4 Tips for Eco-Friendly Back to School Shopping

heading back to the classroom takes a village!
Eco friendly back to school shopping
© Depositphotos / monkeybusiness

As back to school rounds the corner, your summer savings can last longer than a season when you shop intentionally and consciously for your children. In 2016 alone, the average Canadian parent planned to spend $408 for their child’s back to school items. Not only can this be financially difficult for the Canadian parent, it can be incredibly damaging to the environment and for our children’s future.

When we come together with our community, back to school "shopping" can look very different than we might expect. Whether it’s finding gently-used clothing and gear on Facebook, or reading a material label just a little more closely, finding ways to be more eco-conscious can be as beneficial for the buyer as it is for the seller. With this easy guide, shopping for back to school can be easier and more eco-friendly than you think! 

Shop for Kids Gear on Buy and Sell Platforms

It’s hard to say “no” when your kids want a new outfit for their first day back to school, but there is no need to buy brand new! From Poshmark to Kijiji, the buy and sell platform options for secondhand kids gear are endless! Consider the amount of clothing you have been gifted and may able to sell and/or give away barely worn, or better yet, with the tags still on! If this doesn't inspire you to rummage through your kids’ closets, I don’t know what will. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, whether it’s a vintage t-shirt from the 90s or an overall set from Grandma. The best part? Using this money to buy new-to-your-kids items! Buying secondhand means that not only will you save money, no new materials are used, items stay in use for longer, and shipping emissions are reduced.

Check the Labels

Shopping locally is important as it keeps money in your local community, and you are more likely to be purchasing high quality products. However, even if a business is considered local, their materials could be brought from overseas to keep costs down. It is imperative to check the material lists on any given product to see if the materials are as local and sustainable as the brand presents itself. Generally speaking, it can be very harmful for the environment to import materials and/or products over very long distances due to shipping emissions - having local materials is a more eco-friendly choice. It can be difficult to find a reasonably priced item when it is intended to last a lifetime, but they are out there. When it comes to supporting local business, an eco-conscious and high-quality item that is easy on the wallet is a win-win for everyone!

Something you may not have considered for back to school is a good night’s sleep! When we had registered our daughter into school for the first time this coming fall, we took into consideration the true importance of sleep. Ensuring our children are mentally and physically prepared for an 8-hour day is essential, but a true, eco-conscious mattress made of safe materials seemed impossible to find. We were given a Douglas mattress and were impressed with its eco-friendly materials and high quality. Our kids absolutely love them and we notice they are sleeping much better! This mattress uses 100% Canadian materials and 40% less carbon input with their innovative foam, which is far easier on the environment from the average mattress made with conventional materials. It’s a choice that allows parents to sleep easy!

Offer and Accept Hand-Me-Downs

What do we all say to our kids from time-to-time? Sharing is caring! Swapping wardrobes and accessories with neighbours and friends not only gives an opportunity to refresh our child’s wardrobe, but it builds trust and bonding within our community. Clothing swaps are incredibly eco-friendly, as items that are no longer needed for you and your family are not added to the landfills, but given to someone who can use them. Do you get emotional going through the barely-worn clothing your children either grew out of or didn't need? Offer it to a friend or close neighbour with a child of similar size and/or style. When we are actively helping each other out in small ways, it does not seem out of reach to ask for more support - like the odd time we need to car-pool our kids to class or find childcare in a pinch.

Purchase Neutral Clothing and Accessories

When it comes to each child’s personal taste, it can be hard not to succumb to their seasonal character preference on their backpacks and lunch bags. However, if we were to constantly replace our kids’ material goods with what’s hot on the playground, we would be contributing to the rampant, wasteful consumerism which truly begins from our first days of parenthood. If we condition our child to seek instant gratification, such as replacing a perfectly good lunchbox with this year’s hot trend on it is acceptable, they are likely to normalize wasteful behaviour.

Purchasing neutral, classic garments that will last longer than a year will pay off in the long run in many ways. High-quality items can be passed onto subsequent children or friends. I always dress my two oldest children in clothing they can share - though they are different genders, they share similar styles and sizes. My youngest, however, will have an array of clothing from both her brother AND sister.

Another incredible idea for parents of multiple children: buy a sock basket! A sock basket holds many identical pairs of socks. When your child needs a clean pair, they go to the sock basket! No more mismatched socks for your children - they’re all the same! This not only saves time and money, it will save single socks from the trash and prevent future arguments over who is wearing whose socks!

Back to Basics

As parents, it is our duty to spend our time and money wisely on eco-friendly back to school items. Not only will our eco-conscious decisions benefit our own family, they will benefit others too! From purchasing goods locally, to ensuring we aren't replacing perfectly good kids’ items when our children no longer admire them, shopping back to school with the environment and community in mind can be easier than we think. It is time to get back to basics by realizing that raising children does, indeed, take a village!

*Julian Jamie was provided with a GoodMorning.com mattress in exchange for her thoughts. All opinions shared are her own.

You may also enjoy: Lunchbox Heroes: 8 Back to School EssentialsA Back-to-School Immunity Boost, and Back to School Sleep Tips

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