On-Air Highlights

Seed to Shirt with Planet Money

Written by Fred Vigeant, Director of Programming and Promotions for TV and Radio | Nov 20, 2013 9:45 AM
planet money

Planet Money, NPR's team of multimedia reporters covering the global economy, is making a t-shirt. This shirt will tell you the story of its own creation as the Planet Money crew documents its journey around the world. Meet the people who grow the cotton, spin the yarn, and cut and sew the fabric. Ride on the cargo ships that bring the t-shirt from factories in Bangladesh and Colombia to ports in the U.S. And learn more about the crazy tangle of international regulations which govern the t-shirt trade along the way.

On-air stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered begin Monday, December 2 on witf FM. You can also follow the coverage on the Planet Money Makes A T-Shirt tumblr, seedtoshirt.tumblr.com.

This project was crowd sourced by a successful Kickstarter campaign as a way to involve listeners in the story from the start. The Planet Money team invited fans to purchase the T-shirts through its podcasts, blog and social media. The shirts will start shipping to listeners on Tuesday, November 26.


Seed To Shirt  - Morning Edition; Monday, December 2
Planet Money's Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson talk about the genesis of the Seed To Shirt project and why t-shirts are a great lens for exploring the global economy.

A Visit To The Farm - All Things Considered; Monday, December 2
Planet Money's Robert Smith visits the farm where the cotton for the Seed To Shirt project possibly came from. It turns out tracing your t-shirt back to a specific farm is a little like tracing your last gas-up back to a specific oil well.

Yarn Spinners in Indonesia - Morning Edition; Tuesday, December 3
Yarn, which makes up every piece of fabric you wear or see, is awesomely, amazingly complicated. Garment companies like Jockey spend years and lots of money to develop a closely-guarded process. Planet Money's Robert Smith answers the question: why did our cotton make a thousand-mile detour to Indonesia just to get spun into yarn?

Human Labor in Bangladesh - All Things Considered; Tuesday, December 3
Bangladesh is where Planet Money's t-shirts are cut and sewn, and that's the step where human labor on a grand scale is required. Today, it's still cheaper to have people -- not machines -- sew the clothes. Zoe Chace and Caitlin Kenney profile two sisters who worked on the t-shirt.

The Wage Squeeze - Morning Edition; Wednesday, December 4
Planet Money's Zoe Chace and Caitlin Kenney break down just how much of the shirt's total cost goes to labor. Bangladesh has one of the lowest wage rates in the world. Zoe and Caitlin talk to labor leaders and factory owners there about what it would take to increase the wages.

Made In Colombia - All Things Considered; Wednesday, December 4
Marianne McCune reports from Colombia, where the women's t-shirts were made. Colombia is much richer than Bangladesh, as workers there make four times as much. Marianne profiles some workers there, as well as the factory owner.

Bangladesh's Garment Industry - Morning Edition; Thursday, December 5
Zoe Chace tells the fascinating tale of how the garment industry got to Bangladesh in the first place. It starts in the '70s, when a Bangladeshi businessmen hatched a plan with a Korean garment company to open a factory. Today, nearly every garment factory in Bangladesh is run by someone involved in the original delegation that went to Korea.

From Truck To Ship To Train - All Things Considered; Thursday, December 5
David Kestenbaum takes a voyage with the shirts on the container ship from Colombia to Miami. The unsung hero of the global economy, the container was invented in the '60s to reduced shipping costs by 70 to 90 percent. David talks about its history, and talks to retired stevedores who remember the way things worked before shipping containers.

The Shirts Come Home - Morning Edition; Friday, December 6
Jacob Goldstein meets the Planet Money shirts at the port, where they must clear one more hurdle -- customs. The shirts' fate is determined by a huge rule book which sets the tariff -- the tax on things entering the country -- for basically everything in existence. The t-shirts from Bangladesh are charged a tax rate of 16.5 percent to enter the country. But the Planet Money t-shirts from Colombia come in for free. Jacob explains why.

Seed To Shirt Wrap Up All Things Considered; Friday, December 6 The Planet Money team addresses questions about their project.

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