Back to School the Resourceful Way | The Waste Not Want Not Guide

Whether you are looking forward to it or not, the time has come to think about getting those kids back to school!  And it can be anything but straight forward given that our children simply don’t grow in a uniform manner – nature has not contrived to have them conveniently grow out of 6-7 year old school uniform in July of one year, ready to start the new school year in size 7-8! And if they are anything like my daughter, they skip 7-8 altogether and go straight to 8-9! Plus, if you hate to throw anything away, it can be hard to cast stuff aside that seems to have a whole lot more life left in it! 

So, with resourcefulness as our goal, here is our Waste Not Waste Not Resourceful Guide to ‘Back to School’!


Obviously top of everyone’s minds is school uniform – what fits, what doesn’t, what is really too worn, what needs to be bought – what size to buy it!

First of all, just make sure that they really have grown out of everything. Have a ‘trying on session’ and take a good look. Like I say, children do not grow according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and I have had some uniform last well over 2 school years, where other bits have barely made it through one. Some manufacturers cut their uniform more generously than others – it is simply the luck of the draw. Then you can hone down your list to only buy what you really need for September.  And remember that school uniform is available year round, especially if you order it online or via Click and Collect, so only buy what you need for the time being, and top up later.

Obviously supermarkets and other high street stores offer an amazing range of high quality and affordable school uniform, so shop around for the best prices and what suits you best. If you want further advice on what to buy where, check out our WNWN Guide to Buying School Uniform!


The second hand market is also a great one to consider when getting the kids ‘back to school’, whatever your circumstances.  There are several ways to approach it and obviously it is a good way for you to move on usable items yourself. There are various options available to you!

  • Hand Me Up/Hand Me Down – this is what we call the concept of find somebody who is has bigger and or smaller children than you do, and organize an informal ‘hand me up/hand me down’ system! I have one daughter who site right in the middle of my friend’s two daughters, so we regularly pass uniform up and down. Uniform rarely wears out completely, particularly if you have girls! Don’t be shy to ask!  It’s not the 1940s! Second hand is hip!
  • Second Hand Uniform Shop – often run by a school’s PTA, but a great place to donate your still wearable uniform. Those that need to can buy second hand uniform affordably, whilst also raising funds for your school. If your school doesn’t have one, think about starting one – it really is very easy, especially if you use Facebook. We also throw up a rail of items at all of our PTA events and it really is appreciated by the parents.
  • Facebook/other selling pages – an excellent place to get a few pounds for the more expensive items, school specific and specialist bits and bobs that hardly wear out. Set up a group specific to your school, or just use your local buy and sell pages.
  • Charity Shops – of course, anything that you have that you want to donate to charity shops is always gratefully received, and it is always worth a browse yourself for things like blazers and PE shirts.

And if it really is the end of the road, and items that are completely unwearable, please take them to your local textile recycling services.


Another joy of ‘back to school’, is of course school shoe buying – seldom mentioned in the same sentence without an audible groan! But we have two suggestions to help you! One, unless your children’s shoes are actually too small or have holes in, wait a couple of weeks into the term before attempting to buy new ones!  Where’s the hurry! There’s now law that says new school year, new shoes if shoes have life still in them!

Alternatively, book an appointment with your local shoe shop for a fitting – most towns have a major shoe shop at which you can book an appointment – check out your local favourite store to see if they offer the service. Or you can book an appointment at any Clarks store online at

John Lewis also offer a shoe fitting service – you can book an appointment at

As for what to do with your old shoes, you will certainly find some local shoe recycling facilities for those that really have no life left in them, many of which will be raising funds for various charities.

Sal’s Shoes

But we absolutely love this charity – Sal’s Shoes. They collect used school shoes and distribute them to children that need them, not only abroad, but also in the UK. It truly is inspiring work when you consider that 300 million children in the world have no shoes at all, and it was all set up by an amazing mum. Check out their website to find out how to donate your shoes or organize a collection of shoes at your school.

Sal's Shoes - Collecting Unwanted Shoes for Children Who Have None

Sal’s Shoes – Collecting Unwanted Shoes for Children Who Have None


Sal's Shoes

Sal’s Shoes


Shoe Share

Alternatively you can also donate unwanted shoes at Clark’s stores, in aid of the Shoe Share with Unicef campaign.  It raises money for school materials for children who need them around the world. There are drop off points at over 500 Clark’s stores nationwide.

Clothes by the Kilo

Finally, you can always organise a collection of not only shoes, but clothes and other textiles including cuddly toys, for charities such as Bags of Support or Bags2School. These charities not only collect unwanted clothing, textiles and shoes, ensure that they are all appropriately moved on and recycled, but will then pay a price per kilo for everything usable that you have collected – this can be anything up to 50p per kilo so it is worth shopping around.  There are a few of these schemes out there, but we have personally used Bags of Support and they guarantee that everything donated to them will be recycled or donated appropriately so as not to affect the local market. Have a Google and see if you can find a local service to suit your school.

