Zero Waste Week (Day One): Top of the class!

Today sees the start of Zero Waste Week. The initiative has been running for eight years and this year’s theme is ‘Re-use’. Having been ill with a rubbish cold over the weekend I feel slightly disorganised for this week but am determined to take part as it’s such a great idea and seems to get bigger every year.

I don’t think I will get anywhere near producing zero waste this week but I will really try to cut down on the rubbish I produce and rethink about those items that would go in the bin – or even the recycling boxes.

With this in mind I started with something very small this morning – a school badge:


returning school badges for Zero Waste Week

My children go to a lovely nurturing village school and one of the things they do at the start of every school year is ask to be a member of a various school council group (School Council, Class Council, Celebration, Food and Sport Councils). Having three children who have, at various times, been on all of these councils means there are a lot of badges that come into our house and only last a year.

I’m not a great one for keeping lots of things for sentimental value and the badges end up hanging around in the bottom of drawers, boxes etc. This school year I was determined to return the badges so that the school could re-use them. In the end I could only find this Class Council badge which my middle daughter had worn last year. Ironically her younger sister has just been given a Class Council role so may end up wearing this very same badge by the end of the week!

Plastic Free July: falling off the plastic free wagon

Well it’s not completely true as I am still trying to go plastic-free but this past week it’s been very hard. I think when it comes down to it you need more time in order to avoid plastic. That is, time to go round different shops making purchases that aren’t wrapped in plastic and time to prepare things at home that won’t use plastic.

Over the past seven days things have been busy here as we get ready for the end of the school year and the beginning of the summer holidays. There are teachers’ cards and presents to buy. I am a volunteer reader at the primary school and wanted to bring in a little end of year gift for my students. My youngest also turns six in August and delights in handing out little edible gifts to her classmates on the last day.

So I found myself this week in Poundland buying plastic bags of plastic wrapped sweets and lollies because I just didn’t have time to bake one hundred and one fairy cakes, or whatever the plastic-free alternative would be. And then once I was off the wagon I ended up buying plastic wrapped cheeses, teabags, butter, dried fruit and soap (we’d run out of the Lush ones),

However I’m pleased to say the teachers’ gifts were small glass bottles of lovely Luscombes lemonade.The personalised thank you cards I ordered from snapfish came with only the tiniest plastic band wrapped around the envelopes, which was a pleasant surprise. I also found a plastic free source of birthday cards from a very cheap card shop in town.

Best of all we went to our local fruit picking farm which is less than a mile from home and picked plastic free raspberries and strawberries. I even bought my own re-usable margarine tubs to collect them in. And when we got home we cooked and pureed some of the fruit to make homemade milkshakes, sipped through paper straws I found in the Kitchens shop in Bath (although they did come packaged in a plastic box).



School’s Out: a quick post about cheap uniform


I had sort of thought about doing a post about second-hand school uniform at the end of the summer holidays (although my kids have yet to break up).

But last night necessitated an emergency trip to our second-hand clothing depot (otherwise known as our loft where hand-me-downs are stored) for a summer school dress. The dress was also too long so I finally learnt to sew an invisble hem stitch using the youtube tutorial below:

I was also interested to read about Aldi‘s new uniform pack for £4 which goes on sale from this Thursday. The bundle features 2 polo shirts, trousers/skirt and jumper for primary school aged children. There’s an interesting article about this offer and a breakdown of costs in the Guardian here. Suffice to say the article draws two conclusions: either Aldi is taking a loss here in order to entice people into its stores (there has already been lots of media coverage) or the workers in Bangladesh are being paid 7p per sweatshirt (which retails at £1.25).

Having three children at school I do find it hard to meet the cost of buying school uniform and can see why the £4 offer would be appealing. In the past when we have bought shoes from Clarks I have paid nearly £100 in one trip! My eldest is now at Secondary School where we seem to be more tied to a specialist unform shop which is pricier. Since starting last September the PE kit has changed and the school is now proposing a brand new uniform for 2015 which means I can make little use of the second-hand supply which will soon be obsolete.

With my younger two girls I have relied on hand-me-downs from friends (hence the endless supply in our loft) which has worked well. With regards to manufacturers both the second-hand – and occasional first-hand – unform comes from a wide range of shops. I’m still doing well out of Adams and Ladybird clothing (remember those labels?), but have found that M&S clothing is not well-made. When I occasionally buy first hand I’ve found John Lewis lasts well. For me, spending slightly more on an item of clothing that will last for three children is more economical. Plus I’m assuming (rightly or wrongly) that a higher price means a better wage for a worker.

If this is a topic of interest to you don’t forget to watch BBC 2’s documentary, ‘Clothes to Die For’ tonight (Mon) at 9pm



Second-hand shoes?

Are there some items of clothing that you would never consider buying or using second-hand? Underwear immediately springs to mind, although I do confess to passing it down amongst my three daughters (predominantly vests and socks). I have, in the past, picked up second-hand children’s vests from a charity shop but I’m not sure I’d do the same for me if it was bras or knickers.

But what about shoes? At the Clothes Swap last week we encouraged people to donate shoes, as well as other accessories. Last time I picked up a great pair of red wedge sandals which I still wear regularly.


I have bought second-hand shoes before but very infrequently and usually for a costume party (hence the great silver platform shoes that were bought in a charity shop in Bournemouth many years ago):


I’m not a big e-bayer but I have loads of friends who have picked up some great footwear online.

I have to say, though, I have always been wary of second-hand shoes because of fit (if the shoes have ‘moulded’ to the wearer’s feet) and, let’s be honest here, hygeine. Yet I seem to be happy to make my children wear second-hand shoes so is this fair?

Well, for a start, I tend to pass on pre-loved shoes to the girls if I can wash them (ie trainers or Clarks’ doodles). It’s amazing how clean and good as new they can look after a wash in the machine. Welly boots I’m also happy for them to wear. All of the above footwear tends to be worn for messing around outside so why would I buy brand new? They are also worn infrequently, as are ‘party shoes’ of which we have loads that have been given to us.

The problem I do have is when it comes to school shoes as, like most parents, I have been brainwashed into believing that only Clarks or Start Rite shoes are suitable for my children to wear all day. But with three girls at school a single shoe-shopping session can cost over £100!! My eldest is now shoe size 2 1/2 and I’m realistically paying £32-£38 for a pair at least twice a year. If I factored in the ‘cost per wear’, though, they would probably be worth it but it’s a lot of money to find.

So for the moment I seem to be either buying in the sales or have started shopping at Marks & Spencer who stock half size fittings. I am also passing on shoes from the eldest, if the size and width fitting match.So the outcome is that at least one child will be wearing her sister’s cast offs. Those shoes that are now too small for any of them will go into the school’s clothes and shoe bank, or out with the recycling box.

I realise this isn’t an ideal solution to childrens’ footwear and wondered what other people do?