Leeds School Uniform Exchange - Inspiration guide for running a full redistribution scheme

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Guide to running a full redistribution scheme Perfect for schools, PTAs, community groups or hands-on parents


BEFORE YOU GET STARTED Firstly, thank you for helping our city tackle its waste, reduce its carbon impact and also for helping families save money and make second hand school uniform their first choice. Before you set up a new school uniform exchange scheme, it is worth checking our map here to see if there is already a scheme. It could be run by a school, PTA, community group or it could be a Facebook page. If there is one, consider whether you could team up with them to help. If you know of a scheme that is not already on our map, please let us know here. Join us on Facebook at Leeds School Uniform Exchange to keep up to date with what's happening across the city and to network with other people.


There are many ways to run a school uniform exchange. One of the easiest is to use a Facebook or WhatsApp group which can be very effective and less time consuming as they are very much geared towards people organising themselves. However, some of the most successful schemes are run by taking a much more hands-on approach.

What does taking a hands-on approach really mean and what things do I need to consider? You'll be encouraging and taking in donations, sorting, laundering, storing and re-distributing school uniform which takes time and effort but can be really effective. To do this well you'll need to consider the following: Pricing (p. 5) Definition of school uniform (p. 5) Donations - how to get people giving (p. 6) Laundry - not all donations will be good to go (p. 7) Repair - some items might need the odd button sewing on (p. 7) Sorting, storage and distribution (pp. 8-10) Dealing with waste (p. 11) Measuring your impact (p. 12)


We are covering a lot of bases with this guide which is aimed at parents, schools, PTAs and community groups. A lot of the practical considerations and tips apply across the board but there are differences. There is some guidance for promoting your scheme from page 13 - this is mainly geared to parents as many schools are restricted in their use of social media and have other ways of reaching parents. Community groups often have their own existing social media so again this section won't necessarily be relevant but you might pick up some ideas. We have some great resources on page 18 that everyone can use including ideas, wording and photos you can use when promoting your scheme and carbon impact measurement.




Our research shows that the most

People can be very generous when

effective way to distribute school

it comes to school uniform

uniform is to give it away for free.

donations so make it clear what you want.

This is obviously a really important consideration because you may have to find other ways to meet the cost of running

Do you want to include PE kit, shoes, trainers, coats, football boots, school bags?

the scheme. Some exchanges have a Pay As You Feel policy to raise money or they price expensive items like blazers and coats. You can test your market and see what works for you.

Our research shows that logoed school uniform is the easiest to distribute. Link up with other exchanges so that you can swap stock between yourselves, particularly if you have a lot of generic uniform.

ASK FOR HELP Running a school uniform exchange can be time consuming. If you can, gather a team of volunteers to help you.


Something we learned when we launched Leeds School Uniform Exchange is that there is no shortage of school uniform. One of the schemes we supported had over 3,000 items donated within 2 weeks - so you might need to be prepared to be overwhelmed! Put a call out for donations. Ask all your friends and family and consider promoting your scheme via social media (see the promotion section of the guide if that relates to you). If you join Leeds School Uniform Exchange on Facebook you can also put a call out there. Make donating easy and accessible. Consider having a donation box outside somewhere so that people can drop off their contributions at any time. One of the schemes we supported used an old wheelie bin lined with plastic. Or you could use a large storage box with a lid. Your school might be happy to take donations or strike a deal with your local charity shop.



Clarity about quality and condition

Storing donations

Suggest that people donate things they would be happy for their own child to wear. This could be a message worth repeating over time.

Remember to identify where you will put all these donations and make them as accessible as possible.


Messages about quality and condition are worth repeating but be prepared to sort and grade the donations.

Logoed items are usually more popular than generic so you might be slightly more forgiving with those. Presentation is key - clothing that looks and smells good is easy to re-distribute. Discard poor quality items (see Dealing with Waste on page 11). Some items might need a wash or a quick iron. Baby wipes are handy for getting rid of small stains and slight bobbling can easily be removed. Don't be shy about asking for help with this - people will be willing to take a carrier bag of uniform home to wash and/or iron if you ask.




Permanent black marker

Basic sewing kit

Tumbledryer sheets

Useful for blocking out names written in uniform and labelling boxes

Useful for sewing on the odd button and minor hem repairs.

Useful to put in storage boxes to keep clothes smelling fresh and clean


Accessibility is key whether you're a school, community group or a parent. How are you going to organise your distribution? Some uniform exchanges have a permanent location but many run 'popup shops' at key times in the school year.

