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5 Ways to Shop More Sustainably

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

Let’s face it, most of us have caved and ordered a large Shein haul, knowing full well that their reputation is abysmal when it comes to how they have built their fast fashion empire. This is especially true if you’re a college student, and want to save money as well as keep up with the latest trends. While it’s hard to avoid buying from companies that utilize fast fashion these days, there are still steps that you can take to shop more sustainably to better yourself, others and the environment.

1. Buy Multi-Seasonal Pieces

Mixing and matching are the keys to not overconsuming fast fashion. If you buy just four or five items that you can wear all year long, with just about anything, then you’ll have less need to keep purchasing new clothes every time the season changes. Clothes that are more neutral in color, like blacks, whites, browns and blues are perfect staple pieces for your wardrobe, and can be paired or layered to dress according to the season.

2. Learn How to Repair Your Clothes

Whether you learn from a YouTube tutorial or your mom, knowing how to fix basic rips, tears, or snags in your clothes is a great way to avoid having to buy new clothes anytime something goes wrong. Sewing machines tend to be more on the expensive side, but there’s always the good old-fashioned needle and thread. This is a highly beneficial skill in order to avoid having to go shopping every few weeks if you have a tendency to rip or snag your clothes. And, if you turn out to be good at repairing clothes, you can even turn it into a small business for others so that you end up making money instead of spending it.

3. Shop And Donate At Thrift Stores

Thrifting is something that has gained a lot of traction on certain social media platforms like TikTok, where posting your latest thrifting haul can get you a lot of attention, and for a good reason. Thrifting at stores such as Goodwill, Plato’s Closet, or your local secondhand shop benefits everyone involved. You’re not giving your money to large corporations that participate in fast fashion, and you can find a lot of trendy clothing for just a couple of bucks. Donating to thrift stores is just as crucial. Whether you grow out of a certain shirt or just don’t like it anymore, instead of letting it sit in a landfill by throwing it away, you can donate it, and let someone else enjoy your sense of fashion.

4. Rent Outfits For Special Events

This tip for shopping more sustainably is especially helpful if you’re on a tight budget, but your friend’s wedding is coming up or you have a black-tie work event that you want to wow everyone at. There are plenty of sites that you can rent fashionable pieces from, such as Rent the Runway, Style Lend and Stitch Fix. You can browse through thousands of designer or non-designer clothing, and rent pieces either one at a time or in bundles with a monthly subscription. It’s a great way to dress for the occasion, but not break your bank account by buying something you might never wear again.

5. Research Sustainable Brands

With the entire internet at your fingertips, there’s no reason why you can’t do your research on clothing brands that have sustainable and ethical practices in how they make and ship their products. A lot of these popular brands, such as Patagonia, Reformation, or Levi’s, use recycled materials and don’t use harmful toxins or bleaches when producing their clothing. A good way to know if an article of clothing was made more sustainably is to look for a tag that says “BCI” on it, which stands for the Better Cotton Initiative. This program is the largest cotton sustainability initiative in the world and helps reduce the harmful effects of cotton farming.

It’s easy to shame others for not shopping as sustainably as they can, but the truth is that it’s easier said than done. You may not be making enough money to spend $70 on one pair of jeans, while on a fast fashion website you can get ten to fifteen different items for that same amount. The core of the problem is those fast fashion brands that take advantage of those with a lower income, and then exploit their workers by not paying them a livable wage. But one person should not be held responsible for the greediness of these brands. Hopefully, in time, we all learn to buy and produce all products more sustainably, in order to help better ourselves and the environment.

Grace Thompson

Illinois State '24

Hi! My name's Grace, and I am a sophomore at Illinois State University, studying Public Health and hoping to go into the epidemiology field. I am from Elgin, IL, about 45 minutes from Chicago. Some things I love are shopping, traveling, and playing with my dog while I'm at home. Joining Her Campus at ISU is something I am so happy that I did, because I met so many amazing girls and am able to write articles I am passionate about that will hopefully inspire others! Feel free to check out my Instagram if you'd like! @gracecthompsonn