School Uniforms That Do Not Cost The Earth

Brighton and Hove Fair Trade Steering Group aspire to bring Fairtrade school uniforms to our city, giving the farmers that grow the cotton and garment makers that sew them together a decent price for what they do.

Fairtrade Cotton Farmer

But…we know that first of all we need to REALLY get value out of the clothes we already own, ensuring that we are protecting the valuable resources on our lovely planet and saving us all much needed pennies!  We have some amazing tips on how to do this from others schools across the city and would love to share these with you in the blog below written by one of our very own Brighton students in Year 11.


The cost of school uniforms can eat into tight household budgets. We find out how secondary schools in Brighton and Hove are encouraging their reuse as a way of saving money and resources.

It is common strain on a parent’s annual budget – keeping up with the demand for school uniforms. Having to equip your child in a new school uniform is often a highly expensive shopping trip. In response to this, many secondary schools across Brighton and Hove have already started to put in place systems to help ease the blow of buying a brand new kit of uniform. With families spending hundreds of pounds on school uniforms, second hand clothes could be one way forward.

Blatchington Mill has introduced a second-hand uniform event. People only pay £1 per piece of clothing with the money going to a charity. The school is also planning to set up an additional scheme whereby parents or guardians could swap one piece of uniform for another. As children grow, so they can exchange their clothes for new sizes.

Pop-up uniform shops

Another example is the ‘Pop Up’ uniform shop. In Dorothy Stringer School they ask for school uniform donations from parents and then open up a classroom to sell them to students at reduced rates. This strategy seems to be the most popular of all of the methods amongst Brighton and Hove secondary schools with the profits either going to the school or charity. Some of the shops also sold unclaimed lost property as well.

Another inspirational idea came from browsing the Vardean School website. Along with encouraging pupils to donate their old uniform for students in need, they also have an advertisement page for second hand uniforms. This is a space where parents can place adverts for unwanted uniform and sell directly to other parents. This is a positive idea as it means that parents can both donate clothes as well as sell them if they wish.

While some schools were more active than other, most at least recognized that old school uniforms offered an opportunity to be reused and help parents save money. A number also offer second hand uniforms to students from low-income families because of the cost of new clothes.

Environmental education

Re-using clothes isn’t just a cost effective way of managing uniform it is also a means to reducing the amount of raw materials used in their production. Schools are keen to be environmentally friendly and pass on good knowledge of taking care of the environment to the next generation: encouraging the re-use of second hand uniforms is a direct way to do this.

Furthermore, new research from WRAP has found that two thirds of UK consumers buy or receive second hand clothes indicating that there is a clear market and desire for pre-owned clothes. The more second hand clothes is incorporated into our society, the more we can break down the stigma attached to wearing ‘old’ clothes that stops many people buying them.

What not to like?

As students we can tell our parents that we don’t mind wearing second-hand uniforms. That we like the fact it not only saves them money but also massively reduces water, carbon and waste footprints. What is there not to like? The more of us that do it the more acceptable it becomes.

It seems that the idea of reusing school uniforms is fairly common at Brighton and Hove secondary schools, which is great, but we need to encourage every school to develop their own scheme. It can be quite simple as some of the examples have illustrated here. Parents can encourage schools to set up a system, and schools can encourage parents to take part in donating, trading or buying second-hand uniforms.

So it looks like we should be digging at the back of our cupboards for that school blazer that doesn’t fit anymore and feeding back into our schools so others and the environment can benefit. For those schools that don’t have a policy let’s encourage them to set up one up! Perhaps we even need to change the name from ‘second-hand’ to ‘nearly new’ or ‘pre-owned’, although ‘pre-loved’ uniform might be stretching a point too far…

For more information on how to get started with secondhand and fairtrade uniforms, or to tell us your stories of what you do please e-mail us at