Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Back To School Ritual

An enduring theme discussed in the discourse of ecological sustainability is "slow fashion," that is, the preferred purchasing of hardy and eco-friendly clothes which will last much longer than the shelf-life of trendy novelty pieces. The fashion industry knows that throwaway culture may become entrenched by ecologically minded consumers, but one market remains a niche of seemingly permanent fast-fashion: children. Children wield an enormous amount of purchasing influence and are also directly affected by marketing campaigns and shifting definitions of cool. To make matters worse, they also outgrow their clothes. 

While such a concept is incredibly important, its rise to mainstream thought will require a great deal of intellectual muscle and popular encouragement. Taking this a step further, the role played by children's interests and prevailing fads has a tremendous effect on the way in which consumers purchase goods during the back to school craze.

Everyone wants the best for their children - it's only human. Smart parents care about their children's success, often overspending on goods that aren't used as frequently as believed. When schools often issue "back to school guides" that outline a ridiculous number of items that are rarely if ever used, often in unbelievable quantities, many parents turn to bargain or discounted goods sold at big-name retailers like Walmart and Target.
Department Stores: Why Is Back-to-School So Important?
Parents, like most consumers, want the best bang for their buck. Children, unlike adults, actually need new clothing at a relatively frequent rate, in order to survive growth spurts and due to the very real perceived need to be a member of the "in-crowd."

The children wearing cheap fast-fashion clothing live very different lives than the children working in sweatshops to produce them. The same can be said for children whose parents shop at "higher end" retail stores, whose materials, equally ecologically harmful, are made in similar sweatshops across Southeast Asia and the Global South.

How to have an ecologically sustainable Back to School Ritual

First and foremost, the stigma regarding passing down clothes between generations and sharing among neighbors must be abolished. Investing in a sewing machine and watching 30 minutes of YouTube tutorials can save hundreds if not thousands in the long run.

Coordinating with your neighbors, whose kids may or may not be older than yours, could save you both not only a great deal of money but is also a much more ecologically friendly practice, compared to throwing clothes away. In order for this practice to first diminish the stigma associated with it, more care needs to be paid to clothes and more attention needs to be paid by the consumer in the first place, leading to the next important point.

Purchase sustainable and well-made clothes. Purchasing from brands which both boast an ecologically friendly agenda and build their clothing around a philosophy of "built to last" will be a much better bang for your buck than constantly purchasing clothes to replace green-friendly clothes that fall apart. This is especially important with shoes and shirts. Even if your kids outgrow them, if a sustainable piece of clothing has been cared for it'll be in great condition for its next user, be it a neighbor or a disadvantaged youth receiving it as donation.

When it comes to shopping for the meat of back to school goods, buying eco-friendly pencils, paper, notebooks, backpacks, pens and gluesticks can really make a difference. In order for this practice to be sustainable, it is inestimably important that you teach your child to value their belongings. If things are cared for properly, there is no need for their replacement. Sometimes its unavoidable, with shoes degrading quickly and pencils being lost easily. I myself lost innumerable pencils growing up, but more often than not it is a result of apathy instead of accident.

This back to school shopping session, please be wary of these tips!

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