School uniform and the environment

As a return to actual, physical school grows ever closer, I decided to take a look at the uniform my children will wear.

Going forward – possibly two of the words I use most on here – I won’t be buying the branded school stuff. This makes me slightly sad, because I love our little, wonderful school and I’m proud of it, and I know my children are too. But the sweatshirts and t-shirts are largely polyester, and as white cotton shirts are a viable alternative, I think I’d be wrong not to make the switch.

Meanwhile, I’ll be using my newly-purchased ‘Guppy Friend’ bag in an effort to reduce the damage done by the microfibres of the current uniform – at least until these garments wear out. Like the stingy economic parent that I am, I set aside the clothes my eldest wore to school and saved them for my youngest. This week, I took them out to check the state of them before going back…

… I’ve got to say, those t-shirts really don’t look good.

On the one hand, I know that within five minutes, whatever I put either child in will be covered in… something. On the other hand, I know that so many other children will be returning to school with lovely, brand new clothes so I don’t want my two to feel left out.

So, I thought I would attack the half-decade-old stains with some soap that was recommended in one of the lectures of the Sustainable(ish) online festival. Said soap came from a website called Chateau Du Savon and arrived plastic free in the post – bonus!

For obvious reasons, I’m not going post pictures of the school uniforms online, but suffice to say – they’re messy. For illustrative purposes, however, I did manage to find an item of clothing in a comparibly dreadful state….

This is a white shirt that my husband wore whilst chain-sawing an entire tree into small enough pieces to burn in our stove.

Let’s all have a good look at that shoulder… Take note.

So, it’s a challenge. Almost as much of a challenge as my eldest’s hideous old t-shirts…

As I said, this white shirt is masquerading as a school uniform, so from this point on, I’ll be referring to it as such.

I started by soaking the polo shirts in cool water. This actually removed a fair amount of grot. I then rubbed the bar of soap directly onto the areas which were most stained – namely the inside of the necks, and the point on the front of the shirt where the stomach meets the table.

After I’d done that, the water looked like the picture above.

So I rinsed and scrubbed a second time and got this…

Still mucky. So I filled the sink one more time, scrubbed lots, and then tossed everything into the Guppy Friend bag.

The result was actually incredible. Honestly, I wish I’d done it sooner, and it gives me hope for when I do switch to white cotton shirts – perhaps they won’t end up as destroyed as I’d feared.

And that shoulder is all clean again!

Not that you can really see from this picture, but the cuffs also came out particularly well. No-more worn-on grime.

I wish I could show you the transformation that took place on the uniforms themselves – there was only one shirt which really didn’t scrub up to the point where I could pass it off as new.

It begs the question – why do we buy new uniform every single year? Obviously if our children grow, we need to replace items, but there seems to be a mass purchasing before the start of every autumn term where back-to-school=new uniform. This really isn’t necessary. If we take care of our clothes, they will last so much longer. This involves washing cool, line-drying, and keeping them in a good state of repair. All of these things will save you money. All of these things will reduce your impact on the environment.

I’m not saying that you need to go out and buy specialist stain-removal soap, or laundry bleach, or Napisan – even using concentrated amounts of regular soap will help – but if you do make this small, environmentally sound investment, you’re likely to see big rewards.

I plan to cover the repair of a chewed sweater cuff in the coming weeks, so if you have a child that likes to eat their jumpers, it’s worth coming back!

Do you have any top tips for keeping children’s clothes free of stains? Are you a fan of the back-to-school, everything-new-for-a-new-term ‘tradition’, or are you happy to reuse things until your child outgrows them? Comment below, or on Twitter.

3 Replies to “School uniform and the environment”

  1. Farn, this was a great post with a sense of humor to it. Your post screams of extreme materialism that our world lives in. We don’t need to have much stuff and think of the impact on the environment like you mention already. I just finished writing an essay on the “giant triplets” like Dr. Martin Luther King put it: racism, militarism, and extreme materialism — all interconnected to capitalism.
    Thank you for your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I bet the reading for that essay was absolutely fascinating! I need to do some more learning about this, but my understanding so far is that capitalism is really broken.
      I get frustrated at people thinking that if we address one part of it (in this case extreme materialism) then the rest of it will just magically fix itself, or that ‘better’ technology will somehow let us keep living like we do.
      Sustainability is about more than what we buy – its about creating environments which sustain all of us. We can’t do that unless we address racism, poverty and other inequalities.

      ❤ thank you for commenting – you've given me lots to think about.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are definitely on the right track. And you are right that fixing one problem will not miraculously solve the other problems because they are inter-connected. We need to look at the edifice and start from there.
        I liked your article a lot. It was educative, please keep up!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s