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Angel Chang


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Economics, Civics, Social-Emotional Learning

Resource Types

  • Video, 6 minutes, 4 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Interactive Media
  • Article
  • Assessment

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, Asia, Middle East

The Life Cycle of a T-Shirt

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  • This video explains how cotton T-shirts are made and the environmental and health effects of this entire process.
  • Students will learn where and how cotton is grown, how cotton becomes fabric, how far materials travel around the globe, the process of turning fabric into a garment, what happens once a T-shirt is owned by a consumer, and what we can do to lessen the impact of fashion on the planet. 
Teaching Tips


  • The video is beautifully animated and will keep students engaged. 
  • This resource is incredibly relatable, as many people own a T-shirt, and students will get a first-hand look at what a seemingly commonplace item goes through to get into their wardrobe. 

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students need to create a free TED-Ed account to complete the assessment portion of the lesson. 
  • In the Dig Deeper section, the link to the video about machines that make your clothing is broken


  • Social studies classes could use this resource to consider how global demand, few regulations, trade, and economic growth impact the environment, low-income communities, women, and children.
  • Math classes could use the data presented in the video to craft and solve their own environmental word problems. 
  • As an extension, have students research the different solutions presented at the end of the video for lessening the impact of fashion on the environment. As groups or individuals, students can create digital public service announcements to spread awareness about the strategy they chose. If possible, have students share their public service announcements outside of the classroom.
  • Other related resources include this video about sustainable and ethical clothing, this video about fast fashion, and this activity that allows students to repurpose an old T-shirt into a bag.
Scientist Notes
This resource is a 6-minute animated video that explores the history, manufacturing, and environmental impact of the t-shirt. The growth and processing of cotton are presented, followed by an overview of the transportation, manufacturing, and distribution of t-shirts globally. The impact on the climate, the environment, and on human health are presented, and consumer choices to reduce these impacts are presented. This resource includes multiple-choice questions, additional links, and a space for discussion. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
      • HS-ESS3-1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • MS-ETS1-1 Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
      • HS-ETS1-1 Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Economics
      • D2.Eco.1.6-8 Explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society.
      • D2.Eco.14.9-12 Analyze the role of comparative advantage in international trade of goods and services.
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.4.6-8 Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places.
      • D2.Geo.11.6-8 Explain how the relationship between the environmental characteristics of places and production of goods influences the spatial patterns of world trade.
    • Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
      • D4.6.6-8 Draw on multiple disciplinary lenses to analyze how a specific problem can manifest itself at local, regional, and global levels over time, identifying its characteristics and causes, and the challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address the problem.
      • D4.7.9-12 Assess options for individual and collective action to address local, regional, and global problems by engaging in self-reflection, strategy identification, and complex causal reasoning.
  • Related Resources


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