The fashion industry has a major impact on the environment from its carbon footprint to pollution caused by manufacture and environmental damage caused by disposal of clothing in landfill.
According to Greenpeace, over two billion pairs of jeans are produced each year with a typical pair taking 7,000 litres of water to produce. It is estimated that around 400billion square meters of textiles are produced each year, of which 60billion square meters will become factory waste. Only a quarter of this clothing is likely to be recycled with the rest being incinerated or going to landfill. The environmental issues associated with cotton farming, clothing manufacture and disposal are vast and their impacts far ranging from water pollution to the extensive use of non renewable resources and the carbon footprint.
There are also many ethical issues associated with the manufacture of fast fashion. Labour Behind the Label reports that millions of garment workers around the world are involved in making clothes and shoes for the UK high street. Each year hundreds lose their lives as a result of poor working conditions caused by poor regulations, lack of safety inspections and buying practices of brands that encourage corners to be cut for workplace safety. Incidents like the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 where 1136 people lost their lives have drawn attention to this issue but are but no means show the full extent of the problem.
Children begin to develop a following for fashion at a young age and begin to make choices about what they would like to wear. Teaching children about fashion and its impact on the environment is important for future sustainability. It can also be linked to a range of other subjects in the primary curriculum including geography, literacy and DT. Here are some resources, tips and activity ideas to help introduce this important topic to primary children.
Fashion Revolution offers a range of free educational resources for ever academic level including primary. Classroom resources include fashion ethics trump card game, a quiz and an activity to design a Fashion Revolution Day poster.
TRAID run creative workshops and classroom activities about the environmental and social cost of our clothing. They also explore textile reuse and recycling, waste prevention and sustainability with resources including free lesson plans, fact sheets, how to guides and posters.
TRAID YouTube Channel has some engaging videos which are an informative resource on their own or can be used as a writing prompt for a range of literacy related activities.
Debating Fast Fashion for Upper KS2 is an activity guide on Collaboroo. It gives a detailed guide on how to organise a debate about fast fashion for Primary School children including a number of extension ideas covering geography, DT and PHSE.
The Clothes Line is a range of lesson resources created by Oxfam for explaining and teaching about cotton production and the textile industry in India for primary school children. Downloads include: where does cotton grow? a map reading exercise, before and after: an exercise in sequencing events and a photo gallery.
There are lots of ways that children can learn about fast fashion and its impact on the environment either at home with their parents or in school combined with the national curriculum. Design projects that incorporate recycling and reuse of clothing and other materials are also a great way to encourage children to develop their own style and understand and appreciate the alternatives to fast fashion.
Maybe a greater understand of the impact of consumerism on the environment will help to develop a new generation with an appetite for change and the motivation to make a difference when tackling some of these vitally important issues.