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4 Budget-Friendly Ways to Shop Ethically

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Albany chapter.

Fast fashion is a booming industry. Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Asos, Topshop, Garage etc.. are popular clothing brands known for their affordable, trendy clothing. But the truth behind how we are able to obtain these garments at such an affordable rate is a history of slave labor across seas. Clothes are produced in factories in China, Guatemala, Korea, El Salvador (and many other places) for an extremely low cost. Corporations are able to maintain this and profit by it by paying unlivable wages (just $100 per month in some cases) and utilizing harsh conditions to encourage productivity without resistance.

              The truth is, we don’t need all the clothes we think we do.  American consumerism tells us that we need the latest trends and newest fashionable items in order to fit in. This calls for a cycle of buying clothes at a cheap price and then wearing it while it’s in fashion, then when it goes out of fashion, we go back to the cheap stores to buy the new trends. This is the phenomenon known as fast fashion.

              What some don’t realize is how detrimental this process is to the environment and ethical boundaries. But, what happens to all the clothes we get rid of because they’re not “trendy” anymore? Often times, they wind up in dumps, polluting the envrionment even more.

              So, how do we remedy the problem? Shopping ethically can be expensive, and we’re all on that college budget. So shopping at the forever 21s and the H&Ms can be the only seemingly available option. But, there are other ways that I have complied in this list that are college-budget friendly––and also fun!

**One thing to keep in mind about ethical style is not that you can’t wear these items or have to get rid of any previously purchased fast fashion. Ethical fashion is about not offering continuing support to stores that engage in slave labor, while also repurposing or recycling already purchased unethical items.**

1. Invest in Quality, Not Quantity

We all have too much. So much that we don’t know what to do with it. Instead of buying more of the cheap trendy clothes, investing in higher quality timeless pieces can be a more ethical  option. When you think about it, this actually saves money because you can have basic, high quality pieces you love without the environmental impact of fast fashion. You will spend more money initially, but think of your clothing as an investment rather than a tool for trends. Some ethical brands are listed below:

ThredUp: https://www.thredup.com/

Everlane: https://www.everlane.com/

PACT: https://wearpact.com/

Alternative Apparel: https://www.alternativeapparel.com/

Outdoor Voices:  https://www.outdoorvoices.com/

2. Shopping Second Hand

Easily the most cost effective way to engage in conscientious shopping is by shopping at thrift stores. Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Plato’s closet, and local shops/garage sales are all very good, affordable options. Sure, it takes a while to sift through endless amounts of clothes to find one piece you might like. But, any donations or purchases made to the Salvation Army or Goodwill supports these stores and helps to clothe people in need. Also, you can’t beat the price. You can actually find dope, high quality items as well––if you’re patient enough.

3. Online Consignment

If you want to have a more traditional online shopping experience, this could be the route for you!  Marketplaces like Depop, Poshmark, and Etsy are great ways to support individual sellers and search for exactly what you want. The options range from second hand and inexpensive, to new with tags and luxury. It’s for sure the most diverse way to shop ethically. Many sellers also have sales frequently on their pages as well. Most of the items are one-of-a-kind and some sellers actually hand make all their items. The accessibility and ease of shopping cannot be beat!

4. Hand-me downs (i.e. your mother’s closet)

Free, easy, fun, and unique––searching the closets of friends and family can be a very special way to engage in ethical “shopping.” There are definitely items that your loved ones are planning to get rid of, so why not donate it to a known source! This goes both ways too. A big part of ethical style is knowing what to do with the clothes you don’t want either. Your loved ones would be very appreciative if you gave them some items from your closet. Think of this as a loving exchange of ethical fun. Definitely don’t steal items from them, but if they were planning on getting rid of it anyway or if they’ve grown out of the fit, then there’s no harm in relieving them of the item!

Making the shift to ethical style can be a slow process. But, even if just starting out with a few items, and slowly make the transition can be an extremely effective start.

Good Luck!