An eco start


by Suzie Elkerton

The summer holidays are over and the start of a new school year is here, which may be filling you with either a sense of excitement or trepidation. Either way, congratulations - you survived!

A new school year is a great time to press reset over a cup of Small & Wild tea with the kids and plan for what’s coming up in the months ahead.

For me, September always brings a feeling of ‘out with the old and in with the new’, and I find it’s a great time to go through the kids’ things with them and agree what they would like to keep, and what they would like to give away to other children who may need them more. Apply the Marie Kondo approach of ‘what sparks joy’ and be ruthless! Think about donating items to your local schools and charities, who will always find a good home for them. You can refill the bookshelves and toy cupboard at a charity shop too. Everyone’s a winner. 

Old summer holiday inflatables can be donated to Wyatt & Jack who turn them into one-off items of jewellery or bags.  Holiday sun creams can either be used as winter moisturisers if they’re still going, or if they’re empty, dropped off to be upcycled into new products with Terracycle. You will also be helping to avoid landfill.

The new school term is also a great excuse to invest in new stationery. Consider buying from small business and look for eco products  - I spotted some great personalised wooden pencil cases and colouring pencils, handcrafted from sustainable wood, on Etsy (who also carbon offset their deliveries, dontcha know).  Paperchase has a good range of recycled products for young and old, which will no doubt inspire you to get creative with the kids. A colouring book for grown ups in a great way to stay sane in the face of family life demands! And once all your old pens, highlighters and glues are used up, find your local recycling drop-off location, again with Terracycle. 

Pop everything into a sustainable school backpack (Frugi do some great ones) and don’t forget to include an aluminium refillable water bottle (check out Tesco for some really affordable ones) with some plastic-free snacks wrapped in reusable beeswax wraps or old tupperware. (Psst - you can also recycle crisps packets and snack wrappers with Terracycle. You can guess how much I love this company!)


Finally, Autumn (my personal fave season) is a beautiful time of year to get outdoors. Taking part in a local beach or river clean combines fresh air, family fun and environmental community action in one fell swoop. Check out the Surfers Against Sewage website to find out what’s happening in your region and join your local Plastic Free Community. I’ve discovered that my kids love finding and picking up litter!

Good luck with the return - or new start - to school, and with an ‘eco’ year ahead with your little ones: you got this.


Suzie is eco.mum to two kids and a cat, striving to live a lower impact family life. She works as an Eco Coordinator and PA at an independent London school, and also volunteers as a member of Plastic Free East Dulwich.

Becky Coletto