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 which truly lives and breathes the great outdoors. It makes clothing for trail running, climbing, mountain biking, surfing, skiing and snowboarding. Patagonia has strong labour rights and uses recycled, rather than virgin polyester. It’s also stated a commitment to reducing their energy use and emissions.

See The Rating

Shop Patagonia

Sportswear: Adidas, Brooks and Sundried.

Girlfriend Collective

Rated: Good

Colourful luxury women's activewear, made with certified fair labour.

See the rating

Shop Girlfriend Collective


Hoodies and Sweatshirts: Dedicated and Komodo.

Brothers We Stand

Rated: Great

Ethical men's clothing, selected with style.

See the rating.

Shop Brothers We Stand


Shirts: Know the Origin and Armedangels.


Rated: Good

Thoughtfully-designed and easy to wear womenswear and menswear, designed with organic fabrics, bamboo and hemp.

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Shop Thought @Ecoture

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


Rated: Good

Made from organically grown bamboo, Boody is a clothing brand that supports the trend for all things green & ethical.

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Shop Boody

Trousers and Jeans: Marks & Spencer and MUD Jeans.


Rated: Good

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

Shoes: Ecoalf, Etiko and Indosole.


Rated: Good

Veja is a French brand, designing ecological and fair trade footwear and is also a sustainable fashion pioneer. The brand uses eco-friendly materials, like GOTS certified cotton and vegetable-tanned leather!

Backpacks: PinqPonq and Beekeeper Parade.


Rated: Good

Sweden’s Sanqvist 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.

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.

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