Wiltshire parents using uniform exchange 'to save money and the planet'

Woman in orange T-shirt
Jade Ugur has provided clothing for primary and secondary schools with the uniform exchange

A mum, who has set up a successful school uniform exchange, says more parents want to be sustainable.

Jade Ugur, from Chippenham, Wiltshire, created the exchange eight months ago.

She said: "I've had feedback from families that they like the choice to buy reused items."

Charities, like Eco-Schools, have also noticed an increase in parents getting pre-loved uniforms and retailers such as Marks & Spencer are looking to capitalise on the growing market.

"We have got summer dresses for all Chippenham's primary schools, and we have clothing for every single one of the secondary schools and special schools as well," Miss Ugur added.

"I think people really are making more conscious choices about the steps they can do to help the environment and help the planet.

"People are becoming more aware of just how much impact every item of clothing they purchase has on the environment."

Anna Slade has been using the uniform exchange in Chippenham for a few months and said her children are happy to wear second-hand uniforms.

"They're up for it. They're quite aware of the impact that buying new uniforms and new clothing in general has on the environment," she said.

Anna Slade
Anna Slade helps out at the uniform exchange by mending donations

"Its important to reassure young people that by taking part in initiatives like this they are doing their bit to save the planet and live sustainably," she said.

"My children are quite anxious about the future of the planet.

"[But] I've been able to reassure them that all they can do is what it's in their power to control."

Toni Sutherland, a parent who attended one of the exchange's sales at Abbeyfield School in Chippenham, spoke about saving money but also raised the issue of sustainability.

She said: "Lots of people just throw uniforms away at the end of a school year, which is very wasteful."

Teenaged boy with light brown hair
Alex, who used the school uniform exchange sale, wanted to recycle clothes rather than see them thrown away

Abbeyfield pupil Alex, who is moving from year seven to year eight, used the exchange sale to get another uniform.

"Second-hand things can really help out. It's better to recycle and reuse things [than throw them away]," he said.

A spokesperson for the climate charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) says one new cotton shirt, a pair of trousers and a jumper has a carbon footprint of more than 13 kilos of carbon in their lifetime - and there are currently around 10m school children in the UK.

Sarah Gray, a lead analyst at WRAP, has noticed "really good initiatives" and "steps forward" in people being more sustainable around school uniforms.

She said: "I think there's definitely a desire to improve.

"We do see action planning and we definitely see an increase in the use of more sustainable cottons, but there's an awful lot more still to do."

Many big retailers are signed up to WRAP's textiles 2030 programme, which includes WRAP calculating their carbon footprints.

Eco-Schools - part of Keep Britain Tidy - said it had noticed an increase in pre-loved uniform sales, and among the 12,000 schools signed up in England there were more than 83,000 items of second-hand uniform redistributed in the past academic year.

Alice Duggan, head of buying for Marks & Spencer childrenswear, said the brand is looking for more sustainable fabrics, like recycled polyester.

Alice Duggan
Alice Duggan from Marks & Spencer said expandable waistbands and extra hems give the uniform a longer life

She added focus groups with parents and children pick up strong interest in sustainability.

"Even the quietest kid who hasn't said anything all day, you get on to sustainability and they just become animated.

"They're terribly passionate about recycling, about turning the lights off and if anything, they're kind of educating their parents.

"So we know this is something that really matters to our kids and something we are really keen to support."

A school uniform department in a shop, with mannequins in the clothing and a box to drop used uniform in to.
This year Marks & Spencer has set up boxes where usable uniforms can be donated to Oxfam.

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