Practicing Sustainable Fashion as a College Student

Good On You defines fast fashion as “cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed.” These are stores we’re all extremely familiar with, like Forever21, Zara, H&M, Urban Outfitters, and so on. The impact these stores leave is severely detrimental to the environment because of the use of cheap textiles (like polyester, which is derived from fossil fuels), cheap dyes which pollute clean water, and the amount of clothing waste that gets produced as trends rapidly change. Further, fast-fashion comes with its own set of human rights violations, with underpaid garment-workers being exposed to hazardous chemicals and unethical working conditions.

But as a college student, fast fashion can seem unavoidable. Money is tight and convenience is necessary when dealing with a busy-schedule, and there’s pressure to keep up with trends. While it is important to forgive yourself for purchasing from these brands (nobody is perfect and you need to clothe yourself somehow), there are definitely easy ways to cut-down on your fast-fashion consumption. Here are some tips I’ve learned that will help ease your transition into becoming a more sustainable clothing consumer.

  1. 1. Buy and sell used clothes on apps like Depop and Poshmark

    If you’re growing tired of the items in your closet, clothes-selling apps like Depop and Poshmark are a great way to buy clothes without purchasing directly from fast-fashion stores and websites. I started buying and selling my clothes on Depop this year and could not recommend the app more! It’s easy to use and is home to tons of cute vintage shops as well as people selling their lightly worn, trendy clothes. Selling on the app is super easy and prolongs the life of clothes that otherwise might have ended up in landfills. Additionally, whatever you don’t sell can always be donated just as easily!

  2. 2. Participate in Ecoreps’ clothing donation drive

    Several times a year, Colby’s Ecoreps host a “Freecycle” clothing drive, where students can donate their used clothes and then “shop” other donated items for free! Keep an eye out for the Freecycle donation boxes that appear in your dorm throughout the year as well as the actual “sales” which occur in the Spa!

  3. 3. Shop at Goodwill and other thrift stores

    Waterville’s Goodwill can be utilized for more than just themed parties! If you’re looking for some neutral basics on a budget, Goodwill is always a viable option. Additionally, instead of going to Portland to shop at Urban Outfitters, stop by second-hand shops like Find or Material Objects.

  4. 4. Trade and borrow clothes from your friends

    Haven’t gotten any new going out clothes in a while? Swap with a friend! This gives you the confidence and satisfaction of wearing something “new” while not as wasteful as buying your own new clothes.

  5. 5. Avoid fast-fashion when possible and research your clothing brands before purchasing from them

    Unfortunately, the best way to combat fast-fashion is to avoid it entirely. This means understanding that even when you buy or sell used fast-fashion items, they will eventually end up in a landfill. Of course, trying to budget as a college student doesn’t always allow shopping from expensive, sustainable brands like Reformation. Some cheaper brands with sustainable values that I’ve found are Outdoor Voices, Everlane, Alternative Apparel, and Thought Clothing. These brands emphasize responsible manufacturing, ethical labor conditions, and the use of natural materials.

Again, I am certainly guilty of partaking in fast-fashion but my advice would be to maintain a consciousness about the products you’re purchasing and to set limits on the amount you buy. Just being aware of your impact will give you an incentive to purchase less, and once you get into these habits, the pressure to constantly buy new clothes will be lessened!