Truly ethical fashion means, to me, that from the moment a garment is started all the way through the supply chain until it reaches a person that sustainability has been taken into account. Not only that, but ethics, as in how the workers are being paid, do they have proper health care, are they treated with respect and dignity etc are of utmost importance. Sustainable fashion is not just simply what a garment is made from. You cannot make a sweater with some sustainable fabrics and slap sustainable on it (though many bad companies do). An entire company needs to be sustainable in order for it to really make a difference. And that’s where it gets confusing with green washing.
When I first switched my lifestyle to a more sustainable one, fashion was the first place that I looked at. I loved shopping, especially online. When I first started to look at my impact on the environment in terms of my clothes, I was astonished. It was like I was waking up to the truth that a simple piece of clothing is full of harmful chemicals, poorly treated workers, an enormous amount of water consumption and then ultimately wrapped individually in plastic upon arrival to my house and I decided that I needed to make a drastic change.
I first remember looking into HM’s conscious collection. I remember going to the store and looking at their pieces under that line and realizing that it simply didn’t make sense. Greenwashing is tricky and sometimes not quite as clear and fast to realize as my story is, but when I was looking around at their conscious collection thinking I’d be happy switching to more sustainable clothing if it meant the same cheap prices available in other stores, I was able to discern the one thing that usually points out greenwashing to me.
When a company is highlighting a single part of their products as sustainable, meaning HM’s conscious collection, for example, that doesn’t mean that they’re making a switch to be a better more sustainable company, it just simply means that they’re following the “trend” of sustainable fashion. Now some might say “well they’re trying to do better!” but here is how you need to look at it. When looking at a brand who has a line that is sustainable, you need to instead ask yourself, “What does that make the rest of their line then?”. Making a certain part of their brand sustainable can (and should) simply call out the rest of their brand for doing poorly.
This is another example to help you think differently in how you perceive information. I was watching TV in the hotel we were staying at in Atlanta before we moved into our apartment and there was a commercial on for Purdue Chicken. They are a chicken company that sells to a lot of conventional grocery stores around the country. They had a commercial for their ‘Harvestland’ line of chicken where they show happy looking chickens grazing around their land and enjoying their lives and they gave a statistic that some 90% of chickens don’t have access to graze meaning they’re stuck in their enclosure or cages until their end. Now I know that this is the norm and that’s horrible, also please note, I am vegetarian, but I won’t get started on that. Instead what I want you to do is not think about the good line of chicken that Purdue now sells (Harvestland) but instead make you realize that this new line only highlights the bad lines that Purdue sells such as their regular line of chicken which in turn likely doesn’t have any land access. The greenwashing here is that they want you to think of the good they’re doing rolling out this new limited line but what they really are doing is literally calling themselves out in the negative proving that most of their chickens are raised inhumanely with no outdoor access at all.
Greenwashing is real. It is a specifically formulated campaign created by advertising companies designed to sell products to those of us who are following the “trend” of sustainable fashion with or without realizing. Instead, we all need to be educating ourselves to the idea that sustainability isn’t a trend, it is a necessity that needs to continue growing. We need to be sure that we aren’t falling for the ad campaigns trying to draw us in and instead boycotting companies who aren’t working towards real goals for 100% sustainability and ethical practices. #stopfastfashion