Thinking about accessibility is fundamental to your scheme. If you will be based at a school then key dates might be parents evening, Christmas/summer fairs, sports day, last week of term or half term. You might have enough volunteers to run a more regular exchange. Think about how accessible you need your stock to be and if staff at school might need access to it during a regular school day to sort out the odd request.

Some community groups have opted for a bi-annual event during February half term and August, running pop-up shops during those times. It can be a really effective way of giving away a lot of items in a limited time and it concentrates the hard work into two key periods so that the exchange doesn't detract from core services.

Quality of your garments, timing, venue and publicity are the keys to success.


If you are undertaking this as a parent, what are your options? Will school help you with storage and running of events? Is there a local community group that could help? Perhaps there's a local charity shop that will host your events and store your stock? Could you find free space in a community centre or church hall to run your events? Do you have space at home - a spare room or garage?

EXAMPLES One parent used their pop-up shop to raise money for a local charity by asking for a Pay As You Feel donation for each item taken. They have since made an arrangement with them to run a weekly uniform exchange within the charity shop.

The LS26 School Uniform Exchange was set up by a parent who stored all the donations at home and ran a weekly pop-up-shop in August at the same venue as a local foodbank.

Tingley and West Ardsley Uniform Exchange use Facebook but parents volunteer as collection points, sort and launder some items and will also drop them off. The site is also used by members to swap between themselves.

One local scheme takes online referrals and requests. Uniform is stored at home and delivered to the school to be collected by parents.


Practical storage solutions and considerations Even if you are lucky enough to have a permanent location you will likely have more stock than you can display. Rails on wheels are great, easy to manoeuvre, easy for your customers to see what you have, clothes stay less creased - you might need to ask for donations of hangers. Transparent boxes with wheels and good handles are also easy to access and store Cardboard boxes can be free (Morrisons will give you banana boxes). If you're using boxes, sort clothing you are storing by logo, colour, style and size - and label your boxes clearly. Doing this makes your uniform easy to unpack and display too. Learn the art of folding (!) so that clothing comes out of the boxes ready to go - and you could pop in the odd tumble dryer sheet to keep them smelling good! Count things - people really like numbers and if you are interested in telling stories about your scheme, this will come in handy. How many items have people donated and how many have you given away? People will love to hear about the success of your scheme and you can easily turn those numbers into carbon impact (see pages 12 and 18)

TOP TIP The more attractive uniform looks, the more you will be able to give away This sounds obvious but presentation really does help to remove barriers and tackle the stigma of second hand. Treat it more like a shopping experience than a jumble sale!


The problem with waste We know that 4,000 tonnes of textile waste ends up in our black bins every year in Leeds. This is a problem because it clogs up the waste processing machinery but it's also a serious environmental issue. Textile production has a huge carbon footprint. Throwing away clothing is like throwing away all that carbon value when we should be recycling it. Even socks with holes can have a new life as mattress stuffing or soundproofing so it's important to deal with textile waste responsibly.



Team up with your local charity shop

Use our map to find your nearest textile bank

Find out if they sell their rags - donations of clothes that don't make the cut. If so they may be happy to take your waste and make extra money.

There are hundreds across the city including at household waste sites. If you choose a charity textile bank, your waste can raise money too.


We all love a good success story! By simply counting the number of items that were given away, we were able to share some really great news in our impact report for the first few weeks of Leeds School Uniform Exchange. In just 10 weeks, we estimate that

OVER 3,000

items have been reused, saving roughly:

600 KG POTENTIAL TEXTILE WASTE Assuming each item weighs roughly 200g

10,800 KG CO2E Equivalent to the CO2 that would be produced from driving around the world 2.3 times

8.1 MILLION LITRES OF WATER Assuming it takes 2,700 litres of water to make a T shirt

OVER £50,000 Assuming the average uniform item cost from the Department for Education 'Cost of School Uniform' report

TOP TIP Use our 'Measuring Impact' resource to calculate estimates for potential textiles waste saved, carbon impact, water impact and cost savings.


Facebook and WhatsApp are great ways to promote your scheme. Social media is not always the answer, not everyone uses it and schools may be restricted due to safety and security issues - but it does have a broad reach. You can use your Facebook page to put calls out for donations, easily share information about your scheme with your audience and share photos of the stock you have. You might need to decide whether to encourage people to use the page to swap uniform between themselves and just be aware that it might naturally evolve in that way (and that it can take a lot of time to administrate the page). See the following pages for some top tips on getting started with social media: Using an existing parent Facebook or WhatsApp group (pp. 14-15) Setting up a new Facebook or WhatsApp group (pp. 15-16)

TOP TIP If you are a parent or community group don't forget to tell the school what you're up to and encourage them to help promote your scheme.


