What is Greenwashing?

What is Greenwashing?

By Jessica Hare, KAB Education Coordinator


This year, as one of my resolutions, I wanted to make it a priority to stop buying fast fashion. Fast fashion is what is sold in most stores: cheap products made in sweatshops that are basically meant to fall apart so that they will need to be replaced as soon as possible. I began by attempting to research sustainable fashion companies and almost immediately became frustrated and confused. Some clothing companies that seemed eco-friendly, after a quick Google search, were reportedly not. How could this be?

The answer is greenwashing. Companies understand how to make their products look greener than they really are. They know what aesthetic to use in advertisements and packaging. They know which buzzwords conscious consumers are looking for. They know how to capitalize on people who are trying to be more eco-conscious without having to do the work to change their businesses. They see “green living” as a trend much like any other.

This is definitely a problem for consumers. I am willing to pay a higher price to be a more eco-friendly consumer because I know that, in the end, it will even out because I will buy fewer items because they will last longer. That being said, I’d hate to think that I might pay extra for something that turns out to be a more expensive version of something I could’ve bought for ten dollars at Target.

So what are we supposed to do? It’s hard to not just give up or become paralyzed in the face of all of the misinformation you encounter when you’re just trying to do the right thing. Here are some tips that I am going to try to use.

The first is to look for companies that use buzzwords such as all-natural or “green.” These words are not regulated so there is nothing to stop companies from slapping them on their labels and calling it a day. You will need to research beyond a label to find out what a company is really about. The second is to look into parent companies. I was recently duped into buying a shampoo that certainly looked “green” only to find out later that it is owned by Unilever, a huge plastic polluter. This smaller brand does not offset the damage done by it’s parent company’s other brands. My last tip, and I’m talking to myself here, too, is to just try to do your best. Earlier in the year, I became so frustrated with the process of trying to buy more sustainable clothes that I just avoided it for five months and then ended up getting a few things that were not in line with this mission. If I had stuck with it, done my best to do the research, and not waited until the last possible second, I could’ve made better choices. I definitely let greenwashing win.

Next week, I’ll delve more specifically into my research on fast fashion and what I’m doing to better understand greenwashing in the clothing industry.