Back to School Shopping with a Conscience

Posted by Debbie van Grieken on

5 Tips to Make a Sustainable Difference

As soon as summer starts it seems big box stores start their Back to School sales! Itʼs crazy but they have limited time to get you to purchase their items before its on to the next sales cycle. People always get caught up in the hype. I've been there too, as a mother of five sons I had to find all the deals and felt the enormous pressure to get all the cool gadgets and items so my boys would have all the tools they needed to succeed. The reality is that most of it wasnʼt necessary. Thankfully I developed some good shopping habits as I learned more about conscientious consumerism and the joy of minimizing the “stuff” we need. I hope the information I provide you will help you to reduce your stress, save you money and bring awareness to becoming a conscience consumer.

Tip #1

Bring your kids into the discussion. If they are old enough for school they are old enough to understand the concepts of wants vs needs and its a great opportunity to explain some basic financial concepts. For example if we have a budget of $100 for back to school and we spend $150 we cant go to the movies this weekend because we went over our budget. Kids are smart, they may not like what you are saying but they understand more then you think. There are some great resources to teach kids about finances and budgeting check out or

Tip #2

Take a full inventory of what you already have at home and what was leftover from the previous years. Assess the condition and what needs to be replaced. This includes supplies, clothing, backpacks and lunch box items. Organize, clean and set aside. Then make a comprehensive list of what needs to be purchased. Review the list with your children and decide what is a need and what is a want. You can put it in columns if that is easier. Talk to your kids about the difference. You need a knapsack you want an Avengers one or a Unicorn one. Rank the importance of the items. You should try to work your budget in a way that they can have a couple of their wants but they have to make choices.

Tip #3

Reduce. It is honestly so freeing when you reduce the amount of “stuff” you collect and can actually lead to more productivity. A desk overflowing with items can actually deter from wanting to sit and work but a space free from clutter can be a great place to get things done! This is the same for clothing, too many options can be overwhelming for a child and lets face it they all have favourites that they wear until you peel it off them for the laundry. Helping a child determine their unique style and understanding what fabrics they like to wear will go a long way in reducing the items that donʼt even get worn. I had a son that I would buy jeans for every school year and then noticed he always chose the track pants or docker style pants to wear. Turns out he hated the feel of denim on his skin. He would outgrow the jeans but they were never even worn!

Tip #4

Thrift shop. This is so important to our environment as we have seen that the Fast Fashion trend is responsible for so much damage ( did you know it takes 2,700 Liters Of Water To Make One T-Shirt. Cotton needs a lot of water, requiring up to 2,700 liters (713 gallons) to grow enough for just one T-shirt. ) ) If that wasnʼt alarming enough the garment industry is notorious for inequality, poor working conditions and bad environmental practices. The average garment worker in Bangladesh makes 11cents an hour. Many children are forced to work instead of attend school just so families can afford to have one meal a day. You will save money and the environment and you can get discounts when you donate items as well. If thrifting just isnʼt your thing then organize a clothing swap with your friends or community. Run it at a local cafe ( preferably one that serves Fair Trade and vegan options ) invite everyone to trade while enjoying a social outing. Check here for tips How to Organize a Clothes Swap - Young and Thrifty.

Tip #5

Buy Fair Trade/Ethically Sourced when shopping its so important to look at labels and discover where and who made your products. The amazing thing is that so many more items are available that are fair and ethically traded from school supplies and clothing to food and personal care items. Stock your cupboards with fair trade bananas and fruits, teas, coffees, chocolates! Look for ethically made clothing! Search for supplies made out of sustainable materials and reduce your use of plastic by having reusable water bottles and lunch containers. Choose food wraps made with vegan wax check here for a DIY recipe. Look for personal care items that include Fair Trade ingredients. When at the store with your kids see how many items can they find that are fair trade or eco-friendly. Make a game of it the first one to 15 wins! Remember that personal care products like our fair Trade Organic Moyaa Shea Butter is a multi tasking powerhouse that can replace many products. As an example, If you are looking for natural solutions to prevent Lice check out our blog post here

There are so many other things you can do from shopping local, finding ethical businesses that give back to the community and choosing organic foods and clothing which reduces the chemicals and pesticides that enter our water sources. The important thing is to get educated about how your choices can make a positive or a negative difference in the world. “One person can make a difference and everyone should try” -John F Kennedy.

Hereʼs to a fun and exciting new school year! May it be an opportunity for your child to be kind. Iʼm always more impressed when my kids come home with teachers comments of their kindness, compassion and inclusion of others then an A+. Share with us in the comments your tips to be a more conscientious consumer. We love to here from you!