For consumers For business
04 Oct

Living Sustainably As A Student

For many of us, our student years are when we leave home for the first time and have full control of how we spend our money.  It’s also the time when many of us are trying to get by on a very tight budget. So how do we combine study with our desire to do the right thing by people, planet and animals? Here’s a quick guide.

1. Buy Less

It’s the mantra that we all know well, but that’s because it’s always relevant. Instead of buying two cheap t-shirts, buy one that has been ethically and sustainably manufactured. You will more than halve your environmental impact and it will be affordable. Look at capsule wardrobe ideas to see how few clothes we actually need.

2. Shop with Cost per Wear in Mind

Buying many cheaper, fast fashion items that you only wear a handful of times actually end up more expensive than spending slightly more money and purchasing something that will last us for years. Focus on buying items that are timeless (so they won’t go out of ‘fashion’) and that are made out of higher quality materials, so they last a lot longer.

3. Care for Your Clothes

Look after our clothes to help make them last longer. Paying attention to care instructions will ensure our clothing doesn’t wear out faster than it should.

4. Buy Second-hand/Vintage

This not only helps us save money but is one of the most effective ways of minimising your impact on the planet with your fashion purchases.  Check out the Good On You guide on How To Shop For Vintage Clothing. Charity shops have loads of clothes and you are supporting great causes!

5. Sell Clothes you don’t Wear

When the budget is tight, liquidating some unwanted assets is a good move.  If you don’t wear an item of clothing, sell it and you can use additional funds to spend on other ethical items of clothing, or other supplies.  There are loads of Buy, Swap, Sell apps out there to help.

If you still need to buy some new outfits that are comfortable, practical and affordable, here are some brands rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’ by Good On You:

Outdoor Wear: Finisterre, Kathmandu and Jack Wolfskin.


Rated: Good

Patagonia is a brand that truly lives and breathes the great outdoors. It makes clothing for trail running, climbing, mountain biking, surfing, skiing, and snowboarding. Patagonia has "Good" labour practices, and uses recycled, rather than virgin, polyester. It has also committed to reducing its energy use and emissions.

The brand stocks sizes 2XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Patagonia @ LVRSustainable.

Shop Patagonia Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Patagonia.

Sportswear: Adidas, Brooks and Sundried.

Girlfriend Collective

Rated: Good
Two women wearing sports leggings and crop tops in burgundy and green

Girlfriend Collective creates minimal, luxury clothes made with fair labour, certified by the Social Accountability Standard International SA8000. The brand uses lower-impact materials like recycled polyester as well as lower-impact, non-toxic dyes and is fully OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 certified.

Inclusively sized Girlfriend Collective offers products from 2XS-6XL.

See the rating.

Shop Girlfriend Collective @ LVRSustainable.

Shop Girlfriend Collective.

Hoodies and Sweatshirts: Dedicated and Komodo.

Brothers We Stand

Rated: Good
Someone wearing a printed jumper by more sustainable brand Brothers We Stand.

Responsible men's clothing, selected with style in the UK. With the vision to support you to build a wardrobe of stylish and more sustainably-made menswear that is 100% vegan, Brothers We Stand is the go-to online store for anyone in the market for better menswear.

Sizes available are S-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Brothers We Stand.

Shirts: Know the Origin and Armedangels.


Rated: It's A Start

Thought is a British brand that offers a unique collection of organic clothing using innovative materials such as hemp and bamboo.

Find the range in UK sizes 6-18.

See the rating.

Shop Thought @ Curate.

Shop Thought @ Wearwell.

Shop Thought.

Socks and Underwear: Conscious Step, Rapanui, Woron  and Mighty Good Undies.


Rated: Good

Founded in Australia by two best friends, Boody is a clothing brand with comfort, style, and health at its core. It creates comfortable, thoughtfully-made everyday essentials made from organically grown bamboo. It reduces waste through lower-waste cutting techniques and using a closed-loop system in its supply chain, supporting the green and ethical movement.

Find the range in sizes XS-4XL.

See the rating.

Shop Boody.

Trousers and Jeans: Marks & Spencer and MUD Jeans.


Rated: It's A Start
A woman with blonde hair and a blue top.

One of Europe's leading high street stores, C&A makes everyday clothing with eco-friendly materials, and traces most of its supply chain.

See the rating.

Shop C&A.

Shoes: Ecoalf, Etiko and Indosole.


Rated: Good

Veja is a French brand designing ecological and fair trade footwear, and is also a responsible fashion pioneer. The brand uses lower-impact materials, like GOTS certified cotton and vegetable-tanned leather. Veja pays its co-operative cotton growers and rubber tappers between 30% and 100% above the world market price. By not advertising, Veja is able to invest more money into strengthening its practices.

You can find Veja shoes in women's EU sizes 35-46, and men's 35-47.

See the rating.

Shop Veja.

Shop Veja @ Cerqular.

Shop Veja @ LVRSustainable.

Shop Veja @ Outerknown.

Shop Veja @ Threads 4 Thought.

Shop Veja Kids second hand @ Retykle.

Backpacks: PinqPonq and Beekeeper Parade.


Rated: Good

Sweden’s Sandqvist makes a range of stylish, everyday bags from backpacks to handbags. It uses organic cotton and recycled fabrics and is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation. Sandqvist even has its own workshop which repairs and upcycles old bags into new products.

See the rating.

Shop Sandqvist.

Shop Sandqvist Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

It’s not only clothing though.  Everyday items for college or uni can also be sourced sustainably and ethically. Conscious brands often work to eliminate hazardous chemicals, so switching out a plastic bottle for a metal or glass one could reduce the harmful chemicals that enter your body. You are benefiting other people AND yourself.

Look out for things like:

Water Bottles

Some good examples of water bottles to buy are Klean Kanteen, Soma, Welly, 24 Bottle and LifeStraw, filtering the water that you use can help reduce the microplastics entering your body.


Look for non-plastic toothbrushes from Humble Brush and Brush with Bamboo. Remember every plastic toothbrush you’ve ever owned is still on the planet somewhere.

Lunch boxes

Lunch boxes and food containers can be quite expensive, but a good one will last a while. You can buy stainless steel lunch boxes from Biome A Slice of Green, Eco Lunchbox and Elephant Box, Flora and Fauna. Don’t forget to wrap your sandwiches with non-plastic wraps like beeswax wraps – which you can make yourself.

Try and reduce your plastic consumption by shopping at local markets and buying food in recyclable or no packaging. Use reusable bags etc The most important thing to remember is that living consciously – even as a student on a tight budget – is possible. You might even free up some time and funds for travel or other fun stuff. Good luck!

Editor's note

Images via brands mentioned.

Ethical brand ratings. There’s an app for that.

Wear the change you want to see. Download our app to discover ethical brands and see how your favourites measure up.