A few months ago, the ABC reported that "two-third of consumers are now willing to spend more on brands that are sustainable." But let's be real: if you're a student, you probably don't have that sweet disposable income to spend on sustainably made clothing. And who can blame you? Fast fashion has earned its title for how quickly it can get into our hands—and just how quickly it leaves us.
But that only begs the question: what sustainable fashion choices can you make as a student right here, right now? Being ethical and practicing sustainability isn't as pricey as you may believe and by no means should have you ditching all those clothes you already own. So here's five easy ways to be more mindful about your fashion and buying habits, and how you can give clothes a second-life.
Thrift your heart out
Buying second-hand clothing is not only a great way to save money as a student, but supports environmental sustainability. When you thrift instead of buy, this reduces manufacturing demands and keeps clothing wastage out of landfills. Buying second-hand is also great for maintaining local business, with some shops having proceeds return to local community funds and charities. So when you buy something old and previously-loved, you’re "extending its lifespan and reducing its carbon footprint"—and not to mention, giving yourself a statistically higher chance to find bespoke and high-quality pieces for a fairer price.
What's in a fabric
Whether you're thrifting or not, an important aspect of shopping ethically is being aware of where the item was made, from what material and its impact on the environment. For example, organic cotton is grown "using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment", often translating into being fair trade where workers aren't exposed to harmful chemicals on a day-to-day basis and are paid properly for their skills. On the other side of the coin, synthetic materials can have harmful consequences on the planet, with microfibres—as a small example—making their way into the ocean and influencing the ecosystem from the bottom up (see video above).
Focus your style with a capsule wardrobe
Creating a capsule wardrobe is one of the easiest ways to reduce your footprint on the planet and keep waste to an absolute minimum. The idea of a capsule wardrobe is to strategically plan your garments to focus your style, taking care of what you own and investing in high quality goods rather than unethical trends that won't last 'till next season. In many ways, a capsule wardrobe can represent more time, more money and more energy where "you’ll eliminate the time and energy spent churning through the endless cycle of buying clothes, wearing them for a few months, and then donating or selling items you no longer like or wear. And because you’ve invested in high-quality, timeless pieces, you’ll also be less likely to make impulse purchases," thus reducing the cost on the environment.
Buy with companies that give back
If you have the capacity to buy new and frequently, it goes without saying that your purchases have the power to impact supply and demand. As consumers are increasingly looking for companies that promote fair-trade and sustainability, many brands are now promoting their "efforts undertaken to mitigate the risks of forced labour, child labour and worker exploitation in their supply chains." In short, where you spend your money matters and taking the time to recognise what you're investing in makes a small ripple that can turn into a tidal wave. (And yup, make sure you check where that feminist slogan tee was made because chances are, it's anything but.)
Extend the life of your clothes by swapping them
In the world of fast-fashion, it feels like a challenge to remain on-trend without constantly having to purchase new clothes. After all, its those exact companies that spend millions of dollars on advertising and on ways to bring out your most impulsive urges. However, stopping that urge can come in the healthy ways of repurposing old clothes by either turning them into something new or passing them on. Recently at Collarts, Fashion Marketing held a Community Clothing Swap and had students bring in their clothes to exchange with one another. It was a great hands-on way to think about fashion and how we something as simple as giving an item a second-life makes all the difference.