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How much did your kids clothing free shipping cost? Chances are, much more than you think. The clothing industry is the second-largest global polluter – after oil – and its complex production techniques and supply chains create a myriad of environmental issues. It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one t-shirt, and an estimated £140m worth of clothing goes to landfill sites in the UK annually.
The need for change is urgent – and education can play a key role in championing new attitudes towards clothing. Some schools are now working with organisations to explore the impact of the fast fashion industry.

  “The clothing business model is built on volume and getting the clothes produced as cheaply and quickly as possible – buy cheap, wear a few times and then throw away. This is not a sustainable model for our environment,” says Sarah Klymkiw, head of education at Traid, a UK charity working to reduce the environmental and social impacts of clothing waste.

  Learning lifecycles
Traid runs programmes at primary and secondary levels. It reaches 10,000 students per year and provides in-depth, interactive workshops on issues such as the lifecycle of clothing, upcycling and mending, to citizenship, geography and technology for older students.
“We want to deepen understanding, then engage students in thinking critically about which stakeholders are responsible for the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry – and what can be done about it,” says Klymkiw. “We have free downloadable resources for teachers on our website, which include lesson plans and presentations to use in the classroom. We also have useful videos on our Traidfilms YouTube channel.”
Aurora Thompson teaches design and technology at Haggerston School, east London. The school has worked with Traid on a sustainable fashion programme, which is particularly pertinent to the subject Thompson teaches: “Every scheme of work in design and technology has sustainability issues embedded, such as using recycled materials, understanding the complex issues within the textiles industry and the life cycle of products.”
The programmes at Haggerston School were aimed at two age groups; the year 10s took part in upcycling workshops, while the year 11s were given lectures. Thompson continues: “The workshop promoted group work and developed students ability to work well in teams, while the lectures consolidated the year 11’s understanding of sustainability.”
For some pupils, the course has been inspiring: “It has given them a new insight into their own consumption of fashion. A few students from this class have subsequently volunteered to help run a Fairtrade week at school.”
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