Eco-Schools USA Case Study: United High School’s “Trashin’ Fashion Show”


Armagh, Pennsylvania is a rural school district in the heart of coal country. For many in the community, alternative energy and other environmental initiatives are tied to fears of family members losing their livelihood. So launching the Eco-Schools USA program required a delicate touch.

Last year, students from United High School’s environmental studies class proposed a “Take Back Earth Day” conference. After discussion with the administration and school board, a decision was made to start with something smaller. So the students took a lighter approach. They organized a fashion show.

TrashDresses2_UnitedHighSchool_160X150The “Trashin’ Fashion Show” garnered 83 entries in categories including school spirit, formal wear, informal wear, and accessories. All of the green garb was made from recycled items. Students fashioned skirts from old CDs, vests from decks of cards, dresses from newspapers, and purses from potato chip bags. According to teacher Bob Penrose, the ideas were incredibly creative.

TrashDresses3_UnitedHighSchool_160X150The grand prize winners took home a $200 prize. And all of the winning entries were displayed at the Department of Education in Harrisburg for the month of April.

But the purpose was much bigger than the prizes. Students were learning the value of reusing materials and conserving resources for the future. “We have so many kids excited now about what they can do, realizing that they can do little things to make a change,” said Penrose.

United High SchoolAnd they’ve made one big change already. This year, when students again proposed the conference to the school board, they got a resounding yes. They plan to invite students from over 50 different schools in the region, highlight the progress United has made in greening its facilities and programs, and then create a declaration to send to state leaders expressing the participants’ demand for environmental leadership. And the conference will conclude with an even bigger and better version of the “Trashin’ Fashion Show.”