Nearly 100 students from across Border Land School Division gathered in Altona on Wednesday to learn how they can work toward a better world. The goal of the Generating Momentum youth conference, hosted by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, was to help create great global citizens through the theme of Fast Fashion and sustainability.
Workshops included hands-on clothes mending, a board game exploring the life cycle of clothing.

A number of the students said they were surprised to hear that only 1 per cent of the world's clothing is recycled, with the rest ending up in landfills. 

The RVS delegationThe RVS delegation

"And then those clothes harm the environment," added Chantelle from Roseau Valley School (RVS) in Dominion City. 

Fellow RVS student, Brooklyn, says she learned a lot about how she can do better to be more sustainable.

"Even if I'm only one person, if I do something to help that's still helping and it can make a difference, even if it's small."

Ainsley and Haven from Emerson School were also upset to hear how little clothing gets recycled. 

"There's already so many waste in the world, why add more than there already is?" said Haven, noting she's heard of situations were high school students are ridiculed for wearing a piece of clothing more than once. 

Elijah, Josué and Jonah from Shevchenko SchoolElijah, Josué and Jonah from Shevchenko School

Jonah, Josué and Elijah from Shevchenko School say they were disappointed to learn how many clothes are thrown before they even have a chance to be sold. 

"I'd heard of Fast Fashion before and I knew it was bad," said Elijah. "But this conference is really making me think more badly of the whole thing, and I'll try not to throw as many clothes away, if I do throw any away."

All three say they already either donate or shop at thrift stores. Josué takes it one step further.

"We have sheep, so we use wool to knit some winter stuff. Also, I've been helping my grandma with sewing leather and fur and making nice winter stuff that can last a long time," he said. 

So, is the thinking around second-hand clothing and other items changing, especially among our young people?

"I think it's starting to change," said Violet from Ross L Gray. "Some people design clothes in their own way to make it more theirs." 

Rebecca attends one of the division's Colony schools, and agrees with Violet. 

"We can make our designs and stuff like that. If you buy clothes, you can't always get exactly what you want," she said. "You can reuse them, and if you don't, it impacts the planet."

Sydney and SataliSydney and Satali

Sydney and Satali from Ecole Parkside School described their current thrifting mindsets.

"My pants right now are actually sewn on the knee," said Sydney. "Because when you dive in gym, they get ripped, so my mom sewed them for me."

"It's really cool what you can do if you sew," added Satali, who says her friend's mom often patches up knee pads that get torn up from volleyball.

The two were also affected by a discussion regarding the people who make our clothing. 

"Children have been making that instead of going to school and having fun," said Satali. "They barely get paid and they live in terrible places and they've been forced to work."

"If I didn't learn how to read and write, I think that life would be pretty difficult to get out of their situation," added Sydney.

Workshops included hands-on clothes mending, a board game exploring the life cycle of clothing.Workshops included hands-on clothes mending, a board game exploring the life cycle of clothing. (Supplied/Krista Curry)

Molly from W.C. Miller Collegiate says she was shocked to learn that women in other countries that make the clothing, don't get maternity leave.

"I wouldn't like to work like that. It would be hard going through that," she said, noting it makes her think a bit differently about the clothes she wears. "What they go through to make this for me to wear a couple of times."

"People working in sweat shops, they only got paid like eighty to ninety cent an hour, and they worked in very dangerous conditions," added Sierra. "I'm definitely going to think twice before I throw something out, knowing what I learned."

Cassie noted, they heard that most people only wear an item 10 to 12 times before getting ride of it. 

"That sounds like a big waste of clothing," she said. 

"I didn't know that it was only so little that they wear it, and then they throw it out easily when they can just mend it or make into something else," added Ruby from Gretna Elementary. 

"(People) should know what they're buying and know if they're going to wear it," she said. "Not just, 'ok I'll have it' but then keep it in their drawer and do nothing about it and then throw it out because it doesn't fit."

The conference also had students learn creative strategies to share their message with others. They will now come with a way to raise awareness within their own schools, homes and communities. 

Over 100 students participated.Over 100 students participated. (Supplied/Krista Curry)