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School uniform – a sustainable parent’s dilemma August 24, 2007

Filed under: environment,parenting articles,school,the kids — paulabrown @ 1:28 pm


So I grabbed a pack of 2 red polo shirts in Asda (my son school just do red polo shirts and blue sweaters with logos as uniform) and when I got home I was shocked to see they were £2 – just £1 each. The claim most supermarkets make that you can get an entire uniform for less than £20 is true then.

Now I’m a bit of an old hippy when it comes to organic, fair trade and the like but I’m also aware, not having the luxury to live in an ivory tower, that trying to keep afloat financially with kids (at whatever level of income) can be hard at the best of times. So what to do?

The clothes my employer Tatty Bumpkin  makes are either made on a fair trade co-op in Sri Lanka or in a very kosher factory in Turkey that we’ve checked out so I feel like a hypocrite buying these clothes knowing full well the state of the factories that make clothes that cheapily. Alas we don’t make organic / fair trade polo shirts.

I then came across Spirit of Nature – an eco-online store that makes organic and bamboo mix polo shirts (check them out) – bamboo is an amazing fibre we use in the Tatty Bumpkin kid’s clothing collection. It’s got a long list of environmental benefits, is UV resistant, feels like silk, dries quickly, regenerates quickly, needs no pesticides, even does the washing up, sends the birthday cards and will cook the tea if you ask it nicely!

So the compromise I’ve gone for are 3 organic / bamboo polo shirts and 2 Asda sports and 2 uniform as back up. Not a great solution but the best I could afford!


7 Responses to “School uniform – a sustainable parent’s dilemma”

  1. Sanne Says:

    Everybody in my town must know me by now as ‘the crazy mum that doesn’t want to buy a school uniform for her 3 year old daughter’. I just couldn’t stomach the fact that my daughter would go to school in a cheaply produced shirt (made by a child that should be going to school instead of working?) And who knows, some children in Africa or Asia might not have a dad anymore because of the destroying effects of pesticides used in cotton farming. To say my daughter’s school was suprised by my refusal to buy their shirt is an understatement. But they were a good sport and agreed I could buy either an organic shirt or second hand shirt and get it embroidered with the school logo. I was just about to order one from Spirit of Nature when I came across a fine red shirt in the charity shop. Not organic but at least I can take my daughter to school with a clear conscience.

  2. littlemummy Says:

    You’ve definitely hit on a problem here Paula, often the eco/organic/fair trade alternative is more expensive as it is ethically produced, however some families simply can’t afford to make the ethical choice every time.

  3. I completely agree, it is a real issue. Maybe you could encourage the school to offer an “almost new” sale aka second-hand. It’s something that lots of schools do and in all honesty, once you’ve washed the uniform a couple of times the freshness of the uniform is soon lost. Strange though, our school tried it and there were not many takers. It surprised me given how much people complain about price of uniform. Looks like there’ll be more for me to grab then 🙂

  4. paulabrown Says:

    I’m liking the second hand option as an ethical alternative although obviously we can’t all do it!

  5. Vicky Says:

    Your post definitely hits on a problem. I go for the second hand option myself. Unfortunately ethical options usually lose out due to expense and it is difficult to see how this will change. However, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth fighting for.

    I like the thinking behind “MAD” socks – socks sold by mums for charity. The socks have the word “MAD” on them (which stands for Make A Difference) and they help raise money and at the same time teach kids that they can do something to help others. Good idea, isn’t it.

  6. paulabrown Says:

    MAD socks are great and yes, good idea for kids to learn about. I do always think, though, that we have learned to think things should be cheap and are surprised otherwise. I have to say I was expecting to spend more than £20 on an entire uniform, and knowing how my little one runs around and sweats, wanted it to be nice stuff. People spend as much on designer stuff?? I have actually only spent £35 on the whole uniform then with some of it organic and bamboo fibre… Some of it second hand and some from supermarkets…

  7. Check out our website http://www.solidarityclothing.org
    We specialize in Fairtrade Polos in men/women’s and youth sizes. We can also custom embroider.

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