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A guide to greenwashing and how to spot it

WHAT IS GREENWASHING?

Greenwashing is a marketing method used by companies to manipulate consumers into thinking they’re being environmentally responsible or more eco-friendly, when in reality they’re doing the opposite.  

HOW TO RECOGNISE GREENWASHING?

Focus on detailed information

Recent investigations about the impact of fast fashion have found that 96% of the H&M eco claims have been reported false and misleading. Companies label their products all the time with general statements like “eco, green, natural, conscious” that can be used legally because it means nothing. Those claims are usually not scientifically proven or supported by official certifications, or are hiding some important information.

We must pay special attention to how detailed and specific they are, for example: if a t-shirt  is advertised as being simply “eco”  is not very trustworthy, however “Made from 100% organic cotton” is a more specific detail, but if it say “100% organic cotton certified”, that’s much easier to trust.

Search for official certifications

Another common practice is the use of Icons, images or logos that suggest that the product is environmentally responsible, but if the logo is not official or supported by third parties, it is just an icon. Using an image that says “Vegan approved” instead of showing the product is PETA-certified vegan is another misleading advertisement.

Avoid low prices

Some companies use claims like “made ethically with organic cotton” and sell the garment at a ridiculously low price. Cotton growth using non-GMO seeds has a higher cost along with other materials that farmers only use for organic production. Farming practices are more labor intensive due to the restrictions on herbicides and pesticides. Also fair trade and fair pay for workers are important cornerstones of the organic and natural clothing industry.

Fast fashion is a great example of selling cheap and accesible items that could never be sustainable, as intentionally produces more than it sells which it causes massive water consumption, the release of tons of micro-plastics in the ocean, tons of textile waste and toxic dyes leaching into waterways. It’s the second industry most polluting in the whole world after the meat industry and both are getting a massive profit out of destroying our planet, so it’s doubly annoying when they try to use the words eco, bio or green into their products.

Pay attention to half-truths

Greenwashing companies  may use phrases that give the consumer a distorted idea of the truth. For example, Zara had a collection “Made with 50% more recycled fibers” when they were increasing the amount from 2% to 3% of the total garment.

When internet was full of images about how turtles where dying by plastic straws, the company Starbucks joined the anti-straw movement, and introduced straw-free lids to avoid unnecessary plastic waste, but the new lids used more plastic than the previous lid and straw combo. They increased their sales with their eco campaign producing more plastic waste than before! That’s pure evil greenwashing, and a lot of brands are using these strategies with total impunity, as there’s no regulation that prevents this from happening.

Have you recognized some of these evil practices? Tell us in the comments below!

Information is power. So we’ve prepared an activist flyer with information about greenwashing in fast fashion so you can download it, print it and leave it anywhere you think it will make an impact!

We’ve been visiting fast-fashion shops and placing  the flyer in the garment’s pockets to raise awareness about greenwashing to the possible buyer. Check our instagram to see how we do it!

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