How to spot the signs of greenwashing in fashion

We’ve all heard of greenwashing – here’s what to watch out for.

In conversations about sustainability and fast fashion, one phrase seems to come up time and time again.

Greenwashing.

This refers to how some fashion companies may claim sustainability or eco-friendly materials to distract from unsustainable or unethical practices in their general production line.

But how do you know if a garment is truly sustainably sourced or if you are being greenwashed? Well, Lithuanian designer Grėtė Švėgždaitė suggests that the tag on an item is a good place to start.

“It should exclude plastic-based fabrics like polyester or spandex, and be made from natural fabrics – linen, eco-cotton, wool – or sustainable ones,” she explains. “It’s ideal if a garment is self-composite, meaning it’s made 100% from a single fabric – it’s the only kind that can be fully recycled. It’s also good to keep an eye on the country of origin and whether the manufacturer is paying its employees fairly.”

Grėtė also notes that regularly practicing label checking will help consumers make better choices when shopping for fashion.

“Be more interested in what you’re buying and read labels. We’re already used to looking at ingredients when buying food – the same goes for fashion items.”

Checking a brand’s website is also useful for spotting greenwashing, but pushing back on marketing slogans in search of transparency is key.

“If you can easily find information about composition, materials, manufacturing process, etc., that’s a very good sign,” says Grėtė. “And vice versa. If there is no such easy to find information, it could be a red flag in terms of sustainability.

“Overall, I would say don’t trust marketing campaigns, slogans, etc. It’s the information on the label that really matters.”

Optimistically, the next few years will see the introduction of new laws specifically targeting greenwashing. In France, major fashion brands will no longer be able to claim that their clothes are “biodegradable” or “environmentally friendly”. Instead, the recyclability of a garment will be calculated by an environmental organization, and this rating will be displayed on the label. Meanwhile, the European Union is targeting greenwashing among a number of measures it aims to implement by 2030. Under the new rules, textiles must have a digital passport which will lead to increased transparency on the origin of a garment and its carbon footprint.

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