Fashion Forward: Integrating Sustainability with Schools

Photo credit and description from Maryvale High School: “The bucket hat is made from jeans. The long sleeve portion of the shirt is made from fishnet stockings. The necklace is made from a belt. The shirt is made from a skirt. The skirt is made from a long sleeve flannel shirt and the black part is from a black shirt. The socks are also made from the black shirt. The mask is made from the same flannel shirt and black shirt as the skirt. The backpack is made from an old fire hose.”

This year’s Student Council Sustainability Officer Initiative (SCSO) challenge titled, “Fashion for the Future'' was a great success throughout the Phoenix Union High School District, with 2500 students participating. From the Office of Sustainability with the City of Phoenix, Emma Collins, AmeriCorps VISTA serving as the Student Engagement Coordinator, and Sustainability Specialist, Darice Ellis, explained how the program began, this year’s challenge, and what we might expect for the future. 

The SCSO initiative invites high schools in the district to appoint a sustainability officer position in their existing student councils. Students select the competition topic and challenge held over the spring semester. The ASU Sustainable Cities Network (SCN) Greening Events Implementation Guide is used by students to ensure their events are as sustainable as possible. The initiative began in 2014 with Bioscience High School, later expanding in 2016 throughout the school district. The challenge has 12 schools participating with Tempe Union and Tolleston High Schools looking to join next year.

This year’s challenge, “Fashion for the Future'', contained 5 weekly challenges and an optional clothing drive and fashion show. At the end of each week, students took surveys to show their knowledge on weekly topics, with most students mentioning how they never made the connection between sustainability and fashion until participating in the challenge. Throughout the 5 weeks, clothing was collected for Treasures for Teachers and Dress for Success.

The final fashion show asked students to create an outfit using clothing in a way that it was not intended to be worn, such as pants styled as a t-shirt. Students could cut or sew in any way they liked and submitted their outfits via the @fashionforthefuturephx Instagram page. Collins saw plenty of engagement through social media with over 500 students viewing the show submissions. In addition to a popular vote, the ASU Sustainable Cities Network, Dress for Success, and Treasures for Teachers judged each submission based on creativity. The winners of the 2022 challenge were Wilson College Prep in first place earning $2,500, Bioscience High School in second earning $1,500, and Maryvale High School in third earning $500!

Photo credit and description from Wilson College Preparatory: “The skirt was made out of an old silk white spaghetti strap shirt. We just tucked it in and made it into a skirt. The stockings were repurposed sheer hand gloves. We just stretched it out a little and it worked perfectly as a sort of high high/stockings. Lastly, the top was made from a scarf. It was tied around the back and was long enough to make little off the shoulder straps. It was very shimmery and we put a safety shirt underneath just for the models comfortability.”

Collins stated, “The reason we do this challenge is to educate students on making their own decisions through presenting information for students to come to their own conclusions and make choices with what best aligns with their beliefs”. 

The Arizona Department of Education sees success with the SCSO initiative and is looking into how they can adopt it in schools across the state. The program introduces students to becoming civic minded, engaging with their local city, and being conscious of sustainability challenges.

We thank all the students for their ingenuity and the City of Phoenix for this enriching program. Stay tuned for details on the next SCSO competition taking place in the Spring of 2023.

Photo credit: Wilson College Preparatory

Written by Catelyn Nieves, SCN Program Assistant

The ASU Sustainable Cities Network (SCN) is an innovative education and outreach program within the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Future Laboratory, created to work with communities to strengthen sustainability in the region and across Arizona. Comprised of Arizona city, town, county and tribal community practitioners and leaders, SCN is a vehicle for sharing knowledge, identifying best practices, coordinating planning and actions, and fostering long-term partnerships. Created as a bridge between ASU research and local sustainability challenges, SCN participants and partners work together to streamline and green city operation and advance local and regional sustainability and resilience measures.