Bags of Support

Bags of Support


Yes, who doesn’t love this little task – a highlight of the ‘back to school’ régime surely! Of course there are a wealth of options out there – sewing, ironing, transfers, stickers, stamping – you name it, literally, and some methods and manufacturers are much more reliable than others. Some will also benefit the school by paying you a small commission on sales.  Easy2Name is one that we are aware of and with whom our school is registered, but check with your own school and please do let us know of any others.

Our one piece of advice – always follow the instructions, which unfortunately usually includes washing the uniform before you label it! But with the amount of teflon they use in uniform manufacture these days, you’ve literally got no hope of anything sticking otherwise!

For a full run down of the options, here is our more detailed guide to School Uniform Labelling!


Our top tip is  the revolutionary item which is Stamptastic!  We have used ours for several years and it is without at a doubt the most speedy and effective way to name just about everything! I’m not saying I don’t buy other labels – I do, but purely to make it a bit easier for the teachers to identify the gazillion cardigans my daughter leaves around school. But to simply get a name on an item, this is king!  It literally takes minutes or even seconds. You can cover off those tiny items you might not even bother with usually such as knickers or socks, and also label ‘on the run’! You can just pop a stamp on something that might need to go in to school on a particular day that you are worried might not comme back! Stamptastic will also pay your school a commission. Simply ask your school to set up a scheme or tell you what the code is.






If you are one of the many people whose ‘back to school’ routine includes treating their children to a new school bag every year, the first thing is of course to think carefully before you do! We are not ones to spoil the fun, but it seems a shame to retire perfectly good school bags for the sake of it.

However, there are charities that can find a use for your old ones, including one called Mary’s Meals. They ask people to fill their old children’s school bags with various items, from stationery to soap for them to ship out to children in 14 countries around the world. Not only do they collect filled school bags for those that need it, they also fundraise to provide school meals for hungry schoolchildren around the world.  Organising a collection is alot of fun and the perfect opportunity for a clear out of excess stationery, pens, etc, for a brilliant cause.

Again, a little bit of research can go a long way, and there are other schemes out there looking for donations of new items for children in the UK who cannot afford to equip themselves for school, or sometimes relief or homeless charities will take them, but it is usually best to contact them and maybe organise a collection.

And if you want to buy something new that will benefit others, then check out this lovely school bag filled with everything that any body could need, in aid of Save the Children Fund! It can be personalised and makes a lovely ‘back to school’ gifs. Click here for details.

Save the Children Back to School Bag

Save the Children Back to School Bag


If like us you have a  drawer of doom of drying felt tip pens, broken crayons and unused coloured pensils, we have some good news and some bad news! So far, nobody has found anything useful to do with dried up felt tip pens, but trust me, if it takes me my whole life, I will find something!!!  Of course, there are always crafty upcycling options for those that have the time and inclination, like this beautiful bag below, but we need a better solution to this problem, because frankly, who’s got that sort of time!

Recycled Felt Tip Bag

Recycled Felt Tip Bag

One solution is to buy Stabilo Cappi pens – the lids hook together and are far harder to lose! We have found a massive reduction in the amount of pen lids being left off, which helps somewhat, but I just cannot carry on collecting shoe boxes full of dried up felt tips in anticipation of somebody coming up with a brilliant plan!

Stabilo Cappi Pens

Stabilo Cappi Pens

Crayons on the other hand, are much easier to upcycle! Crayola, who are the most well known of crayon manufacturer’s, does not offer a recycling programme, but does make the following suggestions for recycled crayon crafts! But there are loads of ideas out there Red Ted Art or on Pinterest and you can even make your own recycled ones if you’d like to!

As for the compasses, protractors and the like, again, don’t buy new unless you need to!

In terms of stocking up on stationery, then there are a myriad of places on the high street all screaming ‘back to school’ offers – Poundland, WH Smith, you name it! But if you can, try and buy responsibly – don’t over do it and succumb to the offers – that’s exactly what the retailers want you to do! Unless like us you are stationery addicts, and would rather buy a pad of A4 ruled paper than just about anything else in the world, then go for your lives!


And finally, if you are shopping online, check if your school PTA is registered with Easyfundraising or one of the other cash back portals and raise money for your school as you shop! It really is incredibly simple and the true définition of money for nothing! Check it out!

So there you go! Our ideas on how to have a more resourceful ‘back to school’ saving time, money and of course, ressource!

 BuyRecycleDonate to CharitySell
UniformWNWN School Uniform Buying GuideWhere to Recycle TextilesPTA/Second Hand Uniform
Charity Shops
Bags of Support
Second Hand Uniform Shop
ShoesClarks Back to School

John Lewis School Shoe Fitting
Where to Recycle ShoesSal's Shoes
Unicef Shoe Share with Clarks
Second Hand Uniform Shop
School BagsSave the Children Back to School BagWhere to Recycle TextilesCharity Shops
Mary's Meals
StationeryLidl, Aldi, WH Smith, SupermarketaSeparate into paper and other plastic items, and recycle appropriately.Charity Shops
Local Campaigns
Local Nurseries

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