Greenwashing: What Is It and How Do I Spot It?

In this day and age, a lot of people want to better the environment with everything they do. One thing I have learned is that your money is very important. You use your money to vote for the brands that you care about. So people start looking for brands that fit their mindset, and that’s exactly where big brands find their money: by greenwashing. But what exactly is greenwashing, and why is it so bad? And are there ways to notice when a company is greenwashing? I lay it all out in this blogpost. Let’s get into it!

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is when companies pretend to be much more green and sustainable than they actually are. They market themselves as green to fit into the new ‘trend’ of buying sustainably to help the environment. However, there’s a lot of companies that are far from sustainable, but do use this description to lure customers in.

Why is it bad?

Companies make their money off of something that concerns all of us: climate change. A lot of us are scared of the future because of what we’re doing to the environment, and we want to help that. Instead of actually helping, companies just decide to make use of it and profit off of our good nature. While actually, most brands don’t really try to improve their sustainability, and sometimes not even their ethics. Have you ever wondered how a clothing item from a ‘green’ range is still only €8? Well, probably because it isn’t even close to green. They just want your money.

How can you spot greenwashing?

There are different ways to spot greenwashing, but most companies tend to use the same tactics. Which is actually good, because it makes it a lot easier for us to spot and avoid those companies.

The first thing that is a sign for greenwashing is when companies use lots of specific keywords like: ‘green’, ‘concious’, ‘sustainable’, or ‘environmentally friendly’. Those words are used to grab your attention and to make you associate their brand with your sustainable lifestyle. The more of these words used in their marketing, the more suspicious the brand often is, especially if the words and claims are vague.

The second thing is the price of the items. When you think about it, a sustainably made shirt can’t be the same price as a fast fashion shirt. An example is the H&M Concious line. They use this line to ‘lead the way in sustainable fashion’. However, the only thing they improved was using sustainable materials. But how are these materials sourced, and are the products ethically made? And how are the products eventually shipped? These aspects all have a role in sustainable fashion, but brands don’t seem to focus on them. If they really are sustainable in all these aspects, a shirt wouldn’t be the same price as the shirts in their regular collection.

Companies also tend to focus on that one thing that makes them sustainable. Let’s take H&M again for example. They focus only on the fact that they use sustainable materials for that collection, while not telling us about how the materials are sourced and how the products are made. They are still a fastfashion company, which are the worst for the environment. But that’s not what they tell us, they just want us to focus on that the materials are good.

The final thing that most companies do is switch up their packaging and marketing. They use a lot more earth tones and greens when they want to appear more natural, since we unconciously associate this with natural products. They also tend to put big logo’s up saying things like: ‘100% natural!’ It’s just all about marketing and making you think that the brand is more green than it is.

What can I do about it?

Well, sadly, nothing. What these brands are doing is not illegal, they are perfectly allowed to do such things. However, as a consumer, you decide where your money goes to. The best thing to do is to research the brands that you plan to buy from. What are their actual sustainable goals? Do they treat their workers well? Are they selling any lies? You can vote with your money and decide for yourself from which brands you’re going to buy in the future. So, to keep it short: do your research and decide for yourself. I want to thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time!

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