Shopping for School Clothes

better back-to-school brigade david suzuki's queen of greenWe’re in the last few weeks of summer vacation right now at my house. While I know some kids are back at school already, mine don’t head to class until the day after Labour Day. At the moment, I’m simultaneously trying to make the most out of what’s left of summer, and preparing for the return to school. This means – at least in part – doing some back-to-school shopping.

I’m lucky because I don’t have to buy school supplies for my kids, at least not directly. I pay for a box of supplies for each child, delivered directly to the school. I like this solution because it’s easy, but also because I’m convinced that it’s probably greener. When my child’s teacher says she needs seven duo tangs, she gets seven, instead of the twelve I have to buy because they only come in packs of six. Ditto for notebooks and pencils and so on and so forth. Plus, I’m not driving from store to store trying to track it all down.

Most of my shopping right now is for clothes and shoes. There are three things I’m doing to outfit my kids for back-to-school without breaking the bank.

back to school
Heading off for the first day of school last September

Greener Back-to-School Clothes

  • Buy Less Stuff – This is the biggest thing that I do to reduce the impact of my back-to-school shopping. There are a few items my kids really do need for back-to-school, like indoor shoes that fit. The rest of the stuff doesn’t actually need to be purchased now. By waiting until my kids actually need something before I buy it, I’m reducing my consumption and spreading the expense around.
  • Shop Used – You can find great used kids’ clothes, at least some of the time. By heading to my local thrift store first, I can reduce the environmental impact of my shopping and save money. I have more success with some items, like pants, sweaters and dresses, and less success with shoes and shirts. Still, even one or two items bought second-hand makes for a greener back-to-school.
  • Choose Quality – For the things that need to be bought new, I try to choose quality over quantity. I would like to say that I only buy organic cotton, locally-made, sweatshop-free clothes for my kids. That wouldn’t be true. But by buying better-quality pants and shoes I can make them last longer, reducing my consumption and saving money in the long run. For example, the high-quality backpack I bought my daughter seven years ago is going strong, while the cheaper ones we’ve been gifted with have all long since died.

Buying less and shopping second-hand isn’t exactly the most sexy way to be green, but it’s certainly the cheapest.

Now that my daughter is eight years old, I involve her in the back-to-school shopping as well. She has strong opinions about what she likes and what she doesn’t like. I want her to use the stuff I’m buying, and I want her to feel good in her clothes. If I pay for a pair of shoes she never wears that ends up being a waste of energy and money, so I make sure to get her input. As she hurtles headlong into her tween years, I anticipate that she will only become more involved in every shopping decision I make for her.

How do you green your own back-to-school shopping? And do you bring your kids with your, or leave them at home? I’d love to hear! Plus, bonus points, by leaving a comment you can be entered in a fabulous giveaway for some seriously sustainable swag:

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  1. No, I don’t take my kid with me. That’s just a disaster waiting to happen.

    Although, all she needs is shoes she can wear at preschool, so I guess I’ll have to take her. Payless, here we come.
    Nicole’s last post … Fabulous Fridays – August 9, 2013My Profile

  2. When we lived in the city we had the choice of using the box program for school supplies and we took advantage of it. Living ruraly we don’t have the option, but I did manage to do all of our supply shopping in one location on one day. We actually were able to use alot of the items from last year…ruler, lined paper, scissors, binders. The girls do enjoy personalizing their stuff those – fluffy, fuzy pencil pouches and funcy duotangs.

    When it comes to clothes we don’t do new clothes for back to school. It’s not practical for sure. We are fortunate to have an abundance of clothes shared from a relative and so we don’t actually purchase a lot of clothes for the girls. When I do, I have my favorite consignment shop that is usually my first stop. By saving money on clothes I am able to purchase better shoes (and ones more desired) for the girls without much thought.

    At this time of year my focus is more on making sure we have all our winter gear ready to go rather than new school clothes. Firstly, it’s September and although it’s +28 today, it could snow tomorrow. And secondly, we are too excited for snow and our return to the ski hill that all the girls want to do is get their gear ready!
    Heather’s last post … Girl TimeMy Profile

  3. I wish I could shop without my daughter but she has become so picky that I have to take her with me to make sure she likes it.

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  1. […] to you is better than brand new: Make this a guiding principle for back-to-school clothes. Shop at thrift stores, host a clothing swap at school or work, or find a family with […]

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