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Can School Uniforms Be Eco Friendly?

Can School Uniforms Be Eco Friendly?

Kids in some areas are heading back to school already. Mine have about a week left until school starts, so it’s uniform shopping time. My kids warned me at the end of the last school year that they would need new this year, as both were outgrowing what they have now. They thought I would start shopping right away, but no way. I waited because there’s no point in risking a summer growth spurt.

The problem with school uniforms is that you have to buy particular fabrics. My kids’ school actually specified a particular polyester/cotton mix on the pants at first just to make sure parents really understood that they’re serious about the no denim, corduroy, etc. rule. They did clarify it when parents protested that ruling on the exact mix (60/40) was overkill. Still, it brings up the point – can your child’s school uniform be eco friendly?

School Uniform Advantages

School uniforms do have some advantages, environmentally speaking, even if they aren’t made from ideal fabrics. You don’t have to buy a lot of school uniforms, just enough for your kids to wash between wearings. Yes, I make my kids wash their own uniforms; it’s good laundry practice. Buying a few uniforms plus clothes for weekends and holidays can save a lot of money and reduce your children’s overall wardrobe needs.

Schools can also hold used uniform sales, which allows you to keep things even more eco friendly. You can buy uniforms previously owned by other students for less money, rather than spending on new ones. Our school has parents donate used uniforms and uses the sale as a PTA fundraiser.

And of course if you have more than one child you can have them hand uniforms down. I don’t do this between my son and daughter – the difference between girl and boy clothes would make them too self conscious, even though the differences in the uniforms is pretty small. My daughter’s uniforms sometimes get passed on to a friend, but only if they survive my daughter’s not so gentle use. I like handing them down directly rather than going through the school’s sale because I know a few friends have really tight financial situations.

School Uniform Disadvantages

The only eco disadvantage I can think of for school uniforms is the material. Can’t really get away from polyester when it’s mandated in the dress code.

Think About Where You Shop

If you’re buying new school uniforms, think about where you’re buying them. Look for stores that pay attention to the condition workers have when making clothes for their company. Pay attention to clothing quality so you won’t have to replace clothes that wear out too quickly.

Land’s End, for example, has sustainability programs in place, and has a list of how they comply with their Global Compliance Program to avoid using child labor, slave labor, etc. JC Penney does as well.  Justice/Brothers (Tween Brands) also lists how they maintain supply chain transparency.  These are the ones I’ve peeked at so far. A part of what each of these companies list on their sites is required by the State of California, and what I don’t know yet is how effective these are. After all, even Walmart states they have a focus on global responsibility.

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