Sustainable textile consumption in the classroom
Online materials available from BNTextillabor

Ulm University

BNTextillabor is a research project in real-world laboratory format. The acronym BNT stands for “Bildung für nachhaltigen Textilkonsum” (“Education for Sustainable Textile Consumption”). This project is not only about researching consumer behaviour in adolescents, but also creating awareness for responsible fashion among 14- to 17-year-olds. The materials developed for use in the classroom are now available free of charge to all interested schools and teachers.

How can young people get inspired about sustainable textile consumption? What role can schools play? BNTextillabor is a joint research project run by Ulm University and the Technical University of Berlin with the aim of addressing exactly these issues at schools in both cities. What makes this project unique is the idea that the pupils themselves play an active role, contributing their own ideas. The project is designed to take the format of a real-world laboratory. The original plan was for young people to be developing a more conscious and responsible approach to fashion with co-design workshops and real experiments in a real-world laboratory setting over the course of the past school semester.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic with its related school closures, however, and the real-world laboratory for sustainable textile consumption couldn’t be carried out as planned. The organisers have therefore now decided to make the teaching material available to all interested schools and teachers in Germany. The materials include informational flyers, brochures, educational films and worksheets. The teaching material, which includes background information as well as ideas for project recommendations and instructions for lessons, is now available for downloading on the project’s website.

“Our aim is to continue the project online, maintaining contact with the pupils, but also to awaken interest in the topic of sustainable textile consumption at many more schools”, explains Anja Hirscher, research assistant at the Institute of Sustainable Corporate Management at Ulm University, who is coordinating the scientific aspects of the project in Ulm. The researchers hope that the material will encourage young people to look at the ecological and social effects of fast fashion and to critically reflect on their own consumer behaviour. Fast fashion refers to inexpensive production, frequent consumption and a short lifetime for textiles. According to the brochure “Fashion Alternatives”, which was created for BNTextillabor, “In Germany, approximately 16.7 kg of new clothing is purchased per person per year. In the same time period, 1.35 million tons of clothing end up in the trash. A large portion of it has been worn only a few times, if at all”. Several films were also created for classroom use. These films provide information about economic, social and ecological problems within the textile industry, reveal the relationship between the fashion industry and climate change and show the influence that individuals have as consumers within this system. Educational worksheets help the teachers to work through the topics together with their pupils. Valuable tips and lots of ideas can be found in the tutorials, for example upcycling and repair workshops or creating individual mini wardrobes based on the capsule wardrobe approach.

Scientists in the real-world laboratory for sustainable textile consumption were still visiting participating schools in Berlin and Ulm in February and March, prior to the lockdown. In the meantime, a lot of feedback has come in from the participants about the online offerings: “We are surprised ourselves by the great response that BNTextillabor is generating at schools. Teenagers are showing interest in the issues of fast fashion. It is a topic that concerns them”, says Dr Samira Iran from the Institute of Vocational Education and Work Studies at TU Berlin. This is why the project organisers of the real-world laboratory have decided to make the teaching material from BNTextillabor available to all schools in Germany free of charge. Private individuals who are interested in this topic can also use the website to get further information and ideas for increasing the sustainability of their textile consumption.

Teaching materials from BNTextillabor (in German only)
The materials include the brochure “Fashion Alternatives”, the flyer for teachers “Using Real-World Experiments to Teach Skills for Critical Fashion Consumption among Adolescents “, three educational films and numerous tutorials and worksheets

“BNTextillabor” is a joint research project at Ulm University and the Technical University of Berlin. The acronym BNT stands for “Bildung für nachhaltigen Textilkonsum” (“Education for Sustainable Textile Consumption”). The project focuses on improving the sustainability of fashion consumption among adolescents using the format of a real-world laboratory. The German Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, DBU), is providing 270,000 euros in support for the project, which will be running from early August 2019 until the end of July 2021. The aim is to research purchasing behaviour among 14- to 17-year-olds, as well as to increase awareness for sustainable textile consumption. The research findings will provide a basis for developing teaching and learning formats for various types of schools.

Six schools are participating in the project. In Ulm and the surrounding area, these include the Friedrich List School, the Anna Essinger Gymnasium and the Realschule Kißlegg. In Berlin, the participating schools are the Röntgen School, the Berthold Brecht Oberschule and the Carlo Schmid Oberschule. Using what are referred to as co-design methods, pupils are integrated into the development and implementation process of real-world experiments. BNTextillabor receives financial support from regional sustainable textile producers and associations.

Medienkontakt: Pressestelle Uni Ulm
Translation: Kate Gaugler

View inside a wardrobe
View inside a wardrobe (Foto: Catalin Apostol/Unsplash)
Capsule Wardrobe
The idea behind the capsule wardrobe is to compile a personal mini wardrobe from a limited number of articles that can be combined in a variety of ways (Photo: BNTextillabor)
Upcycling hat
This upcycling hat was created from an old t-shirt (Photo: BNTextillabor)