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Do College Students Really Care About Sustainability?

The term sustainability is the only one I have come to know in recent years. Since the pandemic began I have come to learn more and more about sustainability and how to include more sustainable practices in my life. As a college student, I wanted to find out what other people my age think about sustainability, and if they were actively doing anything to live more sustainable lives. I asked the following questions to peers and here were their responses:


Q: How often do you shop fast fashion brands?

After looking at the results, it seemed that the majority of college students said that they shopped fast-fashion monthly. Some who said this also iterated that with the rise of online shopping (especially during the pandemic) their fast fashion purchases have increased. The next highest result was people who said a few times a year. This could purchase every few months or making a purchase due to the changes in seasons. There was then a good amount of people that said less since covid-19 and then those who said almost never or never at all. Those who said they shopped fast-fashion almost or not anymore have said that once they learned about fast fashion and were educated on the topic they stopped supporting many of those businesses and brands. With covid-19 many people also stopped and chose to support small businesses instead. At the very end were the few people who stated they shopped fast-fashion weekly. 

Overall: the majority of people still seem to shop in fast fashion. For some, it has increased since covid-19 and with the rise of online shopping, but for others, after being educated on the topic they have lessened their purchases or have decided to never shop fast fashion again. 

Q: How often do you thrift or purchase second-hand clothing?

These results had many responses very close in number. The majority for thrifting or purchasing second-hand clothing was once again monthly. Some people stated that college has given them more access to thrifting and others said they have learned more about this type of shopping so they have been trying to opt for this over “regular shopping” or fast fashion. After monthly shoppers then came to a high result of those who thrift and purchase second hand weekly. Those who choose this response seemed to have a real passion for shopping this way and continue to do it often because it is inexpensive and you can get “new” clothes even if they aren't necessarily new, but they are new to you. Then we had an even mix of those who said they shopped this way less since covid-19, a few times a year, and never. Those who shopped less since covid-19 could be doing more online shopping for safety reasons or the fact that it is easier to shop from home than to go out to a store and rifle through tons of clothes. There were then those that said never with some people stating they never would, they weren’t allowed to, or it's just not something of interest to them. 

Overall: These results surprised me! I found that there was a rise in those who shop thrift and second-hand and many that do religiously shop this way. There was also a significant amount of responses that stated that they never shopped this way or barely did, so I found there to be a mix, but overall the majority saying they did shop this way monthly or weekly. 

Q: Are you more likely to shop in fast fashion or second-hand?

This question I polled on my Instagram with results of 40% of votes for fast fashion and 60% for thrift or second hand.

Q: Do you believe that you practice sustainability?

For this poll, 68% of my followers who voted said yes, and 32% of them said no. 

Q: If yes, what do you currently do to be sustainable?

I asked this follow-up question because I wanted to see what my followers are already doing to be sustainable. Learning about what other people my age and those in my community are doing may influence and inspire others to do the same. These were some of the responses I received: 

  • “Reusable straws, bags, utensils. Shop second hand, consume less in general, less fast fashion”

  • “Thrifting and buying long-lasting clothes rather than cheap ones”

  • “Try to reduce waste, natural/reusable alternatives (bath/kitchen) conscious consumption”

  • “Using less plastic. Walking or biking rather than driving”

  • “Shop from thrift stores and small businesses. Use reusable bags and water bottles”

  • “I eat a vegetarian diet and limit plastic consumption and limit shopping fast fashion” 

  • “Instead of throwing clothes away I either give them to my sisters or resell on Poshmark”

  • “When I don’t buy second-hand clothes I look into the company I’m purchasing from”

  • “I create garments from thrift materials”

  • “I use shampoo and condition bars, bamboo toothbrush and tablets, (plastic-free)”

Q: When you purchase products do you care more about how they were made or the price?

This was my final poll I posted with results of 57% of people saying they cared more about price and 43% saying they found value to be more important. 


This small research study I conducted showed me that not all college students are fully aware and educated on the topic of sustainability. However, many more are slowly becoming aware of the issues the clothing and textile industries have and the negative impact we have had on the environment as consumers. I believe that people do care and many are spreading more awareness than before, but when it comes down to it, many still shop fast fashion and continue their same practices as it is routine for them.

Julia McNicol is a sophomore at Lasell University studying Fashion Media and Marketing with a minor in Journalism. She can most likely be found shopping, dancing, or watching romantic comedies. Her instagram can be found at @juliamcnicol as well as @juliashannonxoxo for fashion specific content.
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