Recycled plastic ties, trousers made from wood pulp and fifth-hand blazers might sound like the overture for an ambitious GCSE textile project, but these garments are paving the way when it comes to sustainable school uniform.
With schools now obliged to review uniform policies under statutory guidance intended to reduce the cost to parents, opportunities have also risen to embrace a more eco-friendly approach.
Parents at nine schools belonging to the Consilium Academies Trust, in the north of England, will no longer have to buy new branded uniforms for pupils – with the exception of blazers. The trust will also hand out free sustainably-sourced ties.
Made of yarn produced from plastic bottles in a Lancashire mill, the ties will also be delivered directly to each school in a bid to keep its carbon footprint low.
According to David Clayton, the trust’s chief executive, “environmentally conscious” pupils are largely behind its green policy drive.
“They’re holding us to account for the decisions we make and the way we operate,” he said, adding the trust was only “at the start of a journey. Cutting down on plastic stationery is next on the list.
Rosalind Shaw, a mother of two, who has been running a uniform swap shop at St Columba’s United Reformed Church in Wolverhampton since 2019, said often it was children leading their parents through the doors.
The shop, which receives donations from schools now obliged to ensure second-hand options are available, offers entire kits that otherwise might end up in landfill.
“It’s cool to recycle and do things that are environmentally conscious now,” Shaw said. “One little girl asked me if I could calculate the weight of what she was taking and how much Co2 it would save from being released if she had bought new. They want to make a huge difference.”
Suppliers too are getting onboard. Trutex, a schoolwear company that is expanding its use of sustainable materials, including viscose sourced from wood pulp, has launched a service to sell on used garments.
A recent survey of academy trusts found while only a few prioritised environmental sustainability, more than half of the 328 surveyed were developing a strategy. Just under half had a strategy to become carbon neutral.