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Brooke’s Inexpensive Guide to Sustainable Fashion and Ethical Brands

In the modern world, due to the globalization of industry, it has come to the consumers’’ attention that ethics and morality need to be taken into consideration with each purchase. This can be a heavy burden as it is financially easier to splurge on cheap items from companies that follow immoral practices, whether it be the meat industry to beauty brands to buying a $10 hoodie off of Amazon. However, for attribution as significant to daily life as one’s wardrobe, fashion can and should be one of the most ethical practices in our roles as consumers. As climate change, abuse of factory workers, child labor, animal cruelty and low wages continue to paint the fashion and beauty industry in a bad light, there have been many brands and alternatives made to eliminate the consumers’ need for unethical and unsustainable clothing and beauty products. 


This article consists of five alternative brands and acts that can reduce your negative impact on the world through being mindful of the items you buy. In the economy, your dollar is your vote; as it is important to be entirely aware of how you are voting in elections and political affairs, one should also be aware of what their dollar is supporting. Each option for sustainable and ethical clothing and beauty alternatives is also wallet-friendly for the average college student’s budget, as well as others who are considering this lifestyle change. 


  1. Thrifting!


    Not only is thrift shopping cheap, but when attending high-end thrift stores such as Goodwill (there is one in Bangor!) and Plato’s Closet (which has various locations throughout New England, the closest being in Portland) one can find fashionable, brand-name items in relatively good condition for absolute bargains. A group of freshman girls at Orono even started their own Facebook group, UMaine Clothing Swap, in which girls can post and sell their designer name brands with other students for cheap prices. There are even apps to aid in reselling clothing, such as Poshmark. There are some other quality thrift shops located in the Orono/Bangor area such as Orono Thrift Shop, Attic, and Clara’s New and Reused Shop. There are also Salvation Army Family Stores and Habitat for Humanity Restores that use profits to benefit their charities. Thrifting, in all of its glory, is a reducetarian measure for helping assure fabrics and materials are not wasted in the reproduction of new clothing while simultaneously offering prices that are realistic for our limited budgets. And of course, one woman’s trash can always be another woman’s treasure!


  1. H&M Conscious


    H&M is a popular brand for young adults. H&M began its “Conscious” line nearly a decade ago, with the focus of the series being to recycle fabrics to create organic and sustainable clothing that pairs impeccably with modern fashion. The environmentally friendly pieces include everything from denim to lingerie to shoes, all at prices that benignly greet the wallet. Conscious clothing items are found online AND in stores, which increases access and options for everyone! These items have green tags, indicating the item is composed of at least 50% recycled material. People that have shopped here before may have even purchased an article of clothing that is a part of the conscious line without being aware of their purchase and how they are making an impact.


  1. CHNGE


    The political science major in me absolutely ADORES this brand. CHNGE is a sustainable clothing brand in which 50% of net profit is used for philanthropic measures such as combating climate change, working for female equality worldwide, LGBTQ+ support, access for education, and efforts to change the world poverty dynamic. Not only are the store’s charitable contributions profound and enough of a reason to buy these items, but according to the brand’s website, the shirts are made of 100% organic cotton fabric rather than conventional carbon fabric, which leads to items being made with 62% less energy than the average clothing item. The production of these items also has a 100% carbon emissions offset, meaning the clothes are carbon neutral. To top it all off, these shirts not only make a political difference in their formulation, but the clothing itself has political messages printed on them in stylish fonts. Quotes such as “Protect Kids, Nots Guns”, “Make Earth Great Again”, “Teach Girls to be Somebodies Instead of Somebody’s” are just a few of a variety of options. Although the average item is around $30, which may be out of reach for some,, it is a comforting notion that your money is being donated to charities and organizations that are instrumenting justice and equality on a global level. I myself may have a few shirts…


  1. ELF Cosmetics


    Elf Cosmetics is a drugstore brand makeup you can find anywhere from Ulta to Walgreens. Many have recognized this company for how affordable their products are, but most are unaware of the fact Elf is also vegan and cruelty-free on a worldwide basis, with its slogan being, “Because kindness is chic.” By being cruelty-free, Elf does not participate in animal testing when making their products, a practice which a majority of the most-used makeup and beauty companies follow. This is animal abuse, and when one purchases these company’s products, they are validating these inhumane practices by supporting them financially. Elf also uses organic ingredients rather than chemicals that can cause harm. Elf is free of phthalates, parabens, nonylphenol ethoxylates, triclosan, triclocarban, and hydroquinone. These are chemicals and toxins that cause damage to our skin rather than helping it. Overall, Elf is a well-known cosmetics brand that is underrated for its financial accessibility, vegan, and cruelty-free policies and overall quality of its products.


  1. Pacifica


    Similar to  Elf, Pacifica is a makeup and beauty brand that is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. However, as Elf solely focuses on makeup and skincare, Pacifica also covers hair needs, nail polish, bath and body items, perfumes, and even supplements alongside their makeup and skincare products. This brand is less commonly seen in drug stores but can be ordered online or at beauty centric stores such as Ulta or Sephora. Though Pacifica is a higher-end option, it is still relatively cheap in comparison to other brands. I myself have not yet used Pacifica items, but I have only heard positive reviews of this vegan company and plan to soon start purchasing from them. As cruelty-free brands can be hard to come by in the beauty industry, it is important to support the ones that do follow more ethical guidelines in order to make these companies the popular majority. 


As a consumer, we are given a variety of options to vote progressively with our DOLLARS. When an individual is working on a tight budget, like many college students, this can often be difficult as ethical items are not always the most accessible items. However, there are sustainable alternatives to every unsustainable option. I hope readers of this article can take away at least one or two ideas (if not all!) on where and what to buy in an attempt to become a more moral consumer. In order for ethical and sustainable fashion and beauty brands to become the norm of the industry, we must begin thinking about what practices our money is supporting each and every time we make a purchase. 

Hi! My name is Brooke (most call me Brooklyn) and I am a Staff Writer and UMaine Contributor for Her Campus, as well as the Social Media and Marketing Director. I am a third year majoring in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Climate Sciences. As a TA and tutor, I enjoy helping others. I love all things literature and GRLPWR so I am super excited to be apart of Her Campus! My instagram handle is @bccamire if you want more content!
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