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Simple Tips to Help You Back-to-School Shop Sustainably

Shopping for back-to-school clothes sustainably is easy with these helpful tips. Save money, save the planet, and look great while doing it.

Written by
Briana Dodson

Back-to-school season is already right around the corner. If you walk into chain stores like Target and Walmart, school supplies are already on display.

This year, consumers are expected to spend an average of $264 on clothes and accessories and $168 on shoes for the upcoming school year. But instead of supporting fast fashion brands at the mall, consider shopping for back-to-school clothing more sustainably. Doing so not only benefits the planet, but also your bank account.

Jen Panaro of Honestly Modern knows a thing or two about shopping sustainably, and these tips will leave you with a planet-friendly wardrobe you'll feel great about.

4 Ways to Shop for Back-to-School Clothes the Eco-Friendly Way

1. Check Online Resale Sites

Looking for clothing at online thrift stores like ThredUP and Depop can be overwhelming. There's a lot of items to go through. Luckily, many of them have made it a breeze to find what you're looking for. "These sites have lots of filters that make it easier to sift through their enormous inventories," says Panaro.

It's also good to have an idea of what you're looking for ahead of time. "I think it really helps to head to these sites with a bit of intention," she says. "Know which types of pieces you're looking for (sweaters, pants, dresses, etc.), and also consider if you have a few favorite brands or colors in mind."

This can make the process of finding back-to-school clothes more streamlined and prevent you from impulse buying.

2. Shop Sustainable Brands You Already Love

Knowing which planet-friendly, sustainable brands produce clothing you already love can help narrow down how many places you try to shop. It also helps prevent returns; you know the sizing and what works for you.

"I have a few favorite sustainable brands from which I buy regularly. Instead of searching for new brands all the time, it's helpful for me to get to know a few brands really well that I trust and also that fit me well," Panaro says. "Then I can return to these brands time and again without feeling like each new purchase requires extensive research."

You can also try using features that tailor brands and your favorites to you, like Instagram's "Suggested for You" feature. "For example, I'm a big fan of Girlfriend Collective," she says. "From their Instagram account, I hit the little down arrow on the right side of their profile and find brands that are similar in style and offering. I've found a handful of sustainable brands I like using this trick."

Other Brightly team favorites include: Everlane, Cuyana, Wolven, Nisolo, ABLE, LA Made, Tentree, Amour Vert, Pact, MATE the Label, and more.

3. Keep an Inspiration List

With social media platforms like TikTok, Pinterest, and Instagram at our fingertips, there's no shortage of people—and things—to inspire us! As you're scrolling, Panaro recommends keeping a list of clothing pieces you like and want to build new outfits from. Then, keep an eye out for those pieces when you're out thrifting.

You can also look to others for guidance. "Today, online lists from sustainable style bloggers can be really helpful as a starting place," she says. You could discover new styles that inspire you, sustainable brands you've never heard of, and even DIY projects that allow you to upcycle clothes you already own. You can't beat back-to-school clothes that are unique and one-of-a-kind.

4. Make Your Style Your Own

One of the great things about personal style is that it can truly be anything you want it to be. It also helps you steer clear of impulse buying trendy back-to-school clothes and instead shopping for classic, high-quality staples.

"I like to stick with a few trusted brands and purchase classic pieces that will last a long time," she says. "I mix those in with more unique secondhand items to create a style that makes me feel comfortable."

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