Greenwashing in the Fashion Industry – What to Look Out For

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3. Just Not Credible

To try to appeal to green shoppers, sometimes companies make claims that are just plain silly. For example, Futerra pointed out that the idea of eco-friendly cigarettes doesn’t work, because cigarettes are a dangerous product. Some products are known to be bad for the environment, but that doesn’t keep them safe from greenwashing.

In an example related to fashion, the Fur Council of Canada, which represents the fur industry, is running a “fur is green” campaign. The Fur Council of Canada says fur is a natural, renewable resource.

First, let’s put aside ethics talk and thoughts of cute animals so we can focus on the product. As environmentalist blogger Lesley Fox points out, commercial fur either comes from trapping animals or fur farms. Trapping wild animals is disruptive to many ecosystems. Unwanted animals can also become caught in traps—not exactly green.

Fur farms, like other big, commercial farms, create serious waste and runoff while using lots of resources such as water, energy, and feed crops. The meat doesn’t become food for humans—it just gets processed further into other products.

So, most people would not consider fur green. Really, if you hear a claim about apparel that just sounds unrealistic, it probably is.

4. Imaginary Friends

Endorsements from third parties, often found on labels, can impress shoppers. However, Futerra found that some companies have been making labels that looked like endorsements, but weren’t linked to any legitimate organizations.

You can do some research online to become familiar with real labels and icons, like the USDA seal. For example, if the dress you’re buying says it’s made from organic cotton, look for the USDA certified organic seal. In the U.S., products must be made from at least 95% organic ingredients to call themselves organic and carry the seal, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

If you see a label, seal, or endorsement you don’t recognize, look it up before making a choice.

Clearly, telling greenwashing in the fashion industry apart from real green marketing can take research. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things to look out for, keep in mind that many old-fashioned ways of going green still work.

For example, buying used clothing is still a great green strategy, especially since fashion trends tend to move in cycles. Right now, fashion from the eighties is popular again, so why not stop by your local thrift store and get some leggings on the cheap?

Likewise, consuming less cuts waste and can help keep your credit card balance down, too. For example, rather than buying cheap, trendy boots every fall and spring, try spending more on a pair of sturdy, high-quality boots you can easily mix and match with the clothes you already have.

This is an especially good deal if you want to take out a store credit card, which many mainstream fashion retailers offer. Since they give you a big discount on your first purchase, buying a $100 pair of quality boots will pay off better than getting another $20 pair of flimsy boots in whatever pattern is in that season.

Greenwashing will probably remain a problem as long as there is a demand for green products. But, with a mix of good research skills and common sense, you can look past the hype and make well-informed choices.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by lrargerich

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