Where is your t-shirt from?

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In this lesson, students will learn about the energy used to create, transport, package, and market our clothes, how this impacts the environment and what we can do to reduce the impact.

Grade level: 4-6

Learning objectives:
– Understand the concept of carbon footprint and how the items we buy have an environmental impact
– Identify ways to reduce our carbon footprint

During this activity, students will:
– Identify the environmental impact of the fashion industry
– Begin to understand the notion of carbon footprint
– Suggest things that can be done to reduce our carbon footprint


  • World map
  • Computer and internet connection
  • Brainstorming material (i.e. chart paper)

Before Beginning


  1. Project a map of the world. Ask students to look at the labels on their shirts and determine where they were manufactured. Have each student put a dot on the map, showing where their shirt was made.

2. Prompt reflection through the following questions:
– How did our shirts get from there to here?
– Why might this be a problem?

3. Ask students if they are familiar with the concept of carbon footprint. Building off their answers, explain what it is and how it affects climate change.

This short Earth Rangers video provides a quick overview:   

4. Think/pair/share: How do our clothes contribute to our carbon footprint?

5. Have students watch the video: The Lifecycle of a T-shirt by Angela Chang (6:03, TED Ed)

Discussion Questions

About the video:

  1. What surprised you the most?
  2. Has this changed the way you think about fashion?
  3. The fashion industry has a big impact on the plant. What can we do instead of buying new clothes?
  4. In your opinion, what other industries have a large carbon impact?

Going further:

Have your students take the “How can we be footprint-friendly? quiz

Brainstorm some ideas that would help to shrink someone’s carbon footprint. Write the ideas down (for example, on a large piece of chart paper). Some ideas to get you started include:

  • Eat less or no meat
  • Drive less
  • Don’t buy fast fashion/buy second-hand instead
  • Plant a garden
  • Eat locally grown food

Next Steps

Discuss what students are going to do in the future to make more informed consumer choices. Talk about how they can encourage family members to do the same.

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