Back to school the eco friendly way

uniformChildren in the UK are going back to school this week, and it’s the annual shopping frenzy for new uniforms, shoes and supplies.

This can be an expensive and frustrating time. Children grow quickly, lose or break things and can be pretty reckless, so many parents buy the cheapest.

Unfortunately, the cheapest option can mean your children’s health, the environment and worker’s rights are compromised.

Eco friendly uniform

Many uniforms are made from polyester which washes well, dries quickly and doesn’t fade. When treated with Teflon, polyester becomes stain resistant and easy iron.

Unfortunately, polyester is a crude oil product which doesn’t biodegrade or let the skin breathe. Perfluorinated compounds contained in Teflon are classified as cancer causing by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Cotton is natural, biodegradable and breathable. However, cotton is a heavily sprayed crop, so it comes with its own set of environmental and health issues.

In addition, many cheap school uniforms are made in sweatshops where workers are paid as little as 5p an hour for an 80 hour week.

Look for fair-trade, organic and recycled school uniforms. Better still get second hand uniforms from friends, siblings, the school, charity shops or eBay.

Green shoes

Fit and comfort is crucial when it comes to children’s shoes. Shoes need to be hard wearing and stylish without breaking the bank, as children’s feet grow quickly.

Green shoes are hand crafted in Devon, ensuring a perfect fit at a great price. Once outgrown, their shoes can be resoled, up to a full size.

Alternative stores stock ethical, cruelty free shoes and trainers. The chemicals used to dye and treat leather leach into your system through your skin, even with socks.

Recycled bags

Many school bags are made from non biodegradable, non renewable materials. Cheaper styles can break easily which mean they soon end up in the landfill where they stay for hundreds of years.  In addition, many bags imported into this country are made in sweatshops.

Doy bags sell fairly traded backpacks made from old juice cartons. “Every Doy Bag purchased really DOES make a difference to the lives of the producers and their families in the Philippines.” says Lucy Hornberger, company Director.

If someone in your home is crafty, then why not sew your child a school bags from your fabric stash?

Healthy lunches

According to Bupa, one in four UK children are overweight. If your child’s school does not provide a healthy, nutritious meal, then you’ll need to send them to school with a packed lunch.

Laptop lunchboxes are strong, reusable and fun. Food is presented attractively which is a great incentive for fussy eaters. For kids that want the latest TV character, laptop lunchboxes can be decorated with stickers.

For healthy meals, choose breadsticks, oatcakes, mini rice cakes or almonds instead of crisps. Instead of white bread sandwiches, try wholemeal pitta bread, or multi grain bread.
You could forgo sandwiches altogether and make quinoa or couscous salad, crudites or quiche.

For healthy deserts, fromage frais with honey, flapjacks, stewed fruit and dried fruit bars are all delicious and healthy.

With growing concern about chemicals leaching out of plastic, One Green Bottle sell stainless steel bottles.


Cheap, disposable stationary contributes to huge environmental problems. Fortunately there are many stylish, practical and fun alternatives.

Ethical superstore stock FSC certified pens and recycled notebooks.

Paul, from Ecooutlet who sells stapleless staplers and recycled stationary sets says “The most important thing from an environmental perspective is not to go overboard. Just buy the necessities that kids actually need and try and buy ethical or recycled wherever possible.”
I couldn’t agree more!

What tips do you have for sending your children back to school the green way?


  1. Go Green on September 2, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Thank you for sharing…Thanks for conveying such useful and resourceful message to us…good job

  2. TC on September 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Hey Ms. Green, Thanks for stopping by Live Smart this morning. What you are looking for is called the Lunar Informer. Open your browser and be sure your on iGoogle home page. On the right side near the top it will say “add stuff”. Click on that and type in Lunar Informer. Then click on “add it now”. It will automatically be added to your iGoogle home page. Hope that helps. Perhaps you would be interested in participating in this weeks Change The World Wednesday’s Sustainable Living Challenge

  3. Mrs Green on September 2, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    @Go Green: Hello Go Green, thank you for your comment and welcome to the site. You are doing a lot of good work on your site too 🙂

    @TC: Hi TC, I love your site; it’s very upbeat and full of inspirational stuff. I’m definitely going to look into taking part with the Wednesday challenges. I have a hectic schedule until mid month, but after that I’m going to join in – thank you for telling me about it and the lunar informer too.