Paducah Area Students Address ‘Fast Fashion’ at EcoThink Event

Local high school students from western Kentucky and southern Illinois put their problem solving skills to the test during the annual EcoThink project, challenging themselves to address environmental and sustainability issues through critical thinking exercises focused on teamwork and engineering concepts.

“The students really enjoyed this opportunity,” Paducah Tilghman High School Teacher Amy Clark said. “They liked seeing other students’ thought processes and ideas. One student said the word engineering frightened her but realized it wasn't as scary as she thought.”

This year’s project focused on a “Fast Fashion” challenge and the environmental impact of manufacturing cheap, limited-use clothing. Students were tasked with finding ways to reduce, reuse or recycle clothing by determining buying habits, back-to-school shopping needs and how to impact culture changes with their peers. Solutions presented by the teams included creating a phone application and distribution centers for renting clothes and designing clothing that can be modified depending on the season or style.

The EcoThink project was led by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office deactivation and remediation contractor Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership (FRNP).

“EcoThink is a great way to emphasize DOE’s mission for sustainability to students in the region,” EM Paducah Site Lead April Ladd said. “Not only does it bring awareness to real world problems, but by encouraging students to think about these problems, they may consider a career in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which will be critical as the next generation workforce is developed.”

EcoThink, which was featured at the 2024 Waste Management Symposia’s STEMZone, is conducted through a partnership between Sprocket, Inc. and University of Kentucky College of Engineering and sponsored by FRNP.

“Each year, I am impressed with the ingenuity displayed by the students who participate in EcoThink,” FRNP Program Manager Myrna Redfield said. “We appreciate all the teachers and volunteers who come together to make this event possible and look forward to growing and improving the program in the future.”