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Greenwashing: what means and how to spot it

Greenwashing is one of the most common things companies and organizations do when we talk about marketing. Thankfully, as time goes by consumers care more about the environmental impact of their activities. They want to change the way they consume and require companies to be more green. In this post, we are going to talk about greenwashing, what it means, how to spot it, and some examples too. So if you want to be a more responsible fashion consumer, keep reading!

Greenwashing meaning

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, greenwashing is the behavior or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is. In other words, greenwashing is a communication and marketing strategy that companies and organizations adopt. They exaggerate their behavior on green practices such as their environmental impact, their use of organic/recycled/sustainable materials, etc. This misleads consumers and makes them believe that they are buying an environmentally friendly product when actually is not at all.

How to spot greenwashing

Unfortunately, greenwashing in fashion is on the rise. This makes it more difficult for people to know if they are consuming with responsibility or not. So that is why is very important to know how to spot it. Brands have been communicating with greenwashing through press releases and commercials promoting their “commitment” to the planet using clean energy, recycled materials, etc. So here are some tips to take a look at the next time.

Read the fine print

Go to the brand’s website and read their mission or sustainability page. Then it’s time to see the quality of that information. Because companies don’t have to share all the details of their operations but they should at least provide more context information about it.

For example, you can see if they use renewable energy to power their workshop; or which efforts they take to reduce excess water use, waste, or carbon emissions; if they source a majority of environmentally friendly fabrics and dyes, or if it is just a small percentage of their collection that uses that kind of materials…

If a company claims to be zero-waste and doesn’t provide more details about it. Well, maybe its packaging is zero-waste but its production process is not. This is a clear example of greenwashing.

Did you know that to produce a pair of jeans are needed at least 8.000 liters of water?

Common words

Green”, “eco-friendly”, “ethical” and “natural” are some words that we can hear easily nowadays. A report by WWD found that there has been a 25% rise in products described as conscious and a 49% bump in the word eco. What happens is that a brand is making environmental-related claims without proving evidence. The consequence of this is that words start losing credibility because companies use them in order to sell more. So if a brand says to have a sustainable collection made of natural fibers, you can check which ones are being used and their percentage of the piece. Neither it doesn’t make sense to say that a t-shirt was made with natural materials if it also sprays pesticides on all of its cotton, for example.

Human factor

It is necessary to pay attention to this matter, too. One of the main problems of fast fashion is the work conditions. Garment workers have to work from about 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, and just gaining $3 per day in terrible conditions. Indeed this thing was revealed to the public when happened the incident at Rana Plaza, Bangladesh. At least 1,138 workers died when the fashion factory collapsed.

Furthermore, a report from 2018 published that forced labor and child labor exist in the fashion industry in different countries like Argentina, India, Brazil, China, and more. You can see the report here. So doing a little digging on the people behind a company is a way to get a sense of their values. Nowadays is easier to get information through their website.

How to differentiate real green from greenwashed

The U.S. FTC (Federal Trade Commission) inforced laws designed to ensure a fair marketplace to help to protect consumers. They offer some guidelines on how to differentiate real environmentally friendly from greenwashed.

First, it is important that packaging and advertising should explain the product’s green attributes in a simple language and readable typography. Furthermore, it should specify whether it refers to the product, the packaging, or both of them as environmentally friendly. If you want to read more about all the green guides, click here.


As I use to say in my other posts, it’s not easy to consume 100% ethical and sustainable clothes. But it is such a good start to know some tips on how to spot greenwashing, for example. And start reading the description of the garment’s material, and question if everything is like they told us or if it’s just a lie.

If you liked this post I recommend you to read Fast Fashion vs Slow Fashion. Here is a lot of information about fibers, brands, tips, and much more!

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