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6 Go Back to School Better Tips

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

The summer days are getting shorter and fewer, and school days will soon take their place. Fingers that were once sticky with watermelon juice will be busy figuring out fractions and writing book reports. No more staying up late on a random Wednesday and much more getting up early every single Monday. The nostalgia is strong for those of us who once enjoyed long summer days without tests and homework.

As a kid in the 80s and 90s, the end of August meant a scramble to find new clothes, shoes and supplies for class. It was an annual ritual, both anticipated and dreaded by students and parents alike. Now 80s and 90s kids are navigating the back-to-school weeks as parents. Some things are very much the same, and others have changed significantly.

The “back to school” shopping season is still alive and well, of course, and kids still wear out or grow out of their clothes and shoes. But the amount of textiles people buy and throw away has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. We have learned to buy a lot of new cheap things more often, like a school backpack that falls apart after a year and needs to be replaced or t-shirts that wear out in a few months. Summer still happens, but it is getting more and more intense. Temperature records are being broken every summer. Raging fires and extreme weather events provide year-round reminders of the climate changing for the worse.

What does climate change and textile consumption have to do with back to school shopping?

The clothing and textile industry creates a lot of environmental problems, and it has a significant impact on our climate.* The more new stuff we buy and throw away every year, the more we contribute to these problems. Cheap new stuff can also cost more. One new €15 backpack every year costs more than a €35 backpack that will last for 3 years. Buying extra clothing and supplies that aren’t actually needed is just a waste of money.

Kids grow. Things wear out. Stuff needs to be replaced, and your choices as a parent make a big difference. These choices can reduce short term impacts on the climate and teach kids that we need a world to live in more than cheap new stuff.

Give your kids the best this school year and a brighter future with these basic steps:

  • Look through what they already have and find what can still be used (and still fits, of course)

  • Make a list of what your kid actually needs for going back to school

  • Clean or freshen up items that will be used again

  • Try to find needed items at your local reuse center or secondhand shop before buying new

  • For things they won’t grow out of - Buy good quality products that will last (e.g. backpacks and pencil cases)

  • Buy better quality and fewer items for basics that will survive some growing (e.g. t-shirts and socks)

Check out our favorite reuse shops in Estonia and the Netherlands, and enjoy the watermelon!

*Problems are incurred during production and when products are no longer wanted by the person who bought them; Sources disagree, current estimates are 2-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.


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