Back to School Zero Waste Tips

how to be more zero waste back to school

Did you know that parents now spend just under an average of £250 per child kitting them out ready to go back to school !

Everyone wants their child to look nice when they go back to school and have everything they need and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But ask yourself, “does everything have to be bought new”?

There are lots of ways you can help to reduce unnecessary waste and these are some of my Zero Waste Back to School tips. 

1. school uniforms

The biggest expense associated with going back to school is likely to be School Uniforms.  But there are ways that you can reduce the cost and also help reduce waste.  

Because children tend to grow so quickly during their school years things like Blazers may need to be bought every year and this means they’re likely to still have a lot of wear left in them so don’t throw them away, pass them on.

It is estimated that 350,000 tonnes of textiles goes to landfill in the UK every year at a staggering value of £140 million. Valuing Our Clothes, WRAP

If you are looking for new school uniform items then why not consider buying good quality second hand items.  There are lots of places you can find them:

  • School swap shop
  • Local Facebook Groups
  • Charity Shops
  • Specialist online shops such as Uniform or  Old School Uniform
  • Pre-Loved and Gumtree

If you still want to buy new school uniform items then try and make sure they are made of natural fabrics and from an ethical supplier.  Eco Outfitters sell pure organic cotton school uniforms which are certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards). This guarantees the whole supply chain from field to final product meets their rigorous environmental and social criteria.  

Back to School Zero Waste Tips

2. School Bag

Your child’s school bag is going to get a lot of use throughout the year and you want to make sure you buy one that’s going to last.  Obviously you can buy a good quality second hand bag but if you invest in a good quality new bag it could last them for years.

Muddy Puddles backpacks are great for younger children and are reasonably priced at £30

Our new, fabulous rucksacks available in three vibrant prints, are made from tough waterproof fabric with fully waterproof zips and have a wipe able inner lining. The straps and back are well padded for extra comfort, the straps are also fully adjustable with a chest strap for better fit and support when carrying heavy school books. There is a handy water bottle carrier on either side, an internal pocket for papers and folders and a internal carabiner clip, for attaching keys and precious nick nacks. The reflective logo, zip pulls and piping on the straps makes children more visible on dark afternoons.

And, for older children my favourite make is the Kånken backpack which you can buy for around £70, but it should last for years.

3. Lunchbox

If they are taking a packed lunch, then they will need a lunchbox. 

Remember you can use what you already have.  So, if you have lots of Tupperware pots that are suitable then use them.  The ethos of Zero Waste is to reduce what goes to landfill and Reuse is high on the list.

If you do need to buy a new lunchbox then consider investing in a stainless steel one that will last throughout their school years.  I love the food grade stainless steel lunch boxes from Elephant Box

And, rather than wrapping your children’s sandwiches or snacks in clingfilm or placing them in a plastic sandwich bag why not use a Beeswax wrap or a reusable snack bag.

Back to School Zero Waste Tips

4. Water Bottle

A good quality water bottle is a must for kids.  Again, don’t rush out and buy a new one just because it’s the start of the new school year use what you have.  However, when it is time to replace their water bottle you may want to invest in a hard wearing stainless steel one.

Kleen Kanteen and Elephant Box both make great kids stainless steel water bottles and if the lids do get broken you can always buy replacements.

5. Stationery

Before you rush out and buy lots of new stationery for the new school year have a look around and check to see what you already have.  There has been an increasing trend for children to want “fashionable” stationery.

In 2018 £100 million was spent on back to school stationery including notebooks, pens and pencil cases in 2018, compared with £65 million in the previous year.

If you do need to replace items or buy new items then try to make sure they are made from sustainable materials and can be reused rather than thrown away.  When your children are old enough invest in a good quality pen that you can refill.  And, try and avoid buying cheap plastic fashionable stationery that will be discarded once it goes out of fashion.

For more tips on Zero Waste Stationery check out my Blog Back to School Zero Waste Style

I hope you find this list helpful and it has at least given you some ideas to start with.  

As with everything everyone is different and we will all wan to help reduce our negative impact on the environment in different ways, we just need to choose which options are right for us.  And, remember every little change helps make a difference no matter how small.

I’d love to hear how you are tackling the back to school shopping and if you have any useful tips to share.

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9 thoughts on “Back to School Zero Waste Tips”

  1. School uniform is a huge bugbear for me. Our tween’s school has just decided the skirts need to be logo’ed which doubles their price and they HAVE to have them. She doesn’t actually need new skirts and know that legally schools cannot force us to buy logo uniform so I have said she is going back in her current ones, and if anyone complains I will send the government info about cost, making uniform hard to get and a few thoughts about the environmental cost too. I am sure that will go down well!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing, a very handy list.

    1. It’s so annoying when the School does things like that. I’m all in favour of School Uniforms but they should ensure they make it easily accessible. When our daughter was at School there was literally one shop in the whole County that stocked her Uniform and the shirts were brown and beige stripes !

  2. I have been very lucky with my boys uniforms as they have a lot of hand me downs and also there was a second hand sale at school. My daughter is starting high school, so we had to buy the blazer new but again I know there are often second hand sales happening. Great tips!

  3. We paid around £200 for our eldest boy’s school bag, which is a normal price in Germany where he started school. You can be damn sure he’s going to wearing that as long as he can squeeze it on to his back!! Youngest has just started school here in Scotland and I’m glad they don’t have such expensive bag traditions here, though we still went for a quality one that cost a bit more and will hopefully last a while.

  4. My kids have only a 1 year age gap from each other. My youngest use to wear his elder brother old uniforms and old bags and that was really awesome that they decided this for themselves even I insist to buy a new one.

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