Greenwashing is a newish, elusive, term that's been making its rounds over the last year or so.
A lot of companies, fashion and otherwise, have made a big to-do over the last few years whenever they make a change (big or small) which they claim will have a positive effect on the environment.
I'm sure you can think of a few companies who send out emails or hang signs in their shopfronts exclaiming things like; "We're doing our part!" or "We can't save the Earth, but it's not too late to make a difference".
But, like.... are they doing their part??
According to Cambridge Dictionary, greenwashing is designed "to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is".
It's basically when a company spends X amount marketing their product(s) as green/sustainable/ethical rather than ensuring their products are actually green/sustainable/ethical.
To be totally fair, sometimes greenwashing is unintentional. Some companies just simply lack the knowledge or the ability/resources to hire a greenteam. But like all things, there are some who use greenwashing to be tactfully untruthful in order to be perceived better (AKA to keep sales up).
Generally speaking, one of the biggest issues with greenwashing is that it tricks the consumer into thinking they are making better decisions. Since the consumer is none-the-wiser, they are unknowingly contributing to environmental issues staying the same/getting worse.
Just to reiterate, this is not the consumers fault.
Here's a good (but bad) example of greenwashing:
Volkswagen (I know nothing about cars, so bare with me) put devices into their cars to make it appear that their cars emit less emissions when the cars were being tested for how much emission they emit (lol.. can't make this up). While this was happening, they had campaigns praising their cars low-emissions. But it wasn't even true! They just outsmarted emissions testing.
there's so many other examples but i'll leave you to the googling..
So, how to avoid falling down the greenwash rabbit hole?
Dig deeper: don't take environmental claims for face value - most companies will have more information on their websites.
Spell does this well.
If the company is intentionally vague, then you probably have your greenwashing answer.
Certifications: self explanatory.
Green-tricks (I made this term up): If a bottled water company sticks a little mountain on the bottom of their water claiming they're "green". Is it environmentally friendly or is it still a plastic bottle?
Same example can apply to some fast-fashion companies: is it an environmentally conscious item or is it 5% recycled materials and still being mass produced by children in Vietnam?
Irrelevant claims: supermarket example: "We're committed to the environment! We stopped using single-use bags!!" - ... okay true, but the government passed a law against single use bags....?