Exam season is upon us, and while we may not all be in St Andrews or have a ‘normal’ study setup (again) this year, many of us will engage in the time-honoured student tradition of procrastinating and looking for ways to procrastinate. Many students, myself included, will resort to filling their shopping carts on five different websites, buying maybe one item out of the million, and finding new stores to distract from their essay-writing dread. However, this Earth month, it is worth remembering that these habits have a concrete negative impact on the environment. It may be a bit too optimistic to expect ourselves to completely curb that bad habit as we stress about exams, essays and the general state of the world, but we can at least attempt to branch out and find ways to fill that need with a lesser impact on the environment. So, here’s a handy list of 15 suggestions for your consideration, dear jury:
Oldies but Goodies
- Brick-and mortar
This may be restating the obvious, but by far the least environmentally harmful thing you could do to procrastinate besides, you know, reading a book or hanging out with your friends, is patronising one of the local shops in St Andrews! St Andrews Live offers a lot of updated information on re-openings and offers, which can be handy. Local shops also include all the charity shops offering vintage and pre-loved finds which will not destroy your student budget. After months of hard lockdown and Scottish winter, we need all the excuses we can get to go outside, so go and take a real break to support local businesses.
- Online Charity shops
If you enjoy a good vintage find (see previous entry) but are constrained to stay home by personal concerns or the delusion that if you stay enough in front of your computer, your essay will write itself by sheer inertia, there’s a solution for you! A lot of the charity and vintage shops in the UK have set up their own online shops or uploaded products for sale on eBay or Depop, so go and look up your favourite charity and see if they’ve done the same.
This is, again, not news, but Depop has become a great platform to find great pre-owned or handcrafted pieces, whether it be vintage Gucci or handmade jewelry. There is a sea of items, but if you don’t mind doing a bit of digging, there may be something for you.
Etsy veers more towards the handcrafted and arts-and-crafts items, but it isn’t immune to good vintage clothing or tchotchkes you didn’t know you needed. You’ll have options to look at, regardless of whether you want a cute headband, a cow-shaped milk jug, an embroidered apron or a set to take up embroidery yourself.
- Restaurant merch
Now, if you’re looking for something shiny and new and a bit unique, may I propose you look into restaurant merch? A lot of our restaurants and pubs have been struggling during the pandemic, and some of them have started selling amazing merch to help out a bit during the pandemic. This has led to some pretty amazing collabs with local graphic designers, especially on t-shirt and tote bags, but also on things like hot sauces or bottle openers and so on. This article from Eater London has a few options in the UK, but I really recommend looking at your favourite restaurants to see if they’ve done similar things. We always need a new graphic t-shirt and it’s nicer when it helps out in a small way.
If you are looking to refresh your basics, look no further than Kotn. The company is a certified B-corp, and has committed to supporting the local farmers and workers which produce their clothing by for example guaranteeing their prices and reinvesting in education of the communities. Beyond this, the company also exclusively uses cotton fibres (Egyptian cotton) which are naturally more durable, meaning that their clothes are built to last. The fact that they trade directly with local communities and design pieces which can go from season to season also means that products are fairly decently priced.
Nudie Jeans specializes in denim, and has been an early proponent of sustainability in the fashion industry: the company started using fabrics with all-organic fibers as early as 2012. Nudie Jeans offers jeans which, again, are built to last virtually forever in an enormous range of styles and washes, and free repairs if you send your jeans in to your country’s partner repair shop. They even send free repair kits if you’d rather do it yourself. They also repurpose used denim which they refashion for regular drops. These are definitely on the pricier end, but it’s worth checking out their website just to learn tips on how you could upgrade your own jeans.
Everlane also offers similar characteristics than the companies above: thoughtful basics built to last. Each product description comes with the name and information about the factory where the garment is produced. The company has committed to recycling and is attentive to reducing its use of all non-reusable plastics. They are also well-known for the inclusivity of their designs and sizing (among other things, they offer tall sizes). They also regularly offer sales and clearances which make products already fairly priced very attractive.
We’re not breaking any new ground here, and you’ve probably seen quite a few students sporting their shoes around town, but Veja is also a brand trying to be more mindful of the environment while selling cool-looking sneakers. The company pays rubber tappers in the Amazon at a premium, uses leather that is dyed without the conventional noxious chemicals which poison waterways, and uses recycled plastic bottles to create the mesh at the bottom of the shoes. The company has also extended initiatives to reduce emissions beyond production and plans to ban airfreight by 2021. They also have decided not to advertise their brand, which of course is a marketing ploy in itself, but has allowed them to reduce their marketing costs (which can amount to up to 70% of sneaker brands’ budgets) and reinvest in materials and pricing of their shoes.
Alohas mainly sells women’s shows designed and produced in Spain. The company is innovative in that many of its products are actually pre-ordered, which then allows them to produce a more accurate amount of pairs necessary to meet demand and reduce waste. If you’re looking for cool new sandals and willing to wait a bit for them, it’s definitely worth checking out, as the sandals’s pricing is also lower when pre-ordered.
These are not fashion brands per sé, but also nice places to look at if you want to treat yourself and try new things.
We’ve all resorted to using Amazon for books for classes or to read for fun. It can be hard to resist when local bookstores (shoutout to Topping and Co.!) don’t carry them or order times are long. Bookshop, which has recently expanded to the UK, offers a neat solution to that conundrum. The website supports independent bookshops by assembling all of their stocks online in one place for you to order from. The company offsets emissions for each delivery, and has proven especially useful to me to buy books in another language.
Ethique is a sustainable beauty company which also makes pet and home cleaning products. Among other things, they don’t use palm oils or plastics, which are two key contributors to environmental degradation by the beauty industry. You may have seen their dry shampoo bars in Boots’, but if you can’t want to make your way there or want to learn more, you can always order from their neat website (you get a free mini and the extra you pay for shipping and processing will also be used to plant a tree).
Skandinavisk is another sustainable beauty brand which crafts and produces its goods in Sweden and Denmark. This certified B-Corporation specializes more in fragrances and also makes some lovely candles.
Staying on the topic of beauty and sustainability, we have Wild, which offers a very specific product but does it as well as possible: Wild. This company sells deodorant, and is innovative in that it ships you a free case which you then refill with whatever scent you select. This reduces the amount of single-use plastics as well as allows you to try scents as diverse as ‘orange zest’ and ‘fresh cotton and sea salt’. This one is flatmate-approved, and she’s one classy lady.
If you constantly drop your phone and have always spoken about investing in a good phone case but never actually get around to it (ahem), you could look at Pela. They make a lot of different products, but their cases are made exclusively in bioplastics and the company offers screen protectors which come with guaranteed free repairs.
There you have it folks, good luck with exams!