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Buying Clothes Sustainably for the Environment and Your Wallet!

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Buying new clothes is always fun. Who doesn’t love adding new pieces to their wardrobe? However, it is important to consider the environmental impact of the ways that we buy clothes and where they are coming from, especially in our current environmental crisis. So many of the biggest clothing manufacturers use high-pollution practices and unethical sources of labor. These companies have created the fast fashion industry, which strives to make cheap clothes as fast as possible by cutting many ethical and ecological corners.

Because of its high availability, it can be very difficult to avoid fast fashion and seek out sustainable clothing. On top of that, making the effort to purchase clothing from sustainable clothing manufacturers can prove to be really hard on your wallet. Companies like the Girlfriend Collective and WIIDFANG are doing wonderful things but can be a little too pricey, especially for college students. But there are still ways! Here are some of my favorite methods to sustainably expand my wardrobe, both better for the environment and my wallet:

1. Vinted

Vinted is an app you can download on your phone. It allows people to post items they want to sell from their own closets. Shoppers can search through specific clothing categories, brands, conditions, sizes, etc., and purchase unique and cheap second-hand clothing with the click of a button. Vinted also makes negotiating prices very simple. If there is an item you like but you don’t think the price is worth it, you can make an offer directly to the seller that they can accept, reject, or counter. This makes it easy to get the item you want for a price you can afford. The best thing about Vinted is the cheap shipping. Some second-hand clothing apps can often have high shipping costs, but Vinted is usually around $3 depending on the size of the item. 

2. Depop

Depop is basically a more eclectic version of Vinted. It is still a second-hand clothing app, but it contains a much more interesting variety of items that you’ve never seen before. Depop definitely has a lot more vintage or designer pieces than Vinted does, exposing you to some more adventurous options for your closet. Depop is also the home of many small businesses and creators selling clothing, shoes, jewelry, and more that they have produced. Who doesn’t love supporting small businesses?

3. Poshmark

Poshmark is, again, very similar to Vinted and Depop in that it is a place for people to buy and sell secondhand clothing. It isn’t my personal favorite, but I have many friends who swear by it. Honestly, try them all! You might like the style or organization of one better than the other. Either way, you’ll have access to a wide range of amazing secondhand pieces that would make great additions to your closet. 

4. Facebook marketplace

This could be a hit or miss. Facebook Marketplace is great because you can search for items in your area. Because of this, you can pick up the item instead of having to pay for shipping. This is also easier if you need something quickly and can’t wait for shipping. It’s a good way to find other items, like furniture, movies, toys, etc. It can be a really great place to find anything you need while giving used items a second life.

5. Thrift stores

Thrifting is a really good way to get the feeling of in-person shopping while still shopping in a sustainable and affordable way. Personally, this is the most exciting way to shop sustainably for me. I love sifting through the long racks of clothing with no plan or expectations. If you keep an open mind, you can find some really great deals and amazing pieces very easily. I like to make day trips out of thrift shopping, intentionally seeking out stores in more affluent towns to find some more expensive items for cheap! It’s all about strategy and knowing which sections you often have the most luck in. Also, be patient! You might not find something right away, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for you. Be open to stepping outside your comfort zone or reimagining the piece in your hand.

6. Upcycling

The cheapest way to bring new pieces into your closet is to upcycle the ones you already have. Taking an old t-shirt and cropping or bleach-dying it can give it a brand new life! When cleaning out your closet, stop to consider ways you could get more out of the items you may not wear anymore. Flex those creative muscles! Your wardrobe will contain one-of-a-kind pieces that reflect your style and preferences, and you didn’t even have to spend extra money!

You may have noticed that all of the methods mentioned above are a form of second-hand clothes shopping. In my opinion, this is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to buy clothing and it can work for everyone! Because of the many different platforms and methods, secondhand clothes shopping is very accessible to any budget. A few things to keep in mind: 

  • By buying secondhand, you may purchase items made by fast fashion industries. However, because you are not purchasing directly from the company, they are not profiting from your purchase and you are not supporting their unethical and unsafe production methods. So, don’t feel bad for pulling that Forever 21 sweater off the rack at Goodwill or for favoriting that SHEIN top on Vinted. It’s okay to own these items, as long as you’re mindful of the ways you’re purchasing and the methods used to manufacture the items.
  • Remember to WASH every item you purchase before wearing. Now more than ever, it is important to be mindful of cleanliness when buying secondhand. You don’t know what kind of household that item came from, or in the case of in-store thrift shopping, how many hands grabbed that same item before you took it home. By washing before wearing, you can avoid exposure to pet hair, smoke, or even COVID-19. 
  • It is okay to buy brand new clothes! In fact, sometimes it’s necessary. You don’t have to feel guilty for buying items brand new from a store or online. Just be mindful about the origin of your clothes. The clothing industry in this country relies very heavily on fast fashion and unethical and unsafe production, but it’s okay to still purchase clothing from these companies. The key is to slowly shift your habits. Buy secondhand or from a sustainable company when you can and educate others on the practices used to produce clothes for companies like SHEIN, Forever 21, H&M, and more. You are one person, but small, consistent change can spread and make an impact.

Kallan Doyon

U Conn '23

My name is Kallan! I am a junior at the University of Connecticut. I am a Psychology major. Fun fact about me: I switch my major twice before the second week of school (thank you mental breakdowns). I have a passion for writing and am so excited to finally have an outlet to channel my ideas into. Thank you for reading my work!
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