Back to School!

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I can’t believe summer is over, but this morning I sent my two guys off to school.

Our major purchase this year is a new backpack for my oldest son. We found a made-in-the-USA brand on Amazon  with a reasonable price and good reviews. I’m curious to see how it holds up against previous bags; our Patagonia backpack is still going strong after 3 years, but a licensed character bag from a big box store barely made it 12 months.

Since I’m busy helping my rascals through their first week of school, I’m throwing it back to a few of my favorite school posts from years past:

Do you love school supplies? I love school supplies. While I haven’t found much in the way of ethical school supply brands, I’m happy to know a few of these products are made close to home.
9 School Supplies Still Made in the USA

While we are waiting for WildyCo to produce a polo shirt or for Everlane to make kids’ clothes that don’t involve cashmere, here are a few other places to shop for standard school attire.
2016 Guide to Ethical School Clothes
Back to School, Sustainably

As always, one of my favorite ways to stay sustainable is to reuse what we already have. Back-to-school doesn’t have to include a new wardrobe or accessories when my kiddos already have what they need.

What are your tips for a new school year?

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2016 Guide to Ethical School Clothes

School Rules: 2016 Guide to School Clothes
Pictured: Standard School Attire from City Threads with an Everlane Mini Backpack


The lazy days of summer are closing for our family as we prepare the boys to head back to school. Gap, Old Navy, and Target are popular stops for standard school attire around here, but whenever I can I try to add some ethical credentials into my boys’ wardrobes.

Second-hand shops are still my favorite way to stock the kids’ closets with school attire. I love thrifting, so I keep an eye out for quality clothing as I shop at stores and consignment sales throughout the year. I did NOT relish the idea of taking two boys shopping with me this summer, however, so I just placed my first Thred Up order to fill in a couple of closet gaps.

A new find for me this year is City Threads, which specializes in made-in-the-USA basics. I order City Threads items from Amazon where they often are on sale. The pants we’ve ordered from City Threads use a lighter fabric than what I’m accustomed to seeing, so I’ll be interested to see how they hold up with daily use. City Threads also is a great source for  undies — the quality is terrific, and organic options are available.

American Apparel is still on my list for dress code attire. I’m becoming more comfortable with the company as they rework their image and practices. We’ve enjoyed some of our school clothes from American Apparel, while other items have been terribly mis-sized. I recommend trying them with caution — be sure you can return your order in case of fit issues. [2017 Update: American Apparel is no longer in business.]

Remember my epic backpack search when my first son started kindergarten? With boy #2 starting school this year, I was gearing up for another search. However, the little guy made a wiser choice than his mama and decided he wanted his brother’s old Patagonia backpack. Big brother, who has moved onto an R2-D2 backpack that is now threadbare, asked me to patch his backpack rather than buy him a new one. Wisdom from the kids! In case you ARE looking for backpack options, I’ll let you know that I was eyeing the Everlane Mini Backpack as well as some sale bags from Timbuk2. Honestly, though, I’m relieved to stick with what we have.

So what are your back-to-school shopping secrets? Are you a mender, a thrifter, or a spoiled-by-grandparents-er (ahem — we know something about that)? How are you preparing for the school year?


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Fair Fundraising

Last fall my son’s school participated in a grand tradition passed down through decades of public schools in America — fundraising. I flipped through the catalog of reusable grocery totes, hoping to show my support of the school but finally deciding I couldn’t buy the totes without knowing how they were made.

I did buy a school t-shirt, even after seeing that they were made in Honduras.

Then I bought handfuls of random “made in China” tchotchkes as prizes for the upcoming school carnival.

Apparently having a school-aged child is hard on one’s ethics.

Equal Exchange offers a fundraising program featuring fair trade coffee, chocolate, and gifts.
Equal Exchange offers a fundraising program featuring fair trade coffee, chocolate, and gifts.

After some digging, I discovered that fair trade company Equal Exchange has their own fundraising catalog, featuring coffee and chocolate, plus accessories from Ten Thousand Villages.

I love the idea of  a school fundraiser that encourages economic justice — and then I wonder about the inequality in my own community. What about the families struggling from paycheck to paycheck? Extolling the virtues of fair trade to people who are just trying to make ends meet seems insensitive at best.

We could source school shirts from a company like Imagine Goods or even American Apparel, but would that raise the price of school spirit wear beyond what the average family can afford?

I could have gone to Ten Thousand Villages to get prizes for the school carnival, but I didn’t. It would have cost me a trip across town and a lot more money. I dreaded ordering anything from Oriental Trading Company, so I waited long enough that my easiest choice was hitting Target for cheap party favors.

Can I really expect families in my neighborhood to pay extra for ethical school t-shirts or fairly sourced fundraisers when I struggle to make that choice in my own life? I wonder if there is a way to address inequality and injustice overseas as well as here at home.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, my friends.

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