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How to do a More Sustainable School Shop for the New Year!

We all know that shopping for school materials is HARD. There are just so many things that need to be considered. School uniforms, school shoes (I dare you to find a parent who enjoys this task, so we compiled a list to make it easier), book lists, technology, hats, bags, lunchboxes – the list goes on and on!

Add to that all the incidental bits and bobs that you realise you need JUST before the new year starts and you will start involuntarily twitching your eyebrows. This process is a BIG ask for every parent and it can mean HUGE costs when you’re counting pennies on the bottom line.

New school stuff can often mean a lot of disposable, plastic items that will barely last the term, let alone the year. The temptation is high to make the easy (and often cheaper) buy, but you may well find that it’s a case of ‘you get what you pay for’ further down the track. As these disposable items quickly pass their use by dates, you may well find yourself asking…

Is there a better way?

Can I purchase sustainable materials for school that are of good quality and don’t cost the earth?

Will this endless shopping around ever end?

We’ve compiled a list of ways that you can do a sustainable school shop that will have you saving money (and the planet) in the long run. And who knows, you might have fun along the way!

Sustainability for schools

So how can you shop sustainably for schools?

There are lots of things that you can do that will help you save the planet and save your pennies in the long run. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Set up a study area

One great way to move towards a more sustainable, practical school set up is to revamp your study area. If you don’t have enough room in your house to have space that’s solely dedicated to studying, that’s okay! You can makeover some space in your living area, kitchen space or in children’s bedrooms that will be more conducive to studying.

One great way to start is purchasing a sustainable mat to differentiate the learning area from the play zones. We absolutely LOVE the team at Recycled Mats (you can shop the range here) as they have the capacity to transform a space from the ground up. They have an incredible variety of patterns, textures and feels whilst adhering to sustainable traditional values (and they’re super fun and cute at the same time).

Consider using small tables for desks with organisers on top of them. Put calendars and timetables up on the wall to keep track of important dates and school assignments. Repurpose older family items like chairs and wall art and you’ll have a brand new, productive space in no time.

Technology? Woe!

Many of us send our children to schools who have the expectation that kids bring their own technological devices with them. Shopping second hand for these items means that you won’t only save your wallet from serious pain but you’ll be shopping more sustainably. Tech is traditionally quite terrible when it comes to landfill so repurposing items that someone doesn’t want anymore means you’re lending a helping hand towards bridging the gap to landfill.


Invest in a seriously good lunch box. Plastic cheap models from department chains traditionally break when you’re not even through a full semester. Making an investment in a good quality lunchbox (and we’ve got loads on site!) means that this particular school item can be used year in year out, cutting down on both cost and waste.

School uniforms

Some schools allow you to purchase items that aren’t on a strict uniform list. Polo shirts, shorts, socks – all of these can be sourced from a reliable more sustainable clothing line and you don’t have to fork out at the uniform shop. Consider Sustainable School Shop – a brand that deals in second hand uniforms (and they also sell textbooks and the like!). You can also join parent Facebook groups for uniform swaps and check out Gumtree for anything that you can get your hands on.


You’ll be given a school list with the option to buy through the school. We would suggest seeing if you can source these items for less. Pencil cases, in particular, break quite easily so putting some money aside to get something of higher quality might be a great idea.

Sustainable school shop? It’s possible!

These are but a few of the ways that you can make your next school shop as sustainable as possible. Got any more ideas? Let us know in the comments!

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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