goal: raising awareness about the importance of reading labels; developing critical thinking on labels credibility and clearness; inspiring responsible behaviours (e.g. refuse buying products that do not provide consumers with clear information; ask producers for more information about a certain product; etc.).
risk: talking about labels you should avoid the risk to mix product credibility up with brand authority, products quality with brand reputation; at the same you should make the difference between advertising information and useful information about the product (nutritional features, possible certification).
YXC level: individual (1st level).
YXC materials: packaging yourself [ Harmless textiles | Sustainable Cotton | Danish eco-fashion | Clean Clothes Campaign | Anti-sweatshop catwalk | Back to school project | 100% endangered species | Eco & ethical fashion ] - facts & figures [ Textile fibres, intro | Vegetal fibres | Furs | Behind textiles | Children at work ] – dep’t store [ Made in Dignity | Sweatshop free t-shirts | Hemp Valley | Treetap: vegetal leather | Système-Biologique | Compostable T-shirt | Ecolabel catalogue ] – job opportunities [ Fiber Futures | Anti Pesticides Network | Eblood Clothing ] – links [ Empowered consumers ]
subject areas: Cultural studies | Science & technology | Economics & biz | Health & well-being
work planning: Phase 1, testing students knowledge of the issue; Phase 2, intro to the issue; Phase 3, creation of 4-5 teams; Phase 4, individual homework; Phase 5, reporting.
testing student knowledge (with key questions):
These questions should be addressed before any previous introduction to the topic, to test students’ knowledge/awareness in the form of class brainstorming.
- How do you choose what to wear?
- How healthy are your linen or your table cloth?
- What is made of?
- Where does it come from?
- In which environmental, social and cultural conditions was it produced?
- Which kind of information do you take into account when deciding what to wear?
- How can you gather information about a product? Which kind of information do you expect to find on textile packaging?
- What makes the credibility of a label?
- Which kind of textile labels do you know?
- What are, for a firm, the advantages of certification?
- Is the label an element to build consumers’ brand trust?
- How to check the credibility of social claims (e.g. child-labour free)?
- What do you consider important in textile packaging (e.g. hygiene guarantees, % of recycled/recyclable materials)?
intro to the topic (background):international textile safety crisis (e.g. pesticide contamination of cotton crops) diseases, intolerances and allergies - often related to pesticides residues present in our clothes - have induced consumers to ask for more controls on textile production and more information about what they wear. In this context, the role of labels in informing consumers, protecting health and influencing their consumption choice has increased. To address consumers concerns, in several countries, public authorities have promoted textile environmental labelling (e.g. the European Commission eco-label related measures). At the same time, beside the purely health care concerns, consumers have become more interested in gathering information about the social and environmental impacts of textile production methods. Ethical, fair trade, child labour/eco friendly labels have grown in number as well as companies engagements, at least on paper, to more responsible production patterns. In some cases, firms have adopted green-washing strategies aimed at inducing consumers to associate a product with some generic, and hardly verified, features: that it is ‘eco’ or ‘nature friendly’, etc. Learning to read labels and decrypt claims has become a fundamental step to care for ourselves, care for other people and care for the earth.
providing evidence: you could bring in class products to show example of certified products, clear textile labels versus misleading, confuse ones. The DEP’T STORE displays several products that could be used as examples at this goal (check the YXC materials list above).
per products groups
- gathering information: to develop this activity students could be asked – working in small teams- to analyse different products’ groups. They could list the information provided by labels on: production methods (e.g. pesticide free); products features (e.g. is it certified? Is it GMO free? Is it Child labour free? etc.); packaging, and product disposal (e.g. recyclable %). Groups should be then invited to share with others their conclusions in terms of: % of certified products with respect to non-certified ones, the level of information clearness, etc.
- detecting best practices: you could invite ‘per products teams’ to vote for the best labelling practise, asking to bring in class the best and the worst product and to explain other students the raison of such a choice.
- students competition: finally ask students to bring in class the most unhealthy but appealing products and the most healthy but not appealing one... and let them vote the best two!
- what am I wearing?: As homework ask students to list the brands recurrent in wearing habits, and describe their peculiarities and report to the class.
- underwear (cotton, syntetics)
- linen (cotton, synthetics)
- table cloths
results assessment: the success of this pedagogical module on reading textile labels can be measured by the following results:
- materials | facts | allergies & intolerances | ingredients by % | preservatives | weight info | languages
- product credibility | certification | organic cotton | fair trade | ethical label | child labour free | GMOs free | lab credits | supported by | designation of origin | green-washing
- production info | made in | imported by | farming conditions | type of process | biodiversity
- brand info | logo | claims | etc.
- instruction for use | packaged/expiry date | dry cleaning | temperatures for washing machines | tips for ironing
- packaging | made of | recycling info
- informative goals | 1) students know different kind of textile certification, the main textile labels and their characteristics (e.g. difference between ethical and fair trade labelled products) | 2) they know the difference between claims and certifications.
- action goals | 1) students give their support to global campaigns for child labour free textiles (e.g. Global March).