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How to Sustainably Amp Up Your Style for Back To School

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

Back-to-school season is approaching and it’s normal to want to look and feel your best. Heading back to campus is exciting, but it can also be expensive. Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank to get a hot new wardrobe. 


Shopping for second-hand fashion is an excellent way to shop for new clothes at a lower cost. You can find both basic and unique pieces of clothing at your local thrift store. Thrifting is a great alternative to shopping retail brands because you can curate more unique looks and save money while you are at it. 

Most importantly, shopping secondhand helps reduce your carbon footprint because it helps cut back on chemical pollution from clothing production and reduces water consumption. “The average consumer buys 66 garments a year. If 80% of these garments were purchased, it would prevent 527 lbs of CO2.”, according to a December 2018 blog post by Thredup.

Don’t live near any thrift stores? You can thrift from the comfort of your home with these apps: 

  1. Thredup
  2. Depop
  3. Poshmark 
  4. Etsy

Choosing preloved fashion over fast fashion means less waste and a better future for our planet.

Swap Clothes with Friends 

Do you ever have the urge to snatch your best friend’s shirt from their closet or buy it from a store? Instead of going out of your way to buy the same shirt, ask to borrow it!

If you and your friend have clothes you don’t wear as often anymore, do a switch-a-roo. Swapping clothes is environmentally friendly because you aren’t creating more waste plus you would be extending the lifetime of your clothing items. 


Give your old clothes a back-to-school glow-up by reworking them into new pieces. It’s a wonderful way to get your creative juices flowing while amping up your current wardrobe. 

Here are some upcycle fashion ideas that will turn heads:

  1. Denim bags
  2. Turn your leggings into shrugs 
  3. Patchwork jackets 
  4. Hand-painted shoes 
  5. Dyeing 

Upcycling clothes promote the idea of “circular fashion”. “A circular fashion industry is defined as a regenerative system in which garments are circulated for as long as their maximum value is retained, and then returned safely to the biosphere when they are no longer of use.”, according to a July 2022 article by Motif. 

It’s important to note that it’s not realistic to shop all of your clothing secondhand, but it is a great alternative to shopping in retail fashion or fast fashion. Some other ways you can shop sustainably for the back-to-school season are purchasing from small businesses, eco-friendly brands, and rental clothing companies. 

You are more likely to get one-of-a-kind pieces from small or local businesses because they source their items from different places. Eco-friendly brands tend to lean on the pricier side, but it’s a worthwhile investment for good quality clothing. Renting your closet gives you the advantage of riding the wave of new trends without straining your bank account. 

How are you going to shop sustainably for the school year? Tag us @HerCampusSJSU

Wila Mae was a Style Intern at Her Campus for the Spring 2023 semester. She's a passionate storyteller and loves creating short-form video content highlighting secondhand shopping and Bay Area small businesses on her socials. Keep up with Wila Mae and her work @wilamae.navarro on Instagram and @wilamae2 on TikTok.