Image of a person's torso, holding a yellow flower in front of their white shirt, in article about sustainable fashion
You don't have to compromise quality for price. (Image by @alternativeapparel via Instagram)

5 Sustainable Fashion Brands That Are Affordable for College Students

Sustainable fashion that’s budget-friendly can be hard to find, but these brands offer eco-friendly clothing, swimwear and jewelry at a reasonable price.

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Image of a person's torso, holding a yellow flower in front of their white shirt, in article about sustainable fashion

Sustainable fashion that’s budget-friendly can be hard to find, but these brands offer eco-friendly clothing, swimwear and jewelry at a reasonable price.

Sustainable fashion is a term that’s been thrown around a lot in the past few years, but what does it really mean? It basically encompasses the idea that clothing and accessories should be environmentally friendly and ethically made, rejecting the concept of the fast fashion industry and its focus on supply and demand.

Unfortunately, creating sustainable apparel is not cheap, especially for consumers. For college kids, it often makes more sense to buy clothes that are as inexpensive as possible, which is why fast fashion brands like Shein, Romwe and similar companies are growing. These are the worst kinds of companies because they mass-produce poor-quality clothing in factories that underpay their workers and cause harm to the environment.

Though it may seem like these cheaper brands are the better choice for college kids, in the long run, this isn’t true. Think about it: How many times have you bought an item of clothing that smelled like chemicals or didn’t look like it did online? How many times have you bought a cheap top and only worn it twice before it fell apart? These problems can be avoided when you shop sustainable fashion brands.

The important thing to remember when shopping for sustainable fashion is that no matter what the brand is, you’re not going to find Forever 21 or H&M prices. The cost to produce ethical and eco-conscious clothes tends to be higher due to the level of quality and organic materials used to make them. However, there are several brands that are more affordable for college students, depending on individual financial situations and personal budgets.

Here are five sustainable fashion brands for college kids to check out.

1. Alternative Apparel

Alternative Apparel believes they have a responsibility to help the planet by providing consciously made clothing at an affordable price. With cute basics and accessories for men, women and children, this brand will keep you comfy and cute all year long.

The company doesn’t just make great clothes — they’re also mindful of the impact that fast fashion has on the environment. They recycle materials from their vendors, and they use oxo-biodegradable mailer bags to reduce waste from packaging. They also promise a safe and fair workplace for their factory employees, and they produce their clothing with organic materials and low-impact dyes.

Alternative Apparel has a vast collection of their own products, as well as a section on their site called “Brands We Love” that offers an assortment of items from notable ethical brands like Topo Designs, ABLE, People Tree and more.

2. Do Good Swimwear

Tons of companies sell sustainably made clothing, but it can be a chore to find a good swimsuit brand that helps the environment. Do Good Swimwear is a small brand that makes classic, comfy swimsuits out of recycled materials from plastic bottles, old nylons and other ocean waste.

They carry a small selection of colorful swimsuit tops, bottoms and one-pieces. Many of the styles are reversible, so they can be mixed and matched to create unique combinations.

What’s better than an adorable swimsuit from a company that gives back? A portion of profits from each sale goes to supporting ocean conservation, girl’s/women’s mental health and educational organizations and more.

3. Tentree

Who said the outdoorsy look can’t be stylish? Eco-conscious clothing brand Tentree is all about helping people reconnect with nature. Whether you’re a hiker, biker or kayaker, Tentree is the perfect brand for any outdoor enthusiast. They’re known for their special mission to plant 10 trees for every purchase and have planted over 45 million trees so far, with a goal to plant 1 billion trees by 2030.

Tentree sells a wide range of clothing for men, women and kids, as well as accessories like hats, blankets, masks and mittens. They also just released their Fall 2020 collection, which features cozy hoodies, flannels and joggers for men and women.

Their goal is to encourage environmental consciousness by providing sustainable products that don’t break the bank. Tentree believes you don’t have to be a die-hard environmentalist to help the earth — little things like shopping sustainably can make a big difference.

4. GLDN

Affordable sustainable clothing can be tough to find, but finding jewelry in this category can be nearly impossible. Luckily there’s GLDN, a jewelry company that aims to make beautiful pieces that give back and create little-to-no waste in the production process. Most of their packaging is made with recycled materials, 90% of the metals used to create their jewelry are recycled and 95% of their metals are sourced domestically.

Their timeless necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets are handmade by their small group of employees, so you know your piece is crafted with care. They also offer customized jewelry, like personalized letter or symbol necklaces or bar rings.

Plus, you can feel great about your GLDN purchase — they donate 10% of their sales profits to organizations that align with their goals and missions.

5. Known Supply

Known Supply is a sustainable clothing and accessory brand that carries a variety of environmentally friendly clothes for both men and women. They live by their simple motto, “The Most Human Brand,” striving to provide shoppers with clothing that’s ethically made by factory workers who receive fair pay.

The company was created by Travis Hartanov and Kohl Crecelius around 2017, 10 years after they started Krochet Kids, a lifestyle brand and social enterprise that aims to help marginalized people in impoverished communities.

Hartanov and Crecelius envisioned a new sustainable clothing company that would introduce customers to the actual people who make the clothes they’re buying — that’s when Known Supply was born.

Known Supply carries a range of apparel, from comfy basics to classy and unique pieces for men and women. They also have a collection of accessories like face masks, hats and tote bags.

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