How Greenwashing is becoming a problem

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is when brands give the idea that the products that they are selling are environmentally friendly. Companies, such as Primark, PrettyLittleThing, Boohoo, and H&M, are labelling their clothes “sustainable”, giving the consumer the impression that they are making a sustainable choice. But, how can these clothes be sustainable if they are produced voluminously by these fast fashion brands?

Greenwashing occurs in many ways. It is when a company advertises its product to give it a sense that it is sustainable. While a company may state something is eco-friendly, organic, or recyclable, there could be many other factors to their brand that are a hazard to the planet or their staff.

Greenwashing in Fast Fashion 

As we are aware of the recent occurrence of PrettyLittleThing’s Black Friday Sale , where the company sold their clothes for prices as low as a couple of cents. This displays a significant issue regarding the brand with their method of paying their workers, how much they are paid and overproduction. PrettyLittleThing’s “Sustainability” campaign on their website advertises that the pink bags that their items are sold in are “100% recyclable” which illustrates the smallest form of “greenness” in their brand. On their website under “Sustainability,” the issue with the bags is the only statement of change in their warehouse. With the overproduction of clothing in their company, changing to “recyclable” packing is simply not enough for the planet’s sake. Although the company advertises that they use recyclable packaging, it does not make up for their production rates as they produce a large number of new styles weekly, which is a major factor in their overproduction. This is common in fast-fashion: new items on the shelves weekly.

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From searching through PrettyLittleThing’s website, on sustainability, there are tips on making choices and ways to keep your clothes protected from damage to keep them longer. Although it is great to advertise your clothing’s upkeep and the importance of keeping what you have, why does the brand continue to produce thousands of items and new styles ready for overconsumption? It sounds good to the consumer’s ear. Also, there are tips on washing your clothing items at a lower temperature to keep the CO2 emissions low by preventing microfibers’ release in this category. But if a company is concerned about microfibers’ release, would they not produce their clothing out of less plastic? Given a 2/5 environmental rating on Good for You, PrettyLittleThing fails to meet the standards to carry out a sustainable brand. There is a lack of clarity on their water production, plastic materials, and a fair wage for their workers.

When we look closely at the quality of these clothing items, we noticed that most of the materials used are not made from environmentally friendly materials and are produced with a plethora of harmful chemicals. The main material used in fast fashion brands to produce these clothes is polyester, a fabric that is essentially plastic. The problem with these materials being used to make these clothes is that they are not made to last, meaning the customer has to buy more, and plastic is being thrown into landfills more rapidly. A majority of plastic is made from fossil fuels, meaning we are using up our resources. 

Fast fashion brands are quite hush-hush about their garment workers and the sustainable quality of their clothing. Stats from Venetia La Manna, Co-Founder of ‘Remember Who Made Them’ reveal that “only 2% of fashion workers around the world are paid a liveable salary”. That’s a significantly low number that reveals the inequality workers for fast fashion works face. Brands under the ownership of H&M and Boohoo lack transparency of how much they pay their workers. 

Venetia La Manna has done amazing work in regards to environmental education. Following on from H&M and their statements, it is stated that they have plans to become a completely sustainable brand by 2030. She had made a post about this and the damage they have already done as a fast-fashion brand. She writes “The sheer amount of product @hm churn out is causing irreversible harm to both planet and people, and completely outweighs their sustainability efforts as the large majority of it is not only harmful to the planet, their workers cannot be making a living wage when there is this much cheap clothing on the market, most of which ending up as landfill. Fed up with fashion greenwashing? CALL THEM OUT.”

Although it is good that brands are trying to push a sustainable move we have to question, is it just for the image? While these products are advertised as sustainable materials, is there clarity on how they were sourced and how much resources were used to “sustainably” create these materials? It is amazing to see brands strive for sustainability, but how much information are they giving us? Is the information they are giving us enough?

Greenwashing Household Products

Inevitably, the act of greenwashing is giving false information to a customer. Many of us want to make the right choice and can be misled by this harmful marketing tactic. Products such as our everyday household products advertised as ‘eco-friendly’ are more than likely not as environmentally friendly as we would like them to be. As many brands will sell their product off as organic or non-toxic, there is not always the guarantee that the percentage of the eco-friendless of that product is high. 

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The easiest way to ensure your clothes are sustainable:

  • Shopping second hand and preloved.
  • Vintage shops, charity shops and Depop selling, clothes are coming second hand, and you are not buying directly from a brand that continues to produce new, non-sustainable materials.
  • Good on You is a fantastic website that goes into detail on a brand’s sustainability and ethics, rating each brand based on their fairness to the planet, people, and animals.
  • Chicks for Climate share amazing, resourceful posts that suggest ways to shop sustainably, keep up information and facts about the latest environmental issues that need our attention.

Greenwashing is becoming a major issue in modern society, as we are more eco-aware and conscious of climate change; brands are jumping onto the “sustainability” trend. As consumers, we need to become more aware of these brands’ truth and environmental activity. It is best to keep hold of the clothes we have as long as possible, our best to shop sustainable when we can, and be aware of the decisions we make in modern-day consumerism.

Alison Law
Alison Law

Alison is a college student and writer passionate about the environment, fashion, animals and coffee.

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