Sustainable Spirit

Many Paly students turn to fast fashion retailers to get clothing for spirit week. Are there more sustainable alternatives?


Photo by Allie Feitzinger and Margaret Li


With spirit week approaching, many Paly Students are looking for clothes to show their school spirit.  Buying new outfits can be both expensive and harmful to the environment. 

Many Paly students use fast fashion and online retailers, like Amazon and Express, to get the clothing they need for spirit week, but these companies pollute the environment.

According to a May 11 BBC article, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of wastewater.  However, there are many alternatives to buying new clothes that are less harmful for the environment.

Using What You Already Have

People often overlook what they already have.  Even if you don’t think you own anything good, you might be surprised when you experiment and try things out. Spirit week is about being creative after all.

Try mixing up how you wear something.  A plain shirt can be a part of a great 70s outfit when paired with funky pants and the right accessories.  Wearing something in a different way can open your eyes to many new possibilities.

Reusing the clothes you already have helps eliminate the resources you would have used if you bought something new.  According to the World Wildlife Organization, it takes 2700 liters of water to produce just one cotton T-shirt, so by using something you already own you are saving 2700 liters of water plus the additional resources.

Using what you already have is also free and doesn’t take any effort to get.  Of course, you may not always have what you need, which is why there are other alternatives.

Borrowing From Friends

Friends are another great resource.  Ask around to see if anyone you know has anything you can use.  If you have something you think would be good for spirit week but aren’t using,  lend it to someone else.

Borrowing from friends has similar environmental benefits as using what you already own, while also broadening your options.

Spirit Swap

Every year, Paly ASB hosts a Spirit Swap where students trade old spirit week items for what they need.  While it’s encouraged for upperclassmen to bring their past spirit week clothes, you don’t need to bring anything to take something. This year’s Spirit Swap was hosted on October 6.  If you missed it, you can still reach out to your upperclassmen friends to see if they can lend you anything.

Hammy Downs

Many of the Paly spirit week themes like generation day and salad dressing day have been the same for many years.  This means that many upperclassmen will have clothing that underclassmen can use. 

Upperclassmen should reach out to younger students to see if they can use anything. Passing down clothing is a good way to help get the most out of every article of clothing and not send it straight to landfill when you’re done.

Renting Clothes

There are many different rental services that you can use to get the clothing you need.  Clothing rental services promote a circular economy by allowing people to send clothing back to them once they are done with it.  

Traditional rental services can be great for homecoming.  Renting a dress for the night can be less expensive than buying it and doesn’t clutter up your closets.

Other rental services allow people to rent multiple pieces of everyday clothing for a couple of weeks then send it back.  Many of these services are subscription-based, so they aren’t favorable for people who want to rent something one time.  Some of these rental services include Rent the Runway, Nuuly, and Armoire.


Shopping at thrift stores is a great way to find unique pieces that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

According to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the United States throws away 13 million tons of clothing every year.  Thrifting gives clothing a second life and saves them from ending up in the landfill.

There are many good thrift stores around Palo Alto including Savers, Goodwill, and Fillmore and Fifth.  Savers, located in Redwood City, is a large thrift store and is a good replacement for normal fast fashion retail stores.  Goodwill is smaller but located in Palo Alto.  Fillmore and Fifth is also in Palo Alto but sells higher quality, more expensive clothing.  

Eco-Friendly Companies

As a final resort, buying from eco-friendly companies is a more sustainable option compared to normal fast fashion brands.  Some sustainable companies include Girlfriend Collective, Tentree, and Patagonia.

If you choose to buy from eco-friendly companies, look to see if the company has credentials like B-Corporation or 1% for the planet, since many companies greenwash by falsely labeling themselves as sustainable.  

Although you find many amazing pieces from eco-friendly companies, it’s still more sustainable to use the other options mentioned above.  Many of these companies also are much more expensive.