Why You Should Boycott Back To School Shopping.

School starts up again in September.  The malls are are in full back-to-school mode.  Lots of sales are on now, from shoes to jeans, backpacks to underwear.  And you need to start thinking about new clothes for your kids, right?  Right?  Wrong!  Back to school sales are a gimmick.  They are designed to convince you that you need new clothes in order to go back to school.  You need a new back pack.  New shoes.  You need the right color, the right brand the bling on the back pack.  You must get it while it’s on sale!  Black Friday is a crazed consumer-driven holiday full of people buying things they want but don’t need.  Back-to-school shopping has become the same thing.

Time Magazine says

Teen Vogue magazine is promoting August 11 as a national day of back-to-school shopping. Already a number of participating retailers have signed on, including Aeropostale, American Eagle, Cover Girl, Maybelline, Pantene and Staples.

During a time when the economy is slow and you are forced to spend less, the retailers are desperate to get you out making purchases and back-to-school sales do just that.  If you can recognise it as a marketing scam and follow these steps before you decide to buy anything, you’ll save money, buy responsibly, leave a smaller carbon footprint, and feel more in control of yourself in a must-buy world.

  1. Before you start back to school shopping, take a moment and go through your children’s clothing and school supplies.  Do they really need more clothes/shoes/backpacks/paper/binders etc?  Take stock of what you have and make a list of what you need.
  2. Reuse your old back packs that are still fully functional.  Indoor shoes, if they haven’t been outgrown, can be used as outdoor shoes this year.  Check to see if clothing still fits. Hand down clothing that is too small to a younger child.
  3. Shop secondhand.  Our secondhand clothing stores and landfills are overflowing with unwanted clothes.  Because they are worn out?  No!  Because they are not quite the latest style.  Because someone has grown out of them.  Because someone had too many of them.  Secondhand shopping is not only cheaper, it is a much greener and more sustainable way to shop because you are reusing items rather than buying new. Secondhand items create an almost zero carbon footprint.
  4. Buy things that will last.  Choose a good quality back pack and reusable lunchboxes and containers.  Then the kids can use them year after year.
  5. If you can’t find what you need secondhand, be a responsible shopper and buy it from a local small business owned by your own community members whose children actually go to school with yours, and who actually spend money outside of the business that benefits your own community.  Don’t shop at Walmart.
  6. Stay away from the malls!  Chances are, if you don’t GO THERE you won’t buy anything.  Malls are set up with colors, posters, music and even temperature to encourage you to buy what they are selling.  Even being around the people who are spending money can cause you to feel like it is ok to do the same thing.

Only buy what you need, when you need it.  Refuse to buy anything this year in honor of your children going back to school, unless it is something they actually need.  Boycott back-to-school sales.  Not only will you save a lot of money, but you will be acting in a more environmentally-responsible manner, and you will be doing your small part to control an out-of-control, consumer-driven (consuming) society.



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  1. I did not grow up with school shopping and neither did my kids. We bought clothes when they were needed. And not just for school. i have always felt this was a ridiculous idea that is just put out there to make a shopping frenzy.

  2. I agree with most of the article, especially about not buying into the ever more ridiculous marketing crap we get shoved down our throats, but I don’t think it takes into account the fact that these are young children, not adults who think like we do.

    I think its very good for a child’s self-esteem and confidence to go to school in new clothes, period. Always was for me and I guarantee I was poorer than almost anyone reading this article. I mean we were very, very poor, but my single Mom still made it happen somehow each fall and you know what, it WAS important to ME. I understood our financial limitations but it wouldn’t have made it any easier to deal with my peers who are spending the first weeks discussing their summers and showing off new clothes. Sure its not absolutely necessary, but like it or not, whatever you tell your kids or teach them, its always going to be important to them. And like it or not, it is a confidence booster and a positive thing for the kids, regardless of its effect on your wallet. That’s just the way it is.

    You can’t expect children to have the clarity and confidence to simply ignore the fact that they are the only one without new clothes when they return to school because “mommy said so”. If you can afford it, it shouldn’t be an issue in my opinion. I am know a successful business man at 31, and although I have plenty of money, but it has never ruled my world because my mother always taught me right. And now I can buy her whatever she needs – or wants.

    • I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

      I am sad that you suffered from not having up to date fashion as a child. I grew up in hand-me-downs too.

      The change I am pushing for is that more people choose to buy second hand clothing in order to protect their environment and improve working conditions for people in 3rd world countries. The more people that do this, the more secondhand clothing will be socially accepted. We have a responsibility towards our environment and towards our fellow man to make our world a more sustainable place to live. Most new clothing is made in sweat shops in third world countries. If we teach our children to buy what they need not what they want we will be protecting others, less privileged than us, from terrible working and living conditions caused by a “rich consumer demand” that is absolutely not necessary.
      For example:

      I appreciate you wanting to protect your children from the hurt you felt growing up. I encourage you to teach them about environmental concerns first, teach them about an ideal, and help them make choices that will positively affect the future generations as well as those living now, in poorer conditions than us. Encourage them to take part in charitable events. Explain to them how we can help others. Teach them about buying clothing from locally-made companies, fair trade companies, or secondhand. Explain to them the effect this will have on others. Giving the gift of understanding is far more valuable than the gift of more “stuff”. This will then affect others in a positive way, rather than just satisfying your children’s desires to be accepted by others.

      • GREAT article! I, too, was very poor but, being older, grew up in a time when labels weren’t even a consideration (if you weren’t among the uber wealthy). And while I didn’t think about new clothes for the new school year, I was delighted when my family was able to put together 1 new outfit – just one! That was enough. It was a great lesson for a child: less is enough, especially well planned less. It also taught the value of taking care of what you already own to make it last.

        Being and elder – and I was a proud hippie (which I’d love to discuss with you later) – I am dismayed at the gluttonous culture of consumption that has overrun this country. And I am concerned for the very young children who are literally afraid to go to school with the “wrong” backpack. No kidding. I read that in the local paper recently.

        So, I appreciate your values, your lifestyle choices, and your blog for so many reasons. Thank you! (And believe it or not, YOU are living in accord with the original hippie movement.) :)

        • Thanks for taking the time to comment! I especially enjoyed your last sentence LOL! While I understand that some people felt singled out for not having the same as everyone else, there is a value in being different and making a diffence too. If everyone worked hard at just blending in and being accepted there would never be change in an unacceptable situation. I don’t feel like I was harmed any by not completely fitting in, and I highly value my upbringing, despite it being below the poverty level. Take care and keep fighting!

  3. This absolutely needed to be said. Back to School shopping is just the beginning of the countdown via Halloween to Christmas, and we need to question it loud and clear. I would be thrilled if you fancied guestblogging on this subject or other anti-consumerist topics at Mumtopia – do please let me know if you have the time or the inclination.
    Best wishes from England

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