Eco Back-To-School: Swap It!

enviro girlBack to school supplies can cost 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. Regular readers know Enviro Girl has three kids heading back to class 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 much more than that 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 attend parochial school where the students are required to wear uniforms, so they’ll need blue or white collared shirts and navy or tan khakis. She won’t go shopping until after “School Swap Day.”

Two weeks before school, all the parents donate their children’s outgrown uniform clothing–shirts, pants, shorts, skorts, sweatshirts and fleeces. 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. The 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 on clothing costs. 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 from five years ago or last month looks pretty much the same.

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.  This is a marvelous idea for families without hand-me-downs due to their children’s gender, age or size variations.

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 inherit their big brother’s hand-me-downs. She will buy them new shoes, but otherwise they’re good to go for the year.

Clothing swaps can work for all kinds of purposes–back to school is one.  You could also organize a jewelry/accessory swap among friends or sporting goods swap for your local Park & Rec department.  There’s no point in holding on to things you aren’t ever going to use again, and a swap is a great way to get value back while paying it forward to someone else in need.

If you aren’t swapping yet, Enviro Girl encourages you to get started and get greener!  Tell the Eco Women:  what could you swap?


One thought on “Eco Back-To-School: Swap It!

  1. No swapping for us anymore.

    One of my girls has finished growing, so she holds onto her clothes for longer and doesn’t need as much from year to year. When she does clean out her closet, she usually asks her younger sister if she wants the clothes; if not, then we donate the clothes to a non-profit that helps people in need.

    The other girl is still growing, so when stuff in her closet gets to be too short, she likes to give everything to some younger girls we know who like getting hand-me-downs from my teens.

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