30+ Affordable Essentials for the Conscious College Student

It’s hard to buy eco-friendly if you don’t know where exactly to find that, especially when ethical trade and sustainably made are not widely available in local boutiques or department stores. After doing loads of research for the past 8 months, I have discovered so many eco-friendly alternatives that are comparable or even better than typical brands you can find in stores. So here is a comprehensive list of affordable essentials for college that you can select from, in alphabetical order! If you choose to switch to even one of these alternatives, that’s a step forward towards investing in greener, cleaner products.


Bath:If you’re looking for towels, laundry hampers, and the like, The Little Markethas a wide selection of Fair Trade Certified ones! Receive $20 off your first order here.

Bed Sheets: West Elmhas super cute organic cotton bed sets, and so does L.L. Bean!

Binders, Notebooks, etc: The Greenroomat Target. You can tell the notebook paper is recycled because it’s a slightly different white hue than regular notebook paper. They have a variety of colorful designs you can choose from.

Coffee:Tiny FootPrintis the first Carbon Negative Coffee in the world! Ethically sourced from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and more, I was recommended this brand by my bestie Ella, and you can honestly tell that it’s much better quality than the generic brands you find at the grocery store.

Deodorant:Honesty pHresh! Organic, a high green rating on the ThinkDirty app. Or, an even cheaper alternative is the Tom’s of MaineNatural deo, I’m personally a fan of the Wild Lavender.

Dry Shampoo:The SheaMoisture Peace Rose OilDry Shampoo has worked really well for me!

Face Wash, Makeup cleaner, Moisturizer: FarmacyBeauty + DrunkElephant + any ThinkDirtyapp recommendations! Not as dirt cheap as the drugstore, but I actually cannot use drugstore brands at all because I have experienced so many issues with allergic reactions in the past, so if you have sensitive skin or want to commit long-term to more organic items because you are worried about the ingredients involved in generic brands, I definitely recommend using something more high quality.

Fashion under $40: The Flourish Marketdoesn’t hurt your wallet as much as other brands but still supports ethical trade. Plus, you can check out the under $50and salessection of Reformation! There are a number of sales going on right now. Their flare crew teesare currently $14, and I found a couple cute skirts, tanks,and topsunder $30. Also, I found this simple and strappy $10 tankfrom Eco Vibe Apparel. Gotta love discounted apparel, seriously. Just do some digging and you’ll find good deals.

Food:the most organic grocery stores I’ve been to are Mariano’s, Sunset Foods, Kroeger’s, and Trader Joe’s! If you have none of those near you, sometimes local stores have non-GMO sections. I’ve also found some non-GMO, organic items at WalMart and Target. Simple tradeoffs I’ve already made in my diet include buying whole grain bread, vegetarian fed eggs, almond milk!

Food wraps: These Beeswax Wraps are a safer way to store your food. Plus, they are reusable, and you can compost them once you’re finished with them!

Hand Soap: Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Hand Soap makes my hands super soft, and I am a fan of their scents.

Kitchenware: Again, in love with The Little Market! All the goods featured on their site are Fair Trade Certified and aesthetic. If you are looking for simple or patterned mugs, cups, plates, and bowls, it’s a great place to get matching sets!

Knowledge:Because that’s why we’re at school, right? Read Give A Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet. Watch: The True CostFilm to learn more about who pays the price of our clothing.

Laundry Detergent: Mrs. MeyersClean Day Laundry Detergent, Tide Purclean, a bio-based detergent, or Method Ginger MangoDetergent Packs!

Lotion: My best friend introduced me to the BeautyCounter and it makes my skin really soft. It’s organic and pretty affordable, and they are transparent about all the ingredients found in their formulas.

Makeup:Juice Beauty is my new favorite organic, cruelty-free makeup brand, and they have a similar price point to Clinique. Their powder, CC cream, concealer, and setting spray can all be found in my makeup bag. Receive 20% off with the code FRIEND20 on their site.

Makeup Brushes, Hair Brushes:Ecotools! They are cruelty-free and made from recycled bamboo. You can find these in store at Ulta as well.

Nail Polish: NCLA Cruelty-Free, Vegan Nail Polish! This is the first cruelty-free nail polish brand I tried while I was in Cincinnati, and it is just as durable as regular brands. They have a ton of polishes on sale right now for as cheap as $4-$8.

Phone Chargers: I might be a nerd, but I think solar-powered phone chargersare super cool and a great way to save energy, especially if you are paying for your own utility bill!

Photos: Order your prints on Artifact Uprising to decorate your walls with fond memories from your past.

Pillows: Pillows made from bamboo: okay these are actually so soft. I invested in some for my room and it was the best purchase I’ve ever made for my bed! Haha

Room Lights: Shoutout out my freshman roommate Jackie who found these solar-powered room lights! Yes, these ones happen to be outdoor lights, but you can stick the solar panel in front of your bedroom window during the day (if you have one, hopefully), and they’ll be fully charged each night. It works, trust me!

Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash: Suave Professionals 100% Natural Almond and Shea Butter, Paraben Free, and Aluminum Free.

Sneakers: Allbirds has gotten super creative making shoes from eucalyptus tree fiber. Seriously, who knew you could do that.

Tupperware: Instead of plastic, get a set of glass food containers! You won’t have to worry about the plastic wearing and smelling weird after multiple uses.


Hope this helps! Good Luck!

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