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Style > Fashion

Practicing Sustainable Fashion As A College Student

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

With the increased prevalence of microtrends and college students on a budget, the appeal and demand for fast fashion are stronger than ever. While it might seem more enticing to opt for a cheaper alternate and trendy outfit to rock for the next few months, the need to start practicing sustainable fashion is even more important today than ever before. Not only does it contribute to the growing landfill crisis, but it also contributes to more carbon emissions annually than all maritime shipping and international flights combined. So, even if you’re a college student on a budget, but want to do your best in practicing sustainable fashion, here are a few ways to practice that won’t break the bank.


In my opinion, sustainable fashion can be defined in any way that suits your specific lifestyle, as long as it takes into account awareness of the environmental impact of clothing and the shelf life of your clothes lasts longer. Thrifting is a great way to make sure clothing doesn’t end up in landfills after a few months and reduces the environmental impacts of production as clothing is recycled and ‘flipped’ rather than new clothes being produced. It’s also a great form of self-expression and causes trendy items from prior decades and generations to come back in style, leading to a more diverse range of outfits and fashion inspiration. It’s also not super expensive to go thrifting, so staying on a budget realistic to that of a college student while also being sustainable in practice isn’t out of the question.

ut Outpost and the buy nothing movement

Practicing sustainable fashion in budget-friendly ways involves researching opportunities that connect communities with donating and borrowing clothes. As a student at the University of Texas at Austin, I know how important career fairs, networking events, and keeping a professional appearance is – which is why I rely on the UT Outpost. The UT Outpost is a closet of business professional attire accessible to all students at UT. Initiatives such as these are important for two main reasons – firstly of course, it’s an affordable way to access business professional clothes which are usually very expensive and difficult for college students to access and afford. Not only that but since these clothes are usually used infrequently, there’s no point in buying an outfit for each student at UT when these can be recycled and reused – once again – reducing the environmental impact of creating more clothes. 

There are a few issues, however, with sizing at the Outpost, and it’s often difficult in a school of almost 50,000 to manage the availability of clothing, therefore it’s important to research programs such as the Buy Nothing Movement for a wider range of circles which practice donating and borrowing clothes. The Buy Nothing Movement creates communities – primarily through Facebook – focused on collecting clothing and giving clothing freely. It has a strict no-bartering policy which essentially means that no trades can be made – the entire idea of the movement is to give and take freely. The good thing about these movements is they’re hyper-concentrated in neighborhoods and are monitored fairly strictly to make sure the integrity of the place is maintained. However, this can be a little challenging since they are concentrated so heavily in neighborhoods, and it requires more research to find one which suits your needs. All in all though, for environmentally conscious people who are willing to get rid of their clothing or keep clothing in rotation rather than buying new items, it’s a haven for new looks and ideas.

buying from local businesses

Buying from local or small businesses has been a hotly debated topic for the past few years because of divisions over inclusivity in small businesses and the prices they charge. However, in my opinion, I think it depends on the product that you’re looking for and the investment you’re willing to put into clothing. What I mean is, small businesses usually charge a higher cost for the labor and work that goes into making a product – and are often more sustainably produced than companies known to mass produce clothing. Additionally, they also charge higher because some places offer better quality options that are designed to last in your closet for a lot longer than the microtrend pieces that are seen today. What’s more, small businesses usually have personalized services so you can customize or request a piece to be made according to your personal style and desire – so you really have a special piece you’d want to keep in your closet! While I understand inclusivity is an issue for a lot of people, I think supporting local businesses can add funds and create demand for a wider range of clothing and products, pushing them to create the inclusivity customers want. I think it’s a worthy investment with the right businesses and a more eco-conscious way of buying clothing.

There are so many more ways to stay environmentally friendly when it comes to clothing, but the most important thing is to explore style and clothing outside the mainstream trends to find your unique look. Finding unique pieces with their own stories and history through thrifting, buying nothing, or even buying clothes personalized for you through a local business can help you create something that’s representative of your personal identity without the environmental impact or breaking the bank.

I'm a current Economics student at the University of Texas at Austin. When I'm not writing about everything under the sun, I am either talking about, or showing people pictures of the love of my life – my dog Milli – or reading anything I can get my hands on.