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What is greenwashing and how can you spot it?

Understanding the marketing trend and how you can easily avoid it

What is greenwashing and how can you spot it?

Gergana Damyanova, co-founder & CEO of sustainable fashion brand Blonde Gone Rogue, dives into the concept of greenwashing and shares her top tips for spotting it.

Do you think you’ve ever been greenwashed?

Like most people, you probably experience greenwashing every single day, perhaps without even knowing. Wait, what is greenwashing, we hear you ask? Let’s dive in and try to understand this recent phenomenon.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the practice of making false environmental claims in order to convince consumers that products are more sustainable and eco-friendly than they actually are.

False green claims can be made in a few different ways – mainly by using imagery or wording that brings up a misleading and inaccurate, but environmentally positive, notion in the consumer’s mind.

How to spot greenwashing

THE WHOLE PACKAGE?

Green is becoming a more and more dominant colour when it comes to product photoshoots and packaging – just take one look around the detergent and cleaning supplies aisle in the supermarket. Many chemical products have green packaging or are green in colour. What’s more, the labels increasingly feature grass, flowers, morning dew and other pleasant natural views. It creates the idea of nature and a strong connection with the environment. But you may find yourself wondering how a product that’s packed with chemicals and contained in a plastic bottle could be good for the environment or even billed as natural – and you’d be right.

We’re seeing a similar trend in the fashion industry. Fast fashion brands are far from being sustainable or good for the environment. Quite the opposite – their business, by default, is encouraging over-consumption and waste generation, not to mention the ethical implications of fast fashion factories and labour. However, fast fashion businesses have been quick to call clothes ‘conscious’, cover their stores in green wallpaper and move photoshoots to forests, jungles and gardens, once again creating this notion of nature and natural products.

WHAT’S IN A WORD?

There are certain words that are heavily used and can often be misleading, including ‘conscious’, ‘green’, ‘natural’ and ‘organic’. None of these terms necessarily means that a product is better for the environment, but using them creates the idea that the product might actually be more ethical and sustainable. What does ‘green’ mean in the term ‘green bottle’? Or ‘conscious’ when referring to clothing?

These are great questions that we should all be asking ourselves when deciding which brand to support with our purchases. Do we really care whether the product is what it claims to be? And how far are we willing to go to make sure that we are not being greenwashed?

HOW TO AVOID GREENWASHING

Be critical. Always. Trust your own common sense, rather than being mislead by marketing campaigns with a lot of buzz words.

Remember that ‘natural’ doesn’t always mean sustainable; ‘vegan’ doesn’t mean good for the environment. What more do you know about the material or the ingredients? How transparent is the brand? Do they seem like they are pushing sustainability too hard but there’s not enough depth and detail available? There are a few common traps we can easily avoid.

Inform yourself. Be curious. It is relatively easy to visit a few sustainability blogs on a Sunday afternoon and quickly get a more in-depth look at which materials are sustainable and what practices are truly better for the environment and our health. You can also follow a few respectable Instagram or Twitter profiles that will, on a regular basis, give you bits of important information when it comes to sustainability, too. After all, it’s easy to get information today with so much at our fingertips.

Buy small, buy local. Smaller and local, independent brands are much more likely to have sustainable and ethical operations. They’re also often eager to give you more details about their products and prove that they are actually talking the talk. Your local zero-waste store is such a place; independent clothing and jewellery brands like blonde gone rogue and Yala Jewellery are other examples.

Smaller companies are usually much friendlier to approach and make it easier for you to ensure you’re not getting greenwashed by a big marketing campaign from a company that’s putting profits first.

Buy less and buy better. This is one of the most sustainable things each of us can do – reducing the demand for products, packaging and transportation will inevitably help the environment in both the short- and long-run.

Greenwashing is evident in nearly every industry today, from household essentials, to beauty products and clothing. It may feel overwhelming to think about the extent of the issue, but start with these easy tips and you’ll soon be making more conscious choices.

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