Sustainability in New Paltz High School

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By Sophie Gallo, Staff Writer

New Paltz High School students are striving to be more sustainable in their fashion choices.  But the reality for students is… there are many factors that get in the way.


One major pinpoint of self expression amongst high school students varies from person to person. While there are many benefits to the individual, fast fashion can be detrimental to the world around us. 

The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, and about 35% of microplastics in the world’s oceans are from the synthetic material in fast fashion fabrics. Yet there are ways that people can reduce their carbon footprint.

“It costs them more to repair [clothing] than to put out another product which is incredible,” Mr. Martin, an art teacher at New Paltz High School, commented when talking about a defaulty backpack after being told by the company to just “throw it out”.

Work conditions

Quality of clothing and the effects it has on the environment are things many consumers don’t take into consideration. Many big brands such as Shein, Zara, Urban Outfitters, and Fashion Nova still use sweatshops to make their product, don’t pay their workers a livable wage, and produce poorly made clothing. 

Mr. Martin, a crafty man, spoke about his experience while working behind the scenes in retail during his highschool years and how impactful it can be.

 “It’s constantly, ‘ok, this is the new fashion,’ not only for the disposal of clothes and the people feeling they have to be current with the fashion trends,” Martin says. ”But also the quality of the work that is being made has gone down a lot too.”

 Martin further spoke about how employees who did not comply with the rule while wearing the brand’s new clothing were made to work in the back out of sight, as if to be shamed for not following everyone else. 

Costs and Options

The company did not take into consideration how much it would cost every few months for the employees to wear the newest pieces and the financial impact that can have on a high school student just trying to make money. 

“I don’t like spending too much money on stuff I don’t need to,” New Paltz High School senior, Noah Levitz remarked.

Price has a drastic role in New Paltz High School students’ decisions on purchasing clothing. Students still trying to get on their feet financially rely on the accessibility of their clothing whether it be from online shopping with low prices or thrifting. More trendy resources like fast fashion are either hit or miss when it comes to prices. 

95% of New Paltz High School students would say that yes, price does affect their decision when purchasing clothing (according to a poll of 91 High School students). Both students who buy from bigger brands and second hand say that the reason they shop there is for how low the prices are. 

Price ties into many factors of the accessibility of sustainable alternatives, but second hand stores and upcycling tend to be the cheapest route. 

“There’s always going to be second hand clothing, it’s not in short supply,” Sophia Schwartz, a New Paltz High School student; attending the Boces fashion program exclaimed. 

“I use old shirts as rags so they get like a second life third life, I’ve made t-shirts into quilts before, and I’ve made a ton of old t-shirts into face masks in the last two year so they’re reusable and rewashable.”

Mr. Martin

85% of all manufactured and discarded clothing ends up in landfills, using second hand resources like Poshmark, Depop, local thrift stores, or even upcycling old pieces of clothing can help lower fashion’s environmental impact. 

“…Adding and making things fit them better and exploring already available options are some other options for people to be more sustainable,” Schwartz added. 

After surveying New Paltz High School students, 93% said they would buy more ethical and sustainable clothing if they could afford it. But there are alternatives to buying expensive ethical clothing like reusing your own.

“I use old shirts as rags so they get like a second life, third life; I’ve made t-shirts into quilts before; and I’ve made a ton of old t-shirts into face masks in the last two years so they’re reusable and rewashable,” Mr. Martin remarked. 

 Depop, while it is recycling clothing, has users who often go out of their way to bump up the prices of clothing that they bought for lower prices. Shipping added onto the price raises it even further but sellers only make a small profit since the app takes an automatic fee of 10% of a sale. 

 “If people with more money are buying clothing just to re-sell it, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Schwartz says.

 The upside to fashion is that it is in consumers’ hands on where they decide to buy from and how they choose to express themselves. While there can be some obstacles in the success of ethical fashion among younger generations, there are small ways to improve one’s environmental impact, whether it be hand me downs from family, fun thrift trips with friends, or online second hand shopping. 

Thoughts on Fast Fashion from NPHS Students

Interviews by Staff Writer, Julia Crofton

Video by Co-Editor-In-Chief, Lindsey Clinton