Community - A Green Lesson Plan

Looking To Add Organic Gardens To 170 NYC Schools By Earth Day 2013

Anvil Knitwear (asi/36350) is working to cultivate a more eco-conscious generation of apparel buyers, one organic garden at a time. Through a partnership with the nonprofit Earth Day New York, Anvil is providing organic garden containers to schools throughout New York City. By Earth Day 2013, the NYC-based apparel-maker aims to put gardens in 170 city schools. "These organic gardens help schoolchildren learn to appreciate the benefits of organic farming and the positive effects it can have on the environment," says Caterina Conti, Anvil's executive vice president and head of sustainability.

Compact and easily maintained, the gardens are set up in classrooms and in common areas in or near school libraries. They contain all organic soil and seeds, as well as instructions for planting and care. Tended to by students, the gardens sprout edible organic lettuce and other greens in about six weeks. To help teachers engage students, the kits come with an organic farming instructor's guide that includes lesson plans.

Anvil piloted the garden program with about 20 schools, and it's getting rave reviews from educators. Rita Luppino, sustainability and social media associate at Anvil, was heartened recently by a trip to Middle School 88 in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. There, she watched seventh-graders pick lettuce they'd grown. As they washed it off, the students talked animatedly about how they would eat the produce for dinner. "They were really engaged and excited," says Luppino.

For her, however, it was even more powerful to hear the students speak intelligently about the environmental benefits of organic farming, and to witness them realize that their clothes are made from grown materials. "A lot of people already correlate organic with food, but there's a lack of awareness about what we wear and how it's grown," says Luppino. "We want to help kids make the connection between their clothes and how they're grown so that they can become wise consumers and choose organic apparel."

While centered in New York City, Anvil's green initiative isn't limited to Manhattan and its sister boroughs. The supplier has established an organic container garden at an elementary school near its distribution center in Dillon, SC. Anvil has also placed a garden at a YMCA in Kansas City. "They're involved in the education system so students are exposed to it," says Luppino.

Deeply committed to sustainability and corporate social responsibility, Anvil's garden program complements other eco-friendly initiatives like Double It!, a campaign to double the acreage of U.S. organic cotton. As part of the program, Anvil guarantees it will buy a certain amount of organic cotton cultivated by farmers, an assurance the supplier hopes will encourage more growers to plant organic. Additionally, Anvil builds on these efforts with, a website that allows the life cycle of its organic youth T-shirts to be tracked from seed to finished product. Each tee features a number on the hem that, when entered into the online tracker, reveals the shirt's history.

For its efforts, Anvil has received recognitions like the Sustainability All-Star Award from Apparel magazine (2011), as well as an award from the Foundation for Social Change and United Nations Office for Partnerships that recognizes the supplier for being a sustainability leader (2010). Says Luppino: "We want to use our business to push change."