Sustainable school uniforms: The complete guide

Our tips and tricks will have your kids looking their best, while being kind to our planet – because school uniforms can be sustainable!

We all remember our days in school uniform. An army of children dressed in little white polo shirts, checked summer dresses, and even, horror of horrors, a tie, which would be worn as tiny as possible. Many of us will also remember the brand-new uniform in September which would be thoroughly outgrown by the end of the school year, not very sustainable right? Our parents would tell us we just had to make it to the summer holiday, so off we went in ankle-skimming trousers and sleeves that needed to be rolled up because they were too short. 

That’s the thing about school uniforms. Children outgrow them so fast that parents have to keep buying, again and again. This isn’t great for your wallet, or for the planet. After all, where does all that old uniform end up? It’s already hard enough assessing whats bad for the environment! There must be another way, a way to make school uniform sustainable. Well, yes there is. And we are here to tell you all about it. 

If in doubt, swap

Swapping school uniforms makes perfect sense if you think about it. It’s such a sustainable option and is much cheaper than buying new. Some swap shops may ask you to pay a small fee to be part of the exchange, but some are absolutely free. Not only does this make school uniforms sustainable, but it can also save you tons of money each year! Because let’s face it, uniforms aren’t cheap.

We love the Uniform Exchange from Level Trust in Luton which does this more formally. However, it is totally possible to set something up at your child’s school without too much fuss. All you need is a bit of time, a dedicated space and some communication with other parents. And voilà! You have a planet-saving uniform swap shop. 

Why buy new?

If setting up a swap shop is not an option, consider buying your child’s school uniform second-hand. Not only is is it a way to make school uniform sustainable but it’s also a sure way to save money! There’s no particular reason why kids need a brand new uniform each year and there are plenty of organisations around who offer the best second-hand. Check out local Facebook groups and NextDoor for families who may be selling uniforms in your area. 

Of course, before you buy or swap anything, make sure you check whether last year’s uniform still fits. Some of us get into the habit of buying new every September but sometimes, just sometimes, our kids haven’t outgrown the outfits of the year before. Fingers crossed!

Which shoes will you choose?

School shoes are another area where you can end up spending a sustainable fortune if you’re not careful. While your kids’ feet are still growing quickly, second-hand or swapped really is the best choice. 

However, once those feet have stopped going up a size every six months, investing in good quality makes a world of difference. We all know that kids wear their shoes hard. They’re busy running around, exploring, engaged in the business of being a child. That’s why we really love these hard-wearing shoes from Treads, which come with a 12-month indestructible guarantee. 

This idea of longevity can also be seen at Buy Me Once, who sell things that are made to last. We adore their range of school shoes. Or, if you’re after a more mainstream brand, the iconic Dr. Martens have some seriously impressive eco-friendly credentials. So why not make school uniforms sustainable and stylish?

If you’re buying new, buy sustainable

There are times when you simply have to buy new. If this is the case, check out shops which offer sustainable options. We love Eco Outfitters, who sell sustainable school uniforms made from organic cotton. They even have an embroidery service. It might be possible to encourage your school to sign up with them. That way, you know that all of the money you’re spending is supporting a brand with the environment in mind. 

When buying on the high street, keep a lookout for organic cotton. Both John Lewis and M&S sell those essential white shirts in organic cotton at a pretty reasonable rate. In fact, all of the cotton at M&S is sustainably sourced. Another reason to love them, along with Percy Pigs. 

If you are buying new, check out our pick of the best sustainable brands for babies and children. Shop guilt-free!

Eco school uniform is just the beginning

If you’re looking to make more sustainable changes then check out our guide to making an eco-friendly return to school. If you’re ready to go the extra mile then also take a peek at our sustainable food brands blog and try to opt for those when it comes to mealtimes. You can even reduce your child’s carbon footprint and save money simply by joining us here at Y’earn! With us, you can rent instead of buying, and even make some extra cash on the items you no longer need. We can’t wait to welcome you to the community. 

kids wearing sustainable school uniform with hands up in air

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If this is your first visit, hello, let us introduce ourselves. We’re Y’earn and we exist to create more love, less landfill. Pretty lofty, right? Well, not really, it’s actually pretty simple. Our aim is to make renting as common as owning so we live more sustainably while helping the community around us.

Y’earn is a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent Baby & Kids items from people in your community or make some cash if you have items you don’t need right now. We’re a sustainable business that plants 🌲, adopts 🐝 and donates to children’s charities.  We’re helping each other and the planet, one rental at a time.

You can read more about how Y’earn works here.

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Y'earn Baby & Kids

Y’earn is a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent Baby & Kids items from people and small businesses in your community or make some cash if you have items you don't need right now. We plant 🌲 and adopt 🐝, plus give to children’s charities.

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