How to go ‘back to school’ sustainably

By Fodhla O'Connell-Grennell

Now that summer is coming to an end, many parents face the large wave of expenses which come as a result of the ‘back to school’ season. Due to Covid-19, parents may feel obliged to buy everything new, however, these tips will help you feel more comfortable and safer, all while being eco-friendly, when getting your children back into their school routines.

Books and Uniforms

Buying books and uniforms second-hand is more environmentally friendly than buying them new. If they already exist, then why not use them?

Under the current circumstances, some parents may feel reluctant about reusing old books and uniforms. If you feel like this, why not ask your friends in the community, who have children a little older than yours, if they still have their old schoolbooks or uniforms. If you know this person and know the household where the items are coming from, your anxiety about reusing second-hand books and clothes could lift with this assurance.

If you still aren’t happy, locally source your children’s school books. There are some great Irish bookstores out there, such as The Book Haven, Chapters, Opening Minds School Book and Toy Shop and many more. Supporting Irish-owned businesses cuts out transportation impacts on our environment.

With many schools having closed in March, if you bought a new uniform last year or the year before that and it has not updated, then maybe skip-out on the new uniform this year. You won’t need it; uniforms are built to be durable. You will have to wash the uniform if it is second-hand so don’t let the fear of buying second-hand clothes worry you now.

Finding books which use recyclable paper or which hold FSC and PEFC standards can be key to assuring you have done your best when consuming new paperback books or copy books. If you want to cover your children’s books for durability, make sure it is with paper and not plastic and that you are ensuring the paper is FSC and PEFC qualified.


Yes, markers and twistable crayons are fun to play with, but the plastic which they come in does not have a positive impact on our environment in the long-run. Why not let your children use ‘old-fashioned’ pencils, chalk or crayons? They cost less, it is rare they run out and, most importantly, they are plastic-free. You might even already have some at home, but if not, Jiminy had you covered with their stationary options. You can see their range of art supplies and stationery here.

Schoolbags and Lunch

Organic cotton schoolbags are not hard to come by, neither is reusable lunch bags or boxes, beeswax wraps and reusable water bottles and straws. Focus on buying what you can reuse as opposed to dispose. sell great organic backpacks, which are only €3.99 or else there are many great Irish websites where you can find them stocked too. reuzi have you covered for lunch boxes, water bottles and straws and beeswax wraps can be found in your local supermarket!


We are so used to hopping in the car and piling the kids in on a cold, school morning, but why not try, even one morning a week, where you walk or cycle to school. The exercise can be good for both you and the kids and the cold air will wake them up for the schoolday. It can also be a nice family activity which you can give a little extra time to in your action-packed, morning routine. Making these small, sustainable changes can make a difference to our impact on the environment, and who knows you might actually enjoy it!