One of the simplest ways to start promoting your scheme is to use an existing parent Facebook or WhatsApp group. There are loads of great examples across Facebook in particular that parents use as a forum to share information about school life and local issues. You may already be a member or if not, join and start the conversation about uniform exchanging. Find out how to get started on the next page.




Promote the scheme

Stay networked with other schemes

Add details to our map

Share on social media and ask school to help promote

Join Leeds School Uniform Exchange on Facebook to network & stay updated

If you set up a scheme, get in touch here to add it onto the map

HOW TO GET STARTED If there is an admin person for the group, ask for permission to start introducing uniform exchanging If there is no admin, try a couple of posts to test the water Keep plugging away! Keep a closer eye on the site, try and be proactive. We have loads of resources you can use on your page (see page 18) If you have time, stay networked with other uniform exchange schemes so that you can help each other. Join us at Leeds School Uniform Exchange on Facebook to stay updated with what’s happening around the city and share what you’re up to with our community. Tell everyone you know! Share information about your scheme on your own social media and ask others to do the same. Speak to the school as they may be able to help and promote.



The easiest way to start the

Uniform exchanging gets lost

conversation and promote

amongst the other posts

your scheme

It can be hard to encourage

The least time consuming

parents to choose second




If you are a school that could use Facebook or you are a parent, PTA or community group, consider setting up a dedicated Facebook Page or WhatsApp group for your school uniform exchange. Existing pages and groups are great and might work for you but sometimes, posts about uniform can get lost amongst all the other chat. We have some really good resources you can use to keep the levels of interest and engagement up (see page 18).




Promote the scheme

Be a proactive moderator

Add details to our map

Share on social media and ask the school to help promote

Reply, connect people and comment on posts

If you set up a scheme, get in touch here to add it onto the map

HOW TO GET STARTED Find out how to set up a Facebook Group here. Consider whether you want to have a public or private group - there is a really good short animation explaining the difference here. There are a few public groups/pages but most are private, which can help avoid spam posts. Naming your scheme - it’s important to make it clear what the group is for. Include the name of your school or local area too so that people can easily find it e.g. Leeds School Uniform Exchange, Tingley and West Ardsley Uniform Exchange, LS26 School Uniform Scheme, Ralph Thoresby Pre Loved Uniform, Manor Wood Primary Uniform Swap. Find out how to upload a cover photo here and find photos here. Your ‘About’ section - give people guidance about using the site and how it works. Have a look at the examples listed above or click here for some generic wording. Remind people of the guidance in regular posts. Promote the scheme - Tell everyone you know! Share on social media and ask others to do the same. Add the details to our map on our contact form. Speak to the school as they may be able to help with promotion. Be a proactive moderator - reply, connect people, comment on posts. If you'd prefer to set up a WhatsApp group, find out how here. Encourage people not to throw waste uniform in the bin. You can donate unwanted good quality uniform items to charity shops. If the uniform is worn out you can put it in a textile bank for recycling. There is a map here that shows charity shops and textile banks in Leeds.



Shouldn’t take too much time

Not everyone is on Facebook

Very easy to set up

WhatsApp threads can be really

Easy to use and works really

long & offers/requests could get

well in a local area



There are plenty of resources to help you set up a uniform exchange scheme in this folder, including: Photos and social media cards How to guide - Facebook or WhatsApp PDF Your 'About' section suggested wording About Leeds School Uniform Exchange Measuring impact

OTHER RESOURCES AND CONTACTS We have set up a dedicated website for Leeds School Uniform Exchange to help you find a scheme or set up a new one. There is also the Leeds School Uniform Exchange Facebook group to help network people who are interested in school uniform reuse - to help them support each other, share advice and tips and to enable people who have uniform to offer to connect with people who want it. Feel free to post in the group to ask for advice or share your new scheme. We also regularly post about school uniform reuse on the Zero Waste Leeds website, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. If you need any other help or are interested in getting involved in any other way, please email us on info@zerowasteleeds.org.uk.



FUNDERS We would like to say a massive thank you to Leeds City Council and Leeds Community Foundation's Jimbo's Fund for supporting Leeds School Uniform Exchange.