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Image by Miha Rekar

The Greening of Life

The Emperor's Nearly-New Clothes?


August can be a big of a mixed bag when it comes to keeping kids entertained, managing a few trips to the seaside or out for a picnic, and of course preparing for the inevitability of Back To School. If you don’t have school age children then don’t be too hasty to leave – maybe if I rephrase ‘back to school’ as ‘buying clothes or stationery’, might that hold your attention for a minute longer?


Ok good. Well, it’s been a little harder to hand down pre-loved uniform to younger school friends as the playground has not been the social hub it once was, and PTAs haven’t been able to work their usual magic either. Most schools run a ‘uniform shop’ to raise money for things like school trips or extra computers, but even some of those have been stymied by COVID. It’s worth checking though, especially if you like to live life on the edge and buy your uniform the Sunday before school starts. Who would do that? Ahem. But for anyone on the scout right now, why not try and shop a little more planet-friendly this year? We’re used to the mantra reduce, reuse, repair (yes way), recycle, but if your child has grown, you don't know your thimble from your thread, and you’ve lost that Pinterest pattern showing how to make a laptop from two old T-shirts and a washing up bottle – then maybe you might need to buy more clothing.


So let’s buy smart. First start locally. Charity shops, car boot sales (these are out in terrifying force, I can confirm), local Facebook groups and Mumsnet often have sales at the weekend. Or put stuff out at the end of your drive and ask for donations. And a small tub of alcohol gel please. This is all great for low-carbon transport. But if you have to go a little further afield, try to make other eco-savings, like avoiding plastic. Give hangers back at the till. Don’t pretend those shorts are going to be hung in a wardrobe. Ever. Take your own bag.


Maybe you could try a website like www.grownoutofit.co.uk to buy and sell used uniform (by the way, they list many York schools as well as nationwide). Old shoes can go to clothing bins and Clarks collect and send shoes overseas. And if you have to buy online from a formal school uniform website that insists on individually wrapping each item, take the plastic wrapping to Co-op or another local supermarket that is recycling soft plastics.


Next there’s stationery. I’m a sucker for writing in colour and if you’ve seen any of my media projects of the past 2 years, you’ll know I’m a believer in colour and excitement when it comes to getting across a message. So, where can I get my neon highlighters, I hear you ask? Well, Paperchase do recycled highlighters in a cute carboard pack, and WHSmith have a great colourful plastic wallets made from 50% recycled bits and bobs. Ryman do plant-based Sellotape. If you’re visiting a National Trust place this summer, their shops often have a great range of natural-fibres-type stationery. I am struggling to find fun crayons that don't cost more than a family holiday (sorry, too soon?) but if you find some, let me know! Change is happening, and it's great to see that more shops are offering customers sensible useful sustainable items. Big clap!


And if you’re replacing old lunchboxes or water bottles, think about what they’re made from. Try bamboo, stainless steel, or recycled materials. And don’t forget you can repurpose those water bottles whose teats or lids are broken, or maybe the pre-school characters are a bit embarrassing for your teen? Use them as pen pots, cutlery holders, plant pots, numerous craft projects (try this piggy bank) and Innocent juice bottles make excellent dried food storage for e.g. pasta or lentils should you need to top up at your local zero waste grocery store.


Remember that used biros can be recycled via Terracycle - find your nearest collection point here. For Yorkies, just take them to Ryman's in town, or St Nick's.


Please share your tips for savvy sustainable back-to-school school shopping!

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