Students’ sustainable products boost Vancouver’s Greenest City bid

Dec 10, 2012
A team of students in the Business 443: New Product Development class display their sustainable product, cushions made entirely from recycled clothing, at the SFU Surrey campus.

A team of students in the Business 443: New Product Development class display their sustainable product, cushions made entirely from recycled clothing, at the SFU Surrey campus.

A group of undergraduate students at the Beedie School of Business have been helping Vancouver achieve its target of becoming the world’s greenest city by 2020 through a class project with a distinctly sustainable theme.

This past fall, students in the class Business 443: New Product Development, taught by Lisa Papania, were tasked with conceptualizing, designing, producing, marketing and selling a product or service involving used textiles and clothing.

The project encouraged the students to make use of the unwanted fabric so as to divert it from landfills, and at the same time raise awareness of overconsumption and pollution caused by textile waste.

The student teams displayed their completed products and services at SFU’s Surrey campus mezzanine recently, where passers-by were able to purchase the student creations. Products on show included coffee cup sleeves made from recycled clothing; an SFU-branded laptop sleeve made from donated hooded sweatshirts; a baby-carrier made from recycled garments that one person can put on without assistance; and decorative pillows made from recycled clothing.

Meanwhile, two of the student teams came up with services designed to encourage recycling of fabrics and textiles, including a clothes swapping party; and a series of workshops where the students taught attendees how to create Christmas-themed crafts from recycled garments.

“The students created innovative solutions to social problems by engaging with customers and finding ways to meet their needs,” says Papania. “The project has not only changed the way the students think about textile waste, but it has shown them that they have the power and ability to really make a real difference. It is by taking small steps to address local challenges that we will help solve large, systemic social problems.”

The class was run in partnership with CityStudio, a collaboration between the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Economic Commission, and the six public post-secondary education institutions in the Lower Mainland (BCIT, Emily Carr University, Langara College, SFU, UBC and Vancouver Community College). CityStudio project coordinator Lena Soots was on hand at the mezzanine event to critique the student efforts.

“One of the priorities at CityStudio is to engage the talents and creativity of these students to work towards creating a greener city,” says Soots. “The products the students designed are amazing, and given the correct framework the students have produced viable business models which can stand on their own as both desirable and sustainable.”

The CityStudio initiative brings together students, city staff, professionals and citizens to create a sustainable city. The project and course work emphasize sustainability leadership, social enterprise, education of change managers and the development of green business.

Along with several members of the class, Papania presented the products at the CityStudio end-of-semester event last week, where CityStudio student projects were displayed and presented to City of Vancouver staff, and students and faculty from the core and partner courses.

For more information about CityStudio, visit

Click here to view the students’ products on display at SFU Surrey’s campus.

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