Local schools will welcome students back into the hallways in about a month. 

That means back to school shopping is underway.

Many of those students will be wearing new clothes and shoes, and have freshly sharpened pencils, spotless notebooks and unused binders all placed in a brand-new backpack for the first day of school.

It’s great to have new things, but is “all new” really necessary?

We encourage parents to take a look and see what students have left from last year and see what can be reused. That notebook with 10 pages gone? Use it this year. Last year’s Spanish binder that still holds paper and isn’t falling apart? It is perfect for this year. Those shoes bought at the end of last year that still fit? Use them.

For some students all new isn’t even an option. “New” clothes for some students really are just new to them — hand-me-downs from an older sibling, cousin or friend.

This shouldn’t be something that is looked down upon, but unfortunately for some, it is. If the reuse of clothes and school supplies were the norm, perhaps students wouldn’t see a difference between those who can afford brand-new and those who can’t.

But we know sometimes new is necessary.

If new school supplies are needed, consider buying extra to donate to a school or a local charity that is collecting them. Contact teachers to see what supplies they many need.

A summer growth spurt (and no hand-me-downs available) will mean a new wardrobe is needed. 

So what is a parent to do with the still-perfectly wearable clothes and shoes if there is no one to pass them down to? 

Don’t throw them in the garbage. Sell them to a local consignment shop. Donate them to a local charity thrift shop or clothing exchange. There are also a ton of clothing bins throughout the area that accept clothing and shoes. 

For shoes, there are other options as well. The Otesgo County Conservation Association and the Oneonta Family YMCA are working with Miami-based Got Sneakers. Shoes in good condition are distributed to those who need them in places such as South and Central America, the Caribbean, west Africa and Europe. Shoes deemed ‘unwearable’ are recycled. Pairs of shoes can be dropped at the YMCA, Clark Sports Center outside Cooperstown and the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market.

“It makes me feel really good that we’re making an impact,” said Kelly Morrissey, Oneonta YMCA marketing and wellness specialist. “We’re keeping shoes out of the landfills, decreasing carbon footprint on our planet and maybe helping people who need pairs of shoes.”

For younger kids, many youth athletic programs also will accept donations of outgrown sneakers, cleats, gloves and other athletic equipment.

Rather than buying new clothes and shoes, consider checking out a local consignment or thrift store. It could be good for your wallet and the environment.

OCCA’s Leslie Orzetti noted that a lot things that end up in landfills don’t break down, and landfills can have a lifespan of seven to 10 years. The more things that are taken out of the waste stream, the longer the landfill will last, she said.

Let the lessons start before the school year begins.

Teach children reducing waste by reusing and recycling can benefit themselves and the planet. Show that donating to others means a lot to those who cannot afford to buy new.

Learning how to be a good neighbor can be the best lesson to teach.