Greenwashing – What does that mean?

ethimode_08_10_18_greenwash© [hakinmhan] / Adobe Stock

I started Ethimode as a platform for affordable responsible fashion. Considering ethical and sustainable clothing is largely unaffordable for a younger, lower income audience, I wanted to highlight garments and companies that are attainable for [nearly] everyone. Plus, after leaving my professional gig to become a [nearly] broke, full-time student, I am now part of that aforementioned audience. Quite honestly, this task is going to be a bitch, and a topic that the green fashion industry is slowly starting to address.

Before I post any finds, I wanted to talk about something I thought was important to consider: Greenwashing. What does that mean? Greenwashing is the dissemination of disinformation by companies that want to present an environmentally responsible public image. This could mean an oil company making public donations to environmental groups without changing their own environmental practices. Or it could be something seemingly benign as those “reuse your towels for water conservation” placards in hotel bathrooms—hotels aren’t making any additional efforts to save water, and are really just saving on laundry costs. 

Many savvy ethical shoppers are already familiar with this term, but even as a [somewhat] informed consumer, I’ve been guilty of buying into “green sheen” PR. I once made a superficially “feel good” purchase of a super-cute recycled cotton sweater from H&M, neglecting to look into the abusive conditions of their garment workers. How can I feel good about buying something less harmful to the planet, yet still potentially harmful to the people who made it?

H&M has made great strides in providing transparency, which is the first major step in moving towards responsibility. However, H&M and other fast fashion retailers are still ways away from being truly ethical—and that doesn’t address the fact disposable fashion in itself is unsustainable. I know these companies have made efforts to appear more eco-friendly. I also know that for many, these efforts seem like the only affordable way to buy into green fashion. I don’t want to discourage any effort to buy more responsibly, but I also don’t want to turn a blind eye to the uglier parts of mass produced clothing–no matter how cute or recycled or organic. So, I’m going to try my hardest not to promote any company that uses greenwashing to sell their clothes. In a sense, Ethimode is my way to help myself make better choices, and hopefully help others do the same along the way.

#WHOMADEMYCLOTHES?

 

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© Andrea Livingston

Exactly five years ago, over 1100 garment workers died and another 2500 were injured in the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh, the deadliest garment industry accident in history. While some improvement in worker conditions resulted from this accident, the industry is still rife with dangerous and unethical treatment of it’s employees.

Creating my first post on this day is especially significant: The biggest reason I wanted to change my spending habits was to ensure the human impact of my purchases was fair to those who made my clothing. Coinciding with the anniversary of Rana Plaza disaster, Fashion Revolution, a multi-national organization dedicated to creating a safe, clean and fair fashion industry created Fashion Revolution Week, from April 23rd-29th. This week, to promote transparency in the fashion supply chain, Fashion Revolution encourages you to ask your favorite clothing brands #whomademyclothes? Go to the Fashion Revolution site to learn more about this campaign and download your own poster. @fash_rev