures in the aid world called the group out for the high transport and administrative cost per t-shirt. They also questioned whether or not World Vision was rigorous enough when deciding where to send shirts, and if the group could present any evidence that sending shirts abroad met their goal of “sustainable development.”

The same year, a study conducted by Aid Watch concluded that, because of the costs required to ship donations from the United States abroad, there was no development-related reason to continue the outdated practice. Other critics have asserted that the problem isn’t so much with the distribution, but with the impulse to produce so much inevitable waste in the first place. After all, the average American throws away 82 pounds of textile waste every year, and only 15% of that textile material is recycled.

What’s the National Football League To Do?

The NFL’s decision to work with Good360 was a first step. Good360 doesn’t allow goods to go to waste, and their partnering organizations are required to “follow the life of a product,” says Emily Coccia, the director of corporate donations for Good360. “We only distribute products where communities indicate they need it,” she continued, and “we have partners that work on the ground in 95 different countries.”

The end of doubling up on Super Bowl t-shirt printing may not be in sight, but the process of redistributing extraneous items continues to improve. In time, hopefully we’ll all be champions of keeping tabs on the losing team’s apparel.

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