Hand of White man in black shirt touching rack of clothes at consignment store

5 Mindful and Eco-Friendly Fashion Tips for the School Year

Make a fashion statement for you and the environment! Here's how to create an eco-friendly back-to-school wardrobe that blends style with sustainability.

Back-to-school season is upon us, and amid gathering essential supplies and planning for the academic year ahead, you have a prime opportunity to make eco-friendly choices that not only showcase your style and individuality but also contribute to sustainability. Embracing eco-friendly fashion choices can transform your experience from a simple shopping spree to a meaningful statement about valuing both fashion and the future of the planet. When shopping for new ensembles, consider these insightful tips that blend fashion with environmental responsibility.

1. Do your research

Before you embark on your shopping journey, take time to do research into what it means to purchase environmentally sustainable clothing. This can serve as the foundation for a conscious and responsible approach to your wardrobe choices. For example, did you know the fashion industry is responsible for approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions? When considering where to shop, prioritize companies that value sustainability in production. Look for brands that are accredited by reputable sustainability agencies to ensure they promote ethical practices.

Another thing to take note of is choosing fabrics that are designed to last, such as durable and natural materials like bamboo, cotton, and sustainable leather. This can help increase the longevity of your wardrobe too. So even if you choose not to wear an outfit the following year, you can pass it down to a younger sibling or even sell it.

Related: 6 Amazing Scholarships for Students Who Love Sustainability

2. Only buy what you need

Before you start back-to-school shopping, decide what you need and what you don’t. Start by checking your current wardrobe. Take out all the clothes and sort them into two piles: what you can still wear and what no longer works for you. Be sure to consider which pieces could be repurposed and reused. If an item is still in good condition, consider keeping it. Talk to your family as well and decide if there’s anything you can borrow from them for the school year. Siblings who are close in age can share wardrobes and mix and match outfits, while older siblings with a bigger age difference likely have clothes they can pass down to you.

Once you’re at a store, ask yourself if an item is essential and if you’ll realistically wear it in the coming months. Impulses can make you purchase items that might seem like a good idea at first but will just sit in your closet, untouched until you decide to get rid of it. Consider how many outfits you really need and try to take a minimalistic approach by limiting yourself to things that could make a lot of different combinations with other pieces.

3. Check thrift stores

Opting for secondhand clothing is a great way to align your back-to-school shopping with eco-friendly values. Buying secondhand not only reduces waste and pollution but also extends the lifecycle of old clothes. Consider tapping into your friend groups or connecting with family members to offer trades. Local parenting groups can also be a great way to connect with other families about secondhand clothes that they need to get rid of. So consider asking your parents to help you!

Shopping secondhand isn’t just good for the environment―it’s good for your wallet too. With the secondhand market expected to double in the coming years, now’s as great a time as any to channel your inner thrifty self. Physical thrift stores have been a common way to shop secondhand for decades, but now there are even more choices with online thrift stores, resale companies, “Buy Nothing” groups, and Facebook Marketplace all offering unique secondhand finds.

Related: 8 Fashion Basics Students Need to Bring to College

4. Treat your clothes with care

Properly caring for your clothes is a vital step in creating an eco-friendly closet. The more care you give them, the longer they’ll survive, which promotes reuse and donation. Have a shirt or pants that have a tear in them? Break out the sewing kit and repair those minor damages. Practicing mindfulness can help your clothes remain usable for months and even years to come.

Also be careful that the clothes you wear meet your daily activities. For example, if you’re going on a hike, choose durable and moisture-wicking materials as well as shoes that can withstand changing landscapes. And when washing your clothes, try to do so only when necessary, and opt for the cold cycle whenever possible. This not only helps preserve quality and ensures that your fabrics don’t shrink or fade but helps conserve energy as well. Choosing environmentally friendly cleaning products can also minimize your footprint even further.  

5. Recycle responsibly

Did you know that only 15% of textiles are recycled? That’s a lot of waste, and the unrecycled materials either end up in landfills or incinerated. Please recycle your clothes responsibly! If you don’t have younger siblings to pass your clothes down to, consider donating, swapping, or selling them in online groups or marketplaces. You can also consider upcycling to give your clothes new life through creative transformations. Have clothes that are beyond repair? You can still repurpose them as cleaning rags or other useful materials. 

Related: 5 Ways Everyone Can Fight for the Environment

As you gear up for back-to-school season, remember that your clothing choices have a lasting impact on both your style and the environment. But by reducing waste, reusing what you have, and recycling what you choose to remove from your closet, you can help build a more sustainable future.

Looking for more great advice for the start of the school year? Download our Back-to-School Guides for High School and College Students on our Resources page!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Tess DiNapoli

Tess DiNapoli

Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Heather McCarty

Heather McCarty

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress has helped me with the college application process. The tips and tricks for important essays were so helpful. I also gained useful knowledge about college life. Even though I’m fully online, CollegeXpress has helped me develop a sense of how college is in person. The experiences from college students that were featured on their Instagram page have shown the good, the bad, and the “secret” life on campus from a reliable perspective. Not to mention, they relieved my feelings of anxiety about the workload. I can now understand how it can be stressful, but it takes self-control and willpower to get assignments completed on time and with quality.

Samantha Fils-Aime

Samantha Fils-Aime

High School Class of 2019

I love that CollegeXpress has helped me find some scholarships to apply for but also helped me succeed in school with lots of tips. I also really like how they consistently email me about webinars that teach me a lot of things from the comfort of my home!

Nikole Dixon

Nikole Dixon

$500 Refer-a-Friend Scholarship Winner

Toward the beginning of last year, I was searching for scholarships to apply to through my school, town, websites online, and anything else I could find. I asked tons of questions [online] about scholarships and the best places to find them because I was desperate and needed as many as I could find. I came across a ton of bogus websites, but as soon as I found CollegeXpress, I knew I had to tell other people about it. It was definitely the most helpful site I came across, so I told my friends about it. CollegeXpress is definitely a website worth giving as a source.

Jada Bohanon

Jada Bohanon

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me find scholarships for the colleges I applied to. It was very hard for me to find scholarships in the beginning that I was qualified for. My teachers recommended this website to find some, and not only did I find some scholarships but I also got to look into some schools I hadn’t heard of before. I was very happy to have discovered this website, especially with the coronavirus spreading all over as I can’t really go visit many colleges.



High School Class of 2019

My favorite feature of CollegeXpress is the scholarship search. As someone going out of state for college, I needed all the financial help I could get, and CollegeXpress helped me easily find scholarships I could apply for to help fund my education.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Moody Bible Institute

Chicago, IL

University of Indianapolis

Indianapolis, IN

Meredith College

Raleigh, NC