INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE | Re-telling climate change stories

Green Suits Your Fashion

Green Suits Your Fashion is an activity for creatively communicating sustainable fashion. It was enacted in the Spring of 2021 with an upper-division under-graduate Creative Climate Communication class at the University of Colorado taught by Beth Osnes, Max Boykoff, and Patrick Chandler. For this assignment students were asked to visually communicate within their circle of influence how sustainable fashion can positively influence the environment and be aspirational. Each student created a sustainably sourced outfit (thrifted, hand-me-down, recycled, dumpster dived, clothing swapped, sewn from repurposed cloth…) as an expression of their personal style. 

They created a photo or video of themselves modeling this outfit while wearing a full-body Lycra green suit underneath. They were challenged with adding a pro-environmental personal message to this photo or video and post it on some form of social media or communication platform. There were asked to reach at least ten people within their circle of influence and document any responses or feedback received. Finally, they were asked to write an overall personal reflection on this once this example of Green Fashion was created, documented, disseminated, and responded to. This assignment addresses many key issues surrounding the science and art of what makes for effective climate communication.

  • Making pro-environmental fashion behaviors aspirational by showing them as influencing the norm for group behavior (Markowitz, Ezra, et al. (2014). Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication. Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Columbia University, p. 32.).
  • Students as trusted messengers of climate within their circles of influence (https://www.bu.edu/ise/2019/04/16/trusted-messenger/)
  • The Power of Ten as a framework for suitably scaling sustainability and climate action in response to the rapid need for transformation of systems, policies, and behaviors (https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9ed0/pdf)
  • Sustainable fashion as essential for reversing global warming given the fact that “if the garment business were a nation, it would be the fourth largest climate polluter on Earth” (Siegle, Lucy (2018) ‘Ten ways to make fashion greener’ The Guardian June 24.) ‘Ten ways to make fashion greener’ The Guardian June 24.).
  • Avoidance of emotional numbing by audiences through immediate, local solutions available to individuals and communities (Markowitz, Ezra, et al. (2014). Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication. Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Columbia University, p. 32.)
  • Visual communication through metaphor, such as Green Fashion, which helps translate abstract concepts into familiar terms

This assignment in a class of 40 students was able to reach over 3000 people with a vibrant, personal message inspiring Green Fashion and sustainable fashion behavior. Given the incredibly significant environmental impact of the fashion industry, it is essential for our survivability to radically reimagine our relationship with clothing. Our students are perfectly suited to this charge as powerful agents for change.

Please feel free to use and adjust this assignment available HERE

Also, feel free to contact Beth Osnes for encouragement, guidance, additional information, or to visit your campus to facilitate your students in expressing their green fashion in addition to bringing her rather large collection of green suits! Beth.osnes@colorado.edu