Eco Back-To-School: Clothing Swaps

The cost of school supplies like pencils and notebooks can run up to $100 if you have a few kids heading back to school this fall.  Tack on book fees, activity fees, gym shoes and lunches and things start to get expensive.  According to the National Retail Federation,average person with children in grades K-12 will spend $688.62 on school supplies and related expenses.  Enviro Girl has three kids going to school full-time this fall and even with recycling many of last year’s supplies and leftovers she shelled out $150 on school supplies.  But she won’t spend $606 getting her sons back in the classroom and here’s why:

Instead of back-to-school shopping, she’s back-to-school swapping.

Her sons will attend parochial school this fall.  The students are required to wear uniforms, so they’ll need blue or white collared shirts and navy or tan khakis.   The school secretary advised her not to go shopping until after “School Swap Day.”

Two weeks before school, all the parents donate their children’s outgrown uniforms.  Parents in need of new sizes will find everything necessary for the school year laid out on cafeteria tables in the school commons.  In the spirit of Christian love and sharing, there is no charge.  Participants are simply expected to take what they need and leave behind what they don’t.  They’ve done this for years, saving families thousands of dollars.  The school secretary explained to Enviro Girl that each family gets a brown shopping sack per student and is encouraged to load it up with school clothes.  Anything left behind at the end of the day goes into a storage closet until next year’s swap.  Enviro Girl imagines this works quite well because in the world of school uniforms, no fashion trends come into play and a blue polo shirt purchased five years ago or last month looks pretty much the same as one purchased this year.

Enviro Girl has  friends who do a back-to-school swap in their neighborhood.  It’s the same concept, only instead of tables full of white and blue polo shirts and navy and tan khakis, there are tables full of snow pants and coats, mittens, sports equipment, blue jeans and shirts — all organized by size and gender.  They don’t keep track of what you give and get in this neighborhood, but generally everyone donates and receives the same amount of clothing — hand-me-downs and hand-me-ups.

Enviro Girl has also seen swap tables full of sporting gear, saving families a bundle on everything from cleats to balls to shin guards.  Enviro Girl passed along her sons’ required Kindergarten field trip t-shirt, not a swap, but an act that saved another family $12.

In tough economic times, clothing swaps are becoming the rage.  Heck, Clothing Swap even has its very own web site with tips on how to organize a successful swap event  for women’s clothing.   Enviro Girl’s town coordinates swaps of team t-shirts and uniforms and field trip t-shirts for the elementary school.  Not only does this save people money, it reduces the demand for new things, thus reducing our consumption of more resources like energy and water and cotton.  Nothing is greener than reusing, making clothes swapping a much more environmentally friendly practice than clothes shopping.

Enviro Girl has no plans to swap for her two younger sons this fall since they’ll inherit their big brother’s hand-me-downs in turn.  She’ll donate a few of her youngest sons’s things to the table.  She will buy them new gym shoes, but that’s a post for another day.  Meanwhile, if you aren’t  swapping yet, Enviro Girl encourages you to get started in order to save some green and get greener